What does DCFS look for when they’re investigating?
How Investigations Begin
When a report is filed with DCFS, the report will need to be reviewed to ensure that there’s actually enough information to investigate the case. Assuming there is enough information, DCFS will likely show up unannounced at the child’s residence. In some cases a child can be interviewed at school. Without a court order stating otherwise, parents do have the right to refuse to speak with DCFS. Parents also have the right to refuse to allow DCFS to enter the home or interview the child unless there is a court order. However, it should be noted that DCFS can come back with a court order, in which case the parents would probably need to speak with DCFS, allow them to enter the home, and interview the children.
Unsubstantiated Claims vs Substantiated Claims
When it comes to claims of abuse/neglect, claims are either substantiated or unsubstantiated. When a claim is substantiated, that means that there is evidence to suggest the child has been subjected to neglect or abuse by the alleged perpetrator. While this does not necessarily mean the child actually is being abused, it does mean that there is evidence of abuse. When claims are unsubstantiated, it means that there is not evidence to suggest that the child has been subjected to abuse or neglect. However, like substantiated claims, this does not mean that the child is not being abused or neglected. It just means that there’s no evidence to support such a claim. It should be noted that there is no such thing as a “not guilty verdict” when it comes to DCFS investigations.
What Does DCFS Look For?
In short, DCFS wants to see that the children have a safe environment and a reasonable standard of living. They want to see that the house is reasonably clean, and free of hazards that could cause the children to be at an unreasonable risk of harm. DCFS will also check to see that the house has food for the child, and that the child has clean clothes, toys, and appropriate sleeping arrangements. The requirements for these depends on the ages and maturity levels of any children in the home. DCFS will also check to ensure that the child does not have any unexplained or untreated injuries. They may also check to see if the child has been appropriately bathed and isn’t malnourished. DCFS may also interview the child or other people that may have knowledge of the allegations. It’s not uncommon for DCFS to receive a referral on one set of allegations, but then issue a supported finding on a completely unrelated issue. Due to the nature of DCFS investigations, they may also speak with the teachers at the child’s school as well.
Will They Take the Children?
DCFS should not show up at your house and take your children on the first interaction. Generally, removing the children from the home in emergency situations or as a last resort. DCFS cannot remove the children without a court order or unless there is extenuating circumstances where there is no available parent or guardian can take the child if the parents are unable to. In most cases, when there are no emergency circumstances or immediate risks of harm, if DCFS is looking to remove a child from a home there is a hearing to determine whether or not the child will be removed from the home. Prior to the hearing, the parents should be notified that such a hearing is taking place, and that their children could be removed from the home. However, if DCFS witnesses the parents committing a crime, especially in front of the child, the parents could be arrested, and the child may be removed simply due to the fact that the parents are in police custody. For example, if DCFS witnesses parents manufacturing illegal drugs, DCFS may call the police who can arrest the parents.
Can DCFS Arrest Parents?
While DCFS cannot arrest parents, they can call the police if they witness criminal activity during their investigation. Depending on what police find, the police may decide to arrest the parents. DCFS may also pass along evidence of child abuse to the authorities, who can arrest the parents if they feel as though there’s enough evidence to file charges. DCFS case workers themselves cannot arrest parents, but they can report what they see to police officers. Assuming there isn’t evidence of crimes in your home, and you’re not committing crimes in front of the case worker, you’re probably not likely to be arrested for anything DCFS finds.
If DCFS Is Involved with Your Family
If you’re currently being investigated by DCFS it may be in your best interest to at least consult with an attorney. At CoilLaw our attorneys are dedicated to helping you get the best outcome possible. Contact us to get started with an initial consultation.