Filing a Complaint With DCFS

Filing a Complaint With DCFS

Last updated: January 2013

Note:The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act and Paternity Act changed on January 1, 2016. The most up-to-date information can be found in the following articles: Parentage (formerly Paternity), Divorce, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (formerly Custody), Parenting Time (formerly Visitation), and Child Support.

What is child abuse?

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 must put the child at risk of physical injury. Child abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional.

For more information, see Frequently Asked Questions on Child Abuse and Neglect.

What are some signs that a child might be suffering abuse?

Here are some examples of situations when you should call the child abuse hotline:

  • If you see strange bruises or marks on a child's body
  • if you see someone hitting a child with an object
  • If a child looks underfed, unclean, or inappropriately dressed for the weather 
  • If a child tells you that someone has harmed them

How do I report the abuse or neglect?

You should contact the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"). You can reach the child abuse hotline at (800) 25-ABUSE, or 217-524-2606

You should also consider calling the police in an emergency or when the child has been injured.

Do I have to give DCFS my name when I call?

No. Members of the general public may make reports without giving their names. In addition, their names are not given to the person they name as the abuser or to anyone else unless ordered by a hearing officer or judge.

Hotline calls are confidential. The person who is the target of the investigation cannot find out who made the call except in very unusual situations. DCFS investigators are not allowed to reveal the identity of callers.

What information do I need to tell the hotline worker?

Hotline staff are social workers with special training in determining what constitutes child abuse and neglect under Illinois law. Details are important. Ideally, you should be able to tell the Hotline worker:

  • The child's name, address, and age
  • The nature of the suspected abuse or neglect, including when and where it occurred
  • The names of suspected abusers and their relationship to the child (parent, teacher, etc.)
  • Any other information you think may help 

What happens during a DCFS investigation?

A hotline worker will ask you questions to decide if your call should be investigated. If the information you report meets the minimum requirements for investigation, the call is referred to a child protection investigator. DCFS requires investigators to see the child within 24 hours of the call. 

The purpose of the DCFS investigation is to find out if the child was abused and to decide whether the child (or children) is at risk in a home. The investigator will talk to a number of people including:

  • The person who called the hotline and reported the abuse
  • The alleged abuser
  • Family members
  • Other people who can provide information about the circumstances

DCFS has no power to arrest or detain adults, but its investigators do have the power to take children into protective custody.

At the end of the investigation, DCFS will decide if there was enough evidence to support a finding of abuse or neglect.

Am I liable if the child abuse report turns out to be false?

If you report the alleged child abuse or neglect in good faith then you cannot be held liable for damages under criminal or civil law.

Any person who knowingly makes a false report to DCFS commits the offense of disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor. Punishment can includes up to 6 months of jail and a fine of up to $500. 

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