You’ve probably heard of children being removed from the home. However, even though it’s an occurrence we’ve all heard of, the process is something that remains a mystery to most people. When it comes to DCFS, there are a lot of misconceptions about how much power they have, what they can do and, especially, when they can remove a child from their home. If you’re currently involved in a DCFS case, it’s important that you have as much information as possible. Fighting a DCFS case isn’t always easy, and it’s often a lengthy and invasive process.
What Does DCFS Do?
DCFS stands for Division of Child and Family Services and their goal is to advocate for children who are unable to advocate for themselves and their best interests. Accordingly, DCFS is involved in a wide range of issues regarding children and families. However, DCFS is mostly known for removing children from the home. But DCFS may also investigate a home where there is reported abuse or neglect in order to ensure that the child is not in any danger of abuse or neglect. Although it’s generally assumed that it’s in the child’s best interest to remain in the home with their parents, under certain circumstances, DCFS may decide that it’s in the child’s best interest to be removed from the home. If DCFS feels it’s in the best interest of a child to remove them from their home, it’s the state’s burden to prove that the child should indeed be removed from the parent’s care.
What Are Best Interests?
It is typically considered to be in the best interests of the child to grow up in a stable and enriching environment with parents who can provide appropriate mental, emotional, and physical care for the child. Though it is normally considered to be in the best interests of the child to have a healthy relationship with both parents, the law and court recognizes that that isn’t always possible. DCFS’s mission So when they’re determining whether or not a child needs to be removed from the home, they’re considering whether or not it’s in the child’s best interest to stay in the home, amongst other things.
What Does DCFS Look For?
DCFS considers many different factors during their investigation. Though they’re looking out for signs of physical neglect or abuse, they will also investigate the home and the child’s homelife. DCFS may want to ensure the child’s home is a clean and safe environment with appropriate food, clothing, and hygiene. They may investigate what kind of supervision the child has, or what kind of education they are receiving. They may also look into the child’s attendance record, grades, or disciplinary actions taken at school, assuming the child isn’t homeschooled. Generally speaking, there are a lot of factors that DCFS will investigate before they remove the child from the home.
Substantial Risk of Abuse or Neglect
DCFS should not randomly show up and remove your child from the home on their very first visit. DCFS typically removes a child from the home when their investigation determines that there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer abuse or neglect. There are many different reasons that the court could determine that children are in need to be in protective custody. It’s important to remember that physical, mental, and emotional harm can all fall under a substantial risk of abuse and/or neglect. So even if a child isn’t being physically abused, they may still be removed from the home if the court feels as though the child isn’t being provided for in other ways. For example, if a parent frequently leaves their young child at home for long periods of time and without any supervision, the court may find that the child will need to be removed from the home.
The Child’s Long Term Safety
DCFS is also concerned about a child’s long-term safety. If a child is in danger of immediate and irreparable harm, and it does not appear that the parents will be able to care for the child in the near future, the children may be removed from the home. For example, if a parent is struggling with substance abuse, and the child is being neglected, the child may be removed from the home until the parents are able to care for the child. The state must provide services to assist the parent in being reunified with the children for a period of time. If the parent fails to make progress and resolve the issues the state must seek alternative long-term solutions such as termination and adoption.
When Children Are Removed from the Home
As previously stated, DCFS is unlikely to randomly show up at your house and immediately remove your children—especially on your first encounter with DCFS. In most cases, DCFS will show up, investigate, determine whether or not the allegations are substantiated or unsubstantiated, and then determine what to do from there. If DCFS is investigating you, it’s best to seek legal advice tailored to your circumstances prior to talking with DCFS or allowing them into your home.