navigating child welfare...
KNOWLEDGE IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS!
This page is a resource for anyone who wants to know about DCFS
and needs support for themselves or someone they know.
IT BEGINS WITH A PHONE CALL
A hotline call is made by someone who believes that your child or children are being abused, neglected, or both. This call can also be made by a doctor, teacher, daycare worker, a counselor, or any other professional person. These people are mandated reporters which means the law says they have to report suspicions of child abuse. The hotline call is the first step in child welfare and you will not know the call was made until DCFS contacts you. They cannot tell you who made the call. How you respond is very important.
An investigation happens after information is taken during a hotline call. The call is assigned to an investigator who will contact you to get your side of the story. They will also talk to other people who know you and your child. Once the investigation is finished, a decision will be made about your parenting and if your child is safe with you. The case will be either "indicated" meaning the investigator found the claim of child abuse to be true, or it will be "unfounded" meaning the investigator found the claim of child abuse to be untrue. Depending on the decision, the case will go no further or it will move forward based on what is best for the child. Sometimes parents are offered services to deal with non-threatening issues to help them provide a safe environment for their child(ren). If it is decided it is not safe for children to stay with their parents, they are taken into protective and/or temporary custody and become the responsibility of the state.
Click for more information on DCFS Investigations
BREAKING DOWN THE TIMELINE
Protective Custody, also know as "PC" is when a child is removed from the home because it is safer for the child. This is done in cases where it is determined the situation is an emergency. Sometimes the police are called to assist with removing the child.
48 hours / 2 days
Within two days, a "Temporary Custody", also know as "TC" hearing is held in a courtroom to decide if there is good reason for a child to be placed with DCFS. Only a judge can make this decision. Somtimes there is an "Extended Temporary Custody" Hearing, where parents, lawyers, and caseworkers talk about:
what can be done to prevent removing the child from home
services, visitation, and placement.
*Except Weekends & Holidays
If the court decides the child was not abused, neglected, or dependent then the child goes home, and the case is closed.
55 Days/ almost 2 months
In Cook County, within 55 days after a child has been removed from the home, a "Court Family Conference" is held. Parents, caseworkers, and the judge talk about the services that were planned and how the parent is doing with completing those services. How the children are doing is also discussed and what else needs to happen for the family to be reunited.
If the court decides it is safe for the child to go home without supervision then the child goes home and the case is closed. This does not happen often.
120-150 Days / 4 to 5 months
Within 4 to 5 months a "Dispositional Hearing" also known as "Dispo" is held in court. At this hearing a judge decides if it is safe for a child to go home without supervision from the court
If the court decides the child can go home under supervision, then the child becomes a ward of the court and goes home by court order with the following requirements:
Order of Protection
If these requirements are violated then the child can be removed from the home.
If the court decides it is not safe for the child to return then the child is made a ward of the court and DCFS takes responsibility for the child. The child will remain in foster care. A year after temporary custody is taken a "Permanency Hearing" is held. This hearing is where a permanent solution for what is best for the child is made. A parent's progress on dealing with the things that made it unsafe for their child to be at home will be looked at very closely. These hearings will take place every 6 months until the case is closed.