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Chicago Administrative Headquarters
100 West Randolph Street 6-200
Chicago IL 60601
TTD 312.814.8783

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406 East Monroe
Springfield IL 62701-1498
TTD 217.785.6605

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  Child Protection  


The Department of Children and Family Services is best known for its child protection services. The goal of the Department's child protection program is outlined in the state's Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act:

"The Department of Children and Family Services shall, upon receiving reports made under this Act, protect the best interest of the child, offer protective services in order to prevent any further harm to the child and to other children in the family, stabilize the home environment and preserve family life whenever possible."

child abuse hotline
DCFS receives, investigates and acts on a report of child abuse or neglect every five minutes, child sexual abuse every two hours, and a child death by abuse or neglect every 36 hours.

The Child Abuse Hotline

Child abuse is the mistreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caretaker, someone living in their home or someone who works with or around children. The mistreatment must cause injury or put the child at risk of physical injury. Child abuse can be physical (such as burns or broken bones), sexual (such as fondling or incest), or emotional. Neglect happens when a parent or responsible caretaker fails to provide adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter or other basics for a child.

The Department's protective services most often begin with a report of abuse or neglect made to the Child Abuse Hotline (800) 25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873).The Hotline is located at the Department's State Central Register in Springfield. Anyone may report suspected child abuse or neglect. However, state law mandates that workers in certain professions must make reports if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect. A majority of reports are initiated by calls from mandated reporters.

Mandated Reporters

Mandated reporters include:
  • physicians
  • physician assistants
  • psychiatrists, surgeons
  • residents
  • interns
  • dentists
  • dental hygienists
  • medical examiners
  • pathologists
  • osteopaths
  • coroners
  • Christian Science practitioners
  • chiropractors
  • podiatrists
  • registered and licensed practical nurses
  • emergency medical technicians
  • hospital administrators and other personnel involved in the examination care or treatment of patients
  • teachers
  • school personnel
  • educational advocates assigned to a child pursuant to the School Code
  • directors and staff assistants of day care centers and nursery schools
  • child care workers
  • truant officers
  • probation officers
  • law enforcement officers
  • animal control officers
  • field personnel of the Departments of Children and Family Services, Public Health, Public Aid, Human Services (acting as successor to the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Rehabilitation Services, or Public Aid), Corrections and Human Rights

The list also includes: supervisors and administrators of general assistance under the Illinois Public Aid Code. Other mandated reporters include social workers, social service administrators, substance abuse treatment personnel, domestic violence program personnel, crisis line or hotline personnel, foster parents, homemakers, recreational program or facility personnel, registered psychologists and assistants working under the direct supervision of a psychologist.

The above list is not exhaustive; for a comprehensive list of all mandated reporters, see the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.



Child welfare workers who staff the Child Abuse Hotline have special training in determining what constitutes child abuse and neglect under Illinois law. If a formal report is taken, a Child Protection Services worker will begin an investigation within 24 hours -- much sooner if the child is considered to be in immediate risk of harm. More than 99 percent of all reports taken during Fiscal Year 2004 had investigations opened within the 24-hour mandate.

After an initial contact with an alleged child victim and the reporting source, an investigator is sometimes able to determine that the report was not made in good faith or that the reported situation did not occur. If so, the investigation may be concluded at that point. But if the investigator is not able to make such a determination, a formal investigation begins.

Appropriate emergency services can be provided while the investigation is pending. These may include various kinds of family support or, if the child is at imminent risk, taking the child into protective custody. Some 4,804 children were taken into protective custody during Fiscal Year 2006.

Investigators also play a greater role in the comprehensive assessment of children in care, which involves both initial assessments that take place early in the investigative process and later comprehensive assessments. Special attention is given to risk assessments.

Once an investigator has collected information from the people involved, a decision must be made by the investigator. By law, the decision must be made within 60 days, but usually the decision is announced within 30 days. The investigator can make one of two findings: a report can be "unfounded" when there is no credible evidence that the child was abused or neglected or a report can be "indicated" when there is credible evidence that child was abused or neglected. Credible evidence means that the facts gathered by the investigator would lead a reasonable person to believe that a child has been abused or neglected.

