Our firm consists of four Attorneys with extensive trial experience. Our main practice areas include: criminal defense of all matters ranging from a typical traffic violation all of the way up to the most serious felony offenses; family law practice including divorce, custody, visitation and child support; secretary of state license reinstatement hearings; expungement and simple estate planning matters.
Becoming involved with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services can be a scary situation. DCFS has a lot of power; caseworkers or investigators can take your children away from you, can order you to complete certain services and judge you on your ability to parent. When you receive a summons to appear in juvenile court on an abuse or neglect case, you will first be told what the allegations are against you. You are then given a chance to admit or deny the allegations or ask for a trial if you want one. If one parent admits to the allegations, the child is then found to be abuse or neglected, whichever the case may be, and this prohibits the other parent from having a trial as to the issues presented. The reason for this is because the issue in juvenile court is, “what is the status of the child,” not who did it, not who is responsible, but has the child been abused or neglected by someone. When one of the parents admits to the abuse or neglect, the child is now considered to be abused or neglected and therefore the opinion or position of the other parent becomes irrelevant.
After a child has been found to be either abused or neglected, the court will order the parties to complete certain tasks and services suggested by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). These tasks and services must be completed in order for the court to consider your child being returned to your custody. You must also show DCFS and the court that you have appropriate parenting skills. Often DCFS will send the parents to a parenting class or have the parents participate in parenting coaching. Both of these tasks will provide the parents with parenting skills training. When the parents are involved in this training, the caseworker will be looking to see if the parents apply the knowledge and training they receive in the class or during the coaching to the real life visitation the parents have with the child. It is very important to show the caseworker that a parent is taking the training he or she has received and applying it in their interactions with the child.
Return home of the child may be a slow process. Usually a parent will start with supervised visitation with the child where a caseworker will monitor the visitation. Then the parents will work into unsupervised visitation, then overnight visitation and then extended overnight visitation before the child is finally returned home to the parent. Just because the child is returned home does not mean that the case is closed. The court may keep the case open for a period of time to check on the parents and make sure they remain stable with the child in the home. The agency (DCFS) can also keep its case open for a period of up to six months even after the court closes its case in order to monitor the family and provide additional services, like continued counseling, before closing the case.
Having DCFS come into your home and take your children can be scary and leave you feeling hopeless. However, with the right counsel and some patience, you can regain custody of your children and become a family again.