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YOU MUST NOTIFY DCFS OFFICER of your religious and ethnic requirements and ask them to place the child in a family with the same religious and ethnic background. Otherwise, the child will be laced in any available home.  


The Department of Children and Family Services is also called DCFS. Cases from DCFS are sometimes sent to Juvenile Court. DCFS cases go to Juvenile Court for two main reasons:

  • To get an order allowing DCFS to remove or keep children from returning to the parent's home
  • To provide court supervision over the parenting in a home

There are three kinds of issues that DCFS will claim and bring to juvenile court:

  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Dependency

Abuse and neglect: these cases can be filed even if just one parent is accused of abuse or neglect. They may also be filed for anticipatory neglect, or when the child is at risk of abuse or neglect or substantial risk of abuse.

Dependency: this means the parent cannot care for the child. Sometimes this happens for reasons that are not the parent's fault.

This guide does not cover juvenile delinquency cases. The term juvenile court also applies to delinquency cases. However, delinquency cases are different because they involve claims that a person under 18 committed a criminal offense.

DCFS and the State have separate lawyers and different job functions.

In most counties, the decision of whether the child protection matter goes to court is made by a state's attorney. State's attorneys are the county's official prosecutors. However, the law allows any adult to file a petition.

The DCFS lawyer helps arrange for DCFS responses to issues about services and visits. There will also be a lawyer and guardian ad litem ("GAL") for the child. This can be two separate people, but most times both roles are played by the same person. They are involved in all matters regarding the case.

In some larger counties, there is a whole court building devoted to juvenile court cases. In smaller counties, juvenile court cases may be heard in the same building as other types of cases.

DCFS cases: What is the timing of court action?

DCFS may have already moved your child to another home under a safety plan agreement with you. If this has already occurred, read the Responding to Investigations Manual, Section V. This section has more information about what you can do about safety plans.

(Note: Effective December 6, 2017, DCFS issued a revised Rule 336. This rule governs the process of appealing indicated findings of child abuse or neglect. This revised Rule contains significant changes from the prior version. At this time, the Family Defense Center’s Manuals have not been updated to reflect these changes. 

 DCFS needs to make a critical decision regarding additional court authority. The court can enforce what DCFS thinks is necessary to guarantee the safety of the child. If necessary , DCFS engages the State's Attorney to request a petition to bring the family before a judge.

In other cases, DCFS has already determined they need court involvement. They take the child from the parents without any prior agreement. The child will be in protective custody at the time DCFS goes to court to begin a court case. DCFS has to get a court order allowing it to keep your child within 48 hours of taking your child from you. This 48 hour period does not include holidays or weekends.

In either situation, they place the children with family members whenever possible. This is required by statute and case law. Also, research has shown that this is best for children.

My DCFS case is going to juvenile court

Juvenile court cases are serious matters. Statewide statistics show that many children are returned home. Sometimes this happens at the beginning of a case. Juvenile court cases can be long. The length can depend on your willingness to jump through a lot of hurdles or effectively prove your innocence. The law requires the State to prove its case of abuse or neglect. In practice, parents are often encouraged not to fight the allegations against them. Juvenile court cases can lead to the complete loss of parental rights if:

  • There is a finding of abuse or neglect; and
  • A later finding that the parents are unfit, unwilling or unable to care for the child.

Parents should face such a serious proceeding with a lawyer.

DCFS is required to notify you of the first court date. After that, you must:

  • Keep track of court dates;
  • Keep track of all persons involved; and
  • Keep your lawyer and DCFS informed of your whereabouts.

The juvenile court case has different stages where each of the following goals might be considered:

  • At the first hearing, the main issue is whether the child should be removed from your care;
  • At a later hearing, the question of whether the child is abused or neglected is decided; and
  • At another hearing, there is a decision whether the children should be returned to your care. If the children were home during the case, the court will determine if they should remain in your home.

