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When It’s Someone Else’s Child 

Whether or not you should call DCFS as soon as possible will depend on your situation. If you have good reason to believe that a child is experiencing abuse and/or neglect, and the child is not your child, contacting DCFS is not necessarily a bad idea. Teachers, daycare workers, medical providers and other caregivers who work with children usually contact DCFS when they suspect a child is being abused and/or neglected. In most states, these people are mandated reporters and have an obligation to report suspected abuse. The decision to contact DCFS should not be taken lightly. DCFS investigations can save lives, but they can also cause trauma for the parents and children. Therefore, if you do contact them, it’s important to have good reason to believe the children are experiencing abuse and/or neglect. When the child in question is someone else’s child, contacting DCFS may be the best way to report suspected abuse or neglect.  

When It’s Your Child 

However, if it’s your own child, this becomes a different matter. Believe it or not, DCFS may not be the first place you want to go when you suspect your child is experiencing abuse while in the other parent’s care. It can be difficult to determine whether or not an injury to a child is the result of abuse or neglect or some other cause. 

Getting DCFS Involved too Quickly 

DCFS workers aren’t lawyers or judges, and they don’t have as much authority as one might suppose. DCFS’s job is to protect the children, which may mean the children are removed from a parent’s custody. DCFS’s job is to investigate and report their findings. These investigations can be very invasive, and the case can go on for a very long time. If you report your suspicions to DCFS, they may not limit their investigation to the perpetrator, and their findings could indicate neglect or abuse from another person in the child’s life, even if it’s unrelated to the initial allegation. Even though you may have the power to decide when DCFS enters your life, you will not have the same power to decide when DCFS leaves. Lastly, depending on the circumstances, DCFS could potentially temporarily remove your children from your custody while they investigate. 

Contact an Attorney  

The aforementioned doesn’t mean that you don’t contact DCFS ever; it just means that it’s not the first thing that you should do. If your child reports abuse and/or neglect, the first thing you should do is contact a family law attorney who’s licensed in your state. Your attorney will be familiar with your local laws, and s/he will also be able to provide advice on what you can legally do to keep your child safe. For example, many parents’ knee jerk reaction is to refuse all contact with the potentially abusive parent—however, this can backfire as it may be considered to be custodial interference. If you cannot afford a consultation, there are many attorneys who give free consultations. Those attorneys may also be able to point you in the direction of legal resources for those who cannot afford an attorney. 

Document Everything 

Document every sign of abuse/neglect that your child displays. Unfortunately, courts can be rather slow to act—especially when there isn’t a lot of physical evidence (such as failed drug tests) to show that a child is being abused or neglected. If your child has unexplained injuries, make sure you photograph them. In some cases, video evidence may be a good idea as well. Try not to make this obvious to the child, as it could cause more trauma. If your child comes home needing medical attention, make sure you get them to a doctor as soon as you possibly can. When your child speaks about the abuse they’re experiencing, make sure you listen to them, but try not to pry. Young children accidentally give false information when they’re not questioned properly. Children’s memories are often quite malleable and vulnerable to suggestions. For this reason, it is important that the child is questioned by someone who has been trained to evaluate children in this specific situation. 

Have Your Child Evaluated 

Having your child evaluated by an unbiased third party may also be a good idea. Medical professionals and child psychologists are often mandated reporters, meaning they can evaluate your child and report their findings to DCFS and/or give you more information about the condition of your child. It can cause trouble if you consistently have them evaluated for abuse, so it’s always a good idea to consult an attorney before you do anything. This will help protect your child. Having a credible third party report their findings may help you avoid the appearance of the other parent making false allegations. Although this may be helpful, the first thing you need to do is speak with an attorney who can help make recommendations on the best way you can keep your child safe. 



If you are considering getting a divorce, CoilLaw is here for you. Contact us today to set up your initial consultation. 




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