New Law Changes DCFS Reporting Requirements
Between 2011 and 2013, residential Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) facilities reported 29,425 incidents of children who had gone missing while in DCFS custody. Tragically, many facilities did not immediately report runaways or missing children, making it much more difficult, if not impossible, for local law enforcement to locate them. However, a new law, known as the Safeguard Our Children Act, went into effect in Illinois this year and is aimed at addressing these practices. The law places a series of requirements on DCFS employees in regards to reporting incidences where children of any age, who are under their care, have been missing for more than 12 hours.
Senate Bill 1775
The new law, introduced last year by Senator Bill Cunningham, requires DCFS to consider a child under its care, who is living in a residential facility under contract with the Department, missing if he or she:
- Is absent without approval; and
- Has not come into contact with a DCFS employee for 12 hours.
Once the Department has designated a child as missing, the residential facility operator is required to inform local law enforcement as well as the child’s caseworker. The operator of the residential facility must also report that the child is missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Specifically, he or she must report that the missing child is a ward of the Department. Additionally, direct law enforcement must include the information in their report along with a directive that, if located, the child should only be released into the custody of DCFS.
Plan of Care
If a child’s plan to leave the facility for more than 24 hours is known, DCFS employees are required to create a Plan of Care, or an electronic or written document containing specific information, including:
- The location of the place that the child intends to visit;
- The contact information of the person the child intends to reside with while absent from the facility;
- The duration of the visit; and
- The expected time or date the child intends to return.
The new law also requires DCFS to develop and conduct training on operating Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) and reporting a missing person when a child is under the care and legal custody of the Department.
Thousands of children are entrusted to the care of DCFS employees every year, on either a temporary or permanent basis. If your child has been placed in the custody of DCFS and has gone missing while in their care, or if you have any other custody-related questions, an attorney can help defend your parental rights and ensure that your child’s interests are protected. Please call skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson at 847.873.6741 for a free consultation.