Approximately 25.7 percent of all reports are "indicated" or confirmed after investigations are completed. Of the 110,239 child reports taken in Fiscal Year 2006, 26,618 were indicated as victims of abuse or neglect. Indicated reports of child abuse or neglect are kept by the Department for a minimum of five years. Indicated reports of death or sexual penetration are kept for 50 years, while reports involving serious physical injury are kept for 20 years. Unfounded reports are retained for a shorter period of time varying from 30 days to one year.

The number of children reported to the state's Child Abuse Hotline nearly doubled between Fiscal Years 1986 and 1995. In Fiscal Year 1986, 70,425 children were reported to the Hotline as abused or neglected. The highest number recorded was in Fiscal Year 1995, with 139,720 children reported abused or neglected. The number of reports taken since that time has gradually declined to a low of 97,428 child reports taken in Fiscal Year 2003, then rose to 104,248 in Fiscal Year 2004 and 111,711 in Fiscal Year 2005, and 110,235 in Fiscal Year 2006, followed by 111,742 in Fiscal Year 2007.

While the essential work of investigators remains the same, their roles and the organizational framework have changed. Reform goals and the demands of a growing number of cases have reshaped the way protective services are delivered. A greater emphasis is now placed on protection, accountability and serving the best interests of the child.

The past history of rising numbers of abused and neglected children in care, coupled with court-imposed caseload standards, prompted an evaluation of the approach to service delivery. After studying models and methods used by other states and conferring with staff and experts in the field, it was determined that DCFS could best serve children and families by making child protection services a separate function with its own line of authority to the Director. The new division of child protection was established, headed by its own Deputy Director. Management was also enhanced by the addition of child protection managers.

Children in Cook County who are taken into protective custody receive initial intake and placement services at a central location. DCFS operated the Emergency Services Center until October 1993. In January 1994, the Department's Emergency Services Center was renamed the Emergency Reception Center, and all child care activities were turned over to Columbus-Maryville.

In a federal class action case pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer entered a preliminary injunction requiring the implementaton of certain procedures for child abuse and neglect investigations. These procedures are required to be implemented for all investigations which were initiated by a call to the Department's child abuse and neglect hotline after midnight on September 24, 2004.

  • The Department will adopt, implement and maintain a standard that requires consideration of all available evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory, for its investigations of child abuse and neglect
  • The Department will implement revised notices for child abuse and neglect investigations and licensing notices for background checks
  • The Department will provide an administrative appeal process for all persons indicated for child abuse and/or neglect which will result in a final administration decision within 90 days from the indicated perpetrator's request for an administrative appeal, not counting any continuances requested by the indicated perpetrator
  • The Department will provide persons who request review of indicated findings with access to investigative files in which the Department is entitled to certain information, however the Department shall provide all persons who request review of indicated findings all source information, including information from cooperating individuals.

The preliminary injunction also required the Director to implement certain procedures for all child care workers who are the subject of a child abuse and neglect investigation. Child care workers includes employees who work directly with children or owners/operations of facilities, regardless of whether the facility is licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services. Types of facilities include: child care institutions, child welfare agencies, day care/night care centers, day care/night care homes, day care/night care group day care homes, group homes, hospitals or health care facilities, school personnel, including school teachers or administrators (not tenured public school teachers or administrators who have other processes available t them prior to termination), employees who work with children in before and after school programs, recreational programs, summer camps or as full time nannies. Moreover, when an investigation of an alleged incident of abuse or neglect is related to a child care worker's personal life, but an indicated finding can impact the child care worker's employment, the child care worker can request that the investigation be treated as an employment related investigation.

Career entrants "Career entrants" are persons actively engaged in the job placement process as a child care worker, a person currently enrolled in an academic program which leads to a position as a child care worker, or a person who has applied for a license required for a child care worker position. A person shall qualify as a career entrant only if, at the time of notice of investigation, that person (1) has applied or will apply, within 180 days, for a position as a child care worker; (2) is enrolled in or will commence, within 180 days, an academic program which leads to a position as a child care worker; or (3) has applied for a license as a child care worker.

In order to receive the expedited procedures required under the preliminary injunction, career entrants and persons investigated in their personal capacities who work in the child care field MUST identify themselves as child care workers to the investigator and request that they receive the expedited processes.