At different times in a case, you may want one or more of these things to happen. Your attorney needs to advise you as to how to present your requests at the right stage of the court process.

In Illinois, you have a right to have a lawyer appointed for you if you cannot afford one. The lawyer may be a public defender. Or they may be a private attorney who is told by the court to take the case. Bring information about your income to court with you on the first day.

DCFS cases: What can you try to accomplish in court?

Most parents who have juvenile court cases want to have their children returned to them as soon as possible. Sometimes, parents are not asking for custody for themselves. They want to make sure another parent who is abusive does not gain custody. Some parents want to assert that they did not abuse or neglect the child. They want to show they are fully capable of caring for the child. Other parents genuinely need some help to be full-time parents for their children.

The court may order the children to return to only one parent for a limited period. The other parent completes evaluations and/or services during this time. The county may also order the children to remain with someone else while both parents do services. Parents want to make sure they have visits and other ways to stay involved in their child's life. This is true even if the child is living with another person. Parents want to make sure that the Court and DCFS know about relatives who could care for the child. This is important if the parents cannot do so.

You should tell your attorney what your goals are. Here are a few questions to help you decide what you want to accomplish in court:

  • Are you trying to get a child returned to your care that DCFS took away from you?
  • Are you seeking to keep a child from living with another parent who is abusive?
  • Are you trying to keep children in your care?
  • Are you asking to be relieved of all parental duties so that the child can be adopted?
  • Are you claiming whether the child was not abused? For example, is DCFS claiming that your child was abused, but you believe they are wrong?
  • Are you trying to make sure that your children, who are in the DCFS system, get the best care and services they can?
  • Are there services that you think would help either you our your children that aren't being offered?
  • Do you think the court's involvement is helping you or a family member? This could be help for a problem in your family, such as addiction?
  • Are you trying to get more visitation or other rights to contact your child that have been denied to you?
  • Are you trying to make sure that a particular relative can care for your child if you cannot?
  • Is the help DCFS is supposed to provide working or even being offered?

Different judges have different processes for you to make decisions related to your goals. Judges who have received proper training will often say that visits are an issue to address at every single court day. Some judges will press to return children home by asking the State why a child cannot return today. But other judges will be more hands off and not question DCFS decisions. You should discuss how to approach your goals through the court case with your lawyers.

Sometimes you change your mind about what you would like to happen. You may want one thing at one point in a case and something very different later on. That's OK, but it is essential to communicate your goals with your lawyer. You must develop a plan for how to accomplish those goals through the court action. Your lawyer should advise you on the steps you will need to follow to achieve your goals.

Goals in a DCFS juvenile court case

In juvenile court cases, your actions before and after the court case impact the outcome of the case. Your actions can make a big difference in the outcome. You almost certainly will be ordered to have assessments and services. These are used to establish your ability to care for the child safely. Your level of cooperation will be judged, even if you are claiming you did not abuse or neglect the child. Sometimes you may face hard decisions about the steps you need to agree to take to have your child returned.

These cases are unlike other court cases. For example, criminal cases mainly focus on a single specific event from the past. Here:

  • Cases involving child abuse or neglect can have an ongoing review of past, present, and future events. The parties and the judges will be considering risks. Judges are less likely to return children home if they do not receive favorable reports from service providers. They are also less likely if they do not receive favorable testimony from caseworkers; and
  • Ultimately, at some point, you must convince the judge you are trustworthy and can provide a safe home for your children.

This means you can help your case by working to fix problems such as addiction. When children are taken away because of these problems, fixing them helps your chances of having a successful return home. You can change the outcome of your case by showing that you have fixed the problem.

You may not want to, or believe it is unfair for you to be required to comply with court orders. You should discuss how to handle this with your attorney. Sometimes orders can be challenged, but orders must be followed unless the court rules in your favor. You also have a right to discuss the services you are ordered to receive. There are some issues regarding services or visits the judge cannot help you with. These must be addressed through DCFS internal administrative procedure