When someone makes an allegation that your child has been abused or neglected in the State of Illinois, the State has the power to immediately take your children if, the State believes the allegations endanger your child or children. Not only do they have that power but they are mandated to do so and by law this happens without any kind of legal hearing where you have the opportunity to present your side of the situation to a Judge.
The State can hold your child for 5 days before a Shelter Care Hearing.
The State of Illinois, through either the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), or a children’s organization they contract with, can hold your child or children for as long as 5 days before granting you what is known under the law as a “Shelter Care Hearing”. At that hearing, you have a chance to briefly argue why your child or children should go home with you as the parent. This is not a full hearing or trial, it is a short hearing. The State is successful most of the time in these hearings because the system is set up with the idea of protecting children and no Judge wants to be in the position of placing a child back into a situation where it is alleged the child or children are being neglected and abused and then having something bad happen to the child or children. At the conclusion of the “Shelter Care Hearing”, the Judge will set the Juvenile case for a what is known as an “Adjudicatory hearing”.
The adjudicatory hearing is where the Judge decides whether your child has been abused or neglected.
At the adjudicatory hearing, the Judge will decide whether your child has been abused or neglected. The hearing is private and the public may not attend. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you. A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) will be appointed as a lawyer who is supposed to speak for your child or children. You can decide how independent the GAL actually is.
The service plan describes the steps to go through to have a child returned.
The State or its agency will come up with what is called a “service plan”. The service plan is a written document created by the Agency, and filed with the court, where they describe the steps they expect the parent(s) to go through to have the child returned to them. This often includes supervision of visitation times, parenting classes, counseling for problems and challenges such as sexual abuse, physical abuse and proactive instruction on parenting skills.
The State frequently fails to whole-heartedly implement the service plan.
By law, most of the time, the stated goal of a service plan is to return the child to the parent(s). To change that goal, the State has to go through a process and a part of that process is a filing of notice that they are changing that goal from “return home” to something else like “termination of parental rights”. But, in our experience, the State frequently fails to whole-heartedly implement the service plan.
This is where a parent willing to work hard to have his or her child or children often discover a lack of cooperation from the State. On the one hand, the stated goal of the case is usually to return the child home. But on the other hand, some personnel (such as a case worker, supervisor, or volunteer) may have their own goal to have the child stay in foster care or even be adopted by the foster parent or another person. In this situation, the parent may feel like they are swimming up hill, fighting a large and powerful organization that holds all the cards. While the State fails to cooperate in providing the services they claim you need, they then argue to the Judge that you are not making progress in meeting the goals of the service plan. We have seen this many times.
The answer to this problem is to have an attorney prove what is going on to the Judge. We have seen Judges decide cases in favor of our clients because of the non-cooperation and return a child or children to the parents. Its our job to stay on top of this and make the Judge aware of any non-compliance.
The final decision is made at the Dispositional Hearing.
The final hearing is known as a Dispositional Hearing. What will happen to the child is ultimately decided there. If you are not getting the services you should get, we can raise the issue before the Judge before you go to the Dispositional Hearing. So, do not give up. Keep good records and notes of your efforts to comply so that if the State is not providing the services in an effort to deter you, you will have the documentation you need to prevail.
We like doing this work and we would like the opportunity to represent you and work to restore a normal relationship with your child. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!