The preliminary injunction requires implementation of the following procedures for all child care workers and career entrants who are the subject of a child abuse and neglect investigation:

  • The Department will conduct an Administrator's Teleconference prior to indicating a child care worker for child abuse or neglect upon request of the child care worker at which time the child care worker can present information or documentation as to why they should not be indicated to a high level Administrator in the Department's Division of Child Protection who has had no prior involvement in the child abuse or neglect investigation. The Administrator has the authority to indicate, unfound or return the case for further investigation.
  • In the event that a child care worker is indicated for child abuse or neglect, the child care worker can request an expedited appeal hearing which will result in a final administrative decision within 35 days of the child care worker's request for an expedited hearing, not counting any continuances requested by the child care worker

Information can also be obtained from the the related brochure, Notice of Intent to Indicate Child Care Worker for Report of Child Abuse and/Or Neglect (Adobe Acrobat).

For the administrative rule and procedure regarding child abuse and neglect investigations see Policy & Rules.

Expungement Appeals

The law provides that a person who had been indicated for child abuse and neglect has the right to request an appeal of the indicated finding in the Department's Administrative Hearings Unit. The appeal hearing will be held before a neutral Administrative Law Judge. The Department has the burden of proving the accuracy and consistency of the indicated finding by a preponderance of the evidence. A person who requests an appeal of an indicated finding has the right to have a representative, including an attorney, represent and/or assist him at the administrative hearing. At the hearing, both the Department and the indicated perpetrator and/or his representative may call witnesses and introduce documents. After the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a recommendation to the Director. The Director then issues a final administrative decision in which he can accept or reject the recommendation of the Administrative Law Judge. In the event that the Director's final administrative decision results in a denial of the request for the expungement of the indicated report, the indicated perpetrator can seek further review in circuit court pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Review Act, CITE.

Expedited Appeals for Child Care Workers and Career Entrants

Child care workers and career entrants may request an expedited appeal of the indicated finding, pursuant to the preliminary injunction entered by Judge Pallmeyer, in which they will receive a final administrative decision regarding their request for an appeal within 35 days of their request for an appeal. The calculation of the 35 days excludes time attributed to a request for a continuance by the child care worker or career entrant or time attributed to continuances or dates set by the agreement of the parties.

Regular Appeals for Child Care Workers, Career Entrants and Other Indicated Perpetrators

Child care workers, career entrants and other indicated perpetrators who request an appeal of their indicated finding are required to receive a final administrative decision within 90 days of their request for an appeal. The calculation of the 90 days excludes time attributed to a request for a continuance by the child care worker or career entrant or time attributed to continuances or dates set by the agreement of the parties.

In December 2005, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer entered another order regarding the Department's policies and practices regarding safety plans implemented during child abuse and neglect investigations. Safety plans are plans developed with the cooperation and involvement of a family during a child abuse and neglect investigation to ensure the safety of children during the investigative process. Safety plans can take a variety of forms and the family's input is essential in developing the safety plan. Safety plans can include asking a caretaker and/or children to live in another location during the investigator or having another person supervisor contact with children during the investigation. The specific circumstances of each safety plan depend on the individual facts involved in each investigation and the individual needs and circumstances of the family. Safety plans should be in writing and a written copy of the plan should be provided to all persons subject to the plan and all persons involved in implementing or monitoring the safety plan.

Reference materials for child care worker appeals:


Child Protection Links

A Manual for Mandated Reporters
Manual para los Delatores por Ley
Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act Brochure & Poster
Care Enough to Call Brochure
Illinois Putative Father Registry
Child Abuse and Neglect Policy & Procedure Guidelines/Toolkit
Monthly Child Abuse & Neglect Statistics
Preparing Children to Stay Alone
What a Difference a Family Makes
What You Need to Know about a Child Abuse or Neglect Investigation Brochure
Lo Que Usted Necesita Sobre Una Investigacion de Abuso O Negligencia de Ninos
What You Need to Know about a Child Abuse or Neglect Investigations in Licensed Facilities
Lo Que Usted Necesita Saber Acerca de Las Investigaciones Sobre el Abuso o Las Negligencia a Los Ninos Efectuadas en Los Centros de Cuidado Infantill con Licenciamiento
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