DCFS Wants to Interview me. Do I Need an Attorney?

The Division of Child and Family Services is tasked by law with investigating allegations of child abuse, neglect, and dependency. Reporting laws require that certain people report when they believe a child is being abused or neglected or is at risk, even if it’s unclear exactly what happened.

DCFS Reports

When DCFS receives a report, they have a short amount of time to complete their investigation. Caseworkers conduct interviews with people and gather evidence. They usually attempt to interview the alleged perpetrator last, so they can confront them with the information they have gathered. People are not required to speak with DCFS, but unfortunately many do. These statements are later used against them in administrative proceedings or, even worse, criminal cases.

Sadly, the caseworkers investigating cases are often overworked. They may not take the time to thoroughly investigate the issue or speak with everyone they should. And, they can have distorted perceptions based on their own biases.

DCFS then has to make a decision whether they believe abuse has occurred and determine whether to “support” a finding or not. If they make a supported finding against you, your name could end up on the Management Information System or Licensing Information System. These databases are lists of people against whom DCFS has supported findings. Certain governmental agencies have access to the databases, so being listed on one of these databases can have additional consequences. 

If you’re contacted by DCFS and questioned, call us immediately, before you make any statements. Even if you don’t think you have done anything wrong, it’s important to realize that the standards DCFS uses to make their decisions are lower than most people think. 

DCFS gets involved in many different types of cases, even some that most people wouldn’t consider abuse. Allegations of child abuse can include disciplining children, sexual assault of juveniles committed by adults, sexual conduct by one juvenile with another, and leaving children in a car unattended are all examples. 

But perhaps the most concerning thing is that contact by DCFS often precedes a law enforcement investigation. Frequently, DCFS acts the most quickly, followed up by a full-blown police investigation. Unfortunately, DCFS’s conduct can create an inaccurate perception that unfairly influences the police investigation. This adds to the importance of seeking counsel promptly. It is far more effective to be proactive by seeking counsel immediately. If thing get out of hand, you can be left trying to clear your name.

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