Under Illinois law, a neglected child is defined as:
- Children who are not receiving care necessary for their well-being, such as medical treatment, food, clothing or shelter;
- Children who have been abandoned;
- Children who have received crisis intervention services and cannot return home; and
- Infants born with controlled substances in their systems.
Before indicating you for neglect, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) considers the child’s age; medical condition; behavioral, mental, or emotional problems; any developmental or physical disability; your physical, mental, and emotional abilities; and any history of your being indicated for abuse or neglect.
If you have been indicated for child neglect by DCFS, you have the right to request a hearing before an administrative law judge. You must request the hearing within 60 days. At the hearing, DCFS must prove neglect by a preponderance of evidence. While that burden is not very difficult, an experienced attorney may still be able to cast doubt on the evidence against you. How bad are the child’s behavioral problems, if any? Does the child have a history of falsehood or manipulation? Was the DCFS interview of the child taped? Is the child’s story consistent? Was the child pushed into giving incriminating answers?
For example, in Walk v. Department of Child and Family Services, the court overturned a finding of neglect against foster parents who placed each of two children in a “cage” at various times for brief periods for the children’s own protection. The children had a history of severe behavioral problems and would sneak out to kill animals on the farm or try to burn down the barn. The cage was large enough for the child to run in, bigger than many bedrooms and contained toys and a sandbox.
In Julie Q. v. Department of Children & Family Services, 2013 IL 113783, a mother was indicated for neglect based in part on the child’s allegations of alcohol abuse. The Court overturned the neglect finding as several witnesses had testified that the child had a history of untruthfulness.
If you have been indicated by DCFS, contact an experienced attorney immediately. Do not try to talk your way out of the situation as you may inadvertently trap yourself. An experienced attorney can review your case for your best defense as well as helping you present yourself to DCFS in a positive manner.
If you have questions about a DCFS finding, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reference: 325 ILCS 5/3.
(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)