The DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) is a governmental organization that conducts investigations of child abuse and/or neglect cases. Several states, including Illinois, have a DCFS agency. They have been involved in many high profile cases of alleged child abuse such as the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, as well as in the lives of hundreds of people we come into contact with every day. For someone who has just been investigated by DCFS, he may want to prepare himself for the many types of hearings a typical DCFS case will involve. The following provide a brief description of the several types of hearings to be expected following the initial investigation.
The Shelter Care Hearing: This is when the judge listens to all parties involved with the family (attorneys, GALs, social workers, parents, grandparents, etc.), who want to keep the child safe. DCFS will explain to the judge why the child was removed from the home, and decide whether the child should stay in DCFS care or return home.
The Adjudicatory Hearing: During this hearing, judge determines whether the child has been abused or neglected based on the results of DCFS investigation, and the evidence presented. During this hearing, both your family and your caseworker will be in attendance.
The Dispositional Hearing: The judge decides whether the child should return home, stay in DCFS care, or in the care of another family member or guardian while the parents work out the issues that caused DCFS involvement in the first place. The judge may also order for the parents to attend counseling or training. In the meantime, the caseworker for both the child and parents will provide the family with the necessary resources to restore the family, and ultimately work towards finding a safe, permanent home for the child.
Administrative Case Review: This is the stage where the DCFS administrative case reviewer looks over the service plan to see whether or not the child and parents are getting the help they need. The administrator determines whether the parents follow the list of steps in the service plan and are making positive changes. This examination lasts for about 6 months.
The Permanency Hearings: These are the hearings held every 6 months for the judge to see whether progress has been made by the parents in changing their behaviors. These hearings will occur as long as DCFS is involved with the family. The parents will need to show that they have cooperated with their caseworker, followed the steps of the service plan, and that their behaviors have changed in a positive way. Finally, the judge will decide whether it is safe for the child to return home or whether they need to work out another living situation.
For more information on DCFS related issues, feel free to contact the Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.