What Is A Safety Plan? Why Do I Need One?
A “safety plan” is an agreement between a parent or caretaker being investigated for child neglect or abuse and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). It is typically approved by a Child Protection supervisor and monitored by a Child Protection investigator. By DCFS policy, a safety plan is supposed to be reviewed regularly. The concept behind a safety plan is that a parent may enter a voluntary agreement with DCFS that keeps a child safe from harm for a short time while DCFS completes their investigation of neglect or abuse. Often a safety plan will restrict a parent from having any contact, or any unsupervised contact, with a child. Under a safety plan, DCFS agrees not to take protective custody of a child in exchange for a parent following certain restrictions regarding the contact with their child. Avoiding the expense, time and trauma of formal court proceedings regarding child abuse or neglect is a worthwhile goal for parents.
Under the best set of circumstances, a safety plan is a “necessary evil” that will be in place for a very short amount of time – a matter of days – while DCFS workers do their job and complete an investigation. If the investigation does not uncover credible evidence of child abuse or neglect, the safety plan is discharged, the investigation is “unfounded,” and the case closes.
Unfortunately, as attorneys, we have learned about the unfair use of safety plans by DCFS personnel in conducting their investigation. Safety plans have been left in place for months, rather than days, without the regular review that DCFS policy and the safety plan itself calls for. Child protection supervisors have been inaccessible, have failed to return phone calls or engage in any meaningful discussion regarding the extension of a safety plan, all the while threatening to take protective custody of the child involved if the parent does not obey the safety plan. Under the worst set of circumstances, it appears that DCFS views safety plans as an agreement that restricts parents from their children but does not place any urgency on DCFS’s investigation. We’ve observed times where DCFS unilaterally extended a safety plan and did not even bother to advise the parents of this decision. Furthermore, safety plans are sometimes implemented in the shadow of an investigation of a criminal nature, which can make the situation even more difficult.
Speak With An Experienced Attorney As Soon As Possible
In our opinion, if you are the subject of a DCFS investigation with a safety plan, it is best to discuss your case with an attorney at the earliest possible time. We have experience in discussing cases with DCFS investigators and supervisors – in facilitating the exchange of information and framing the issue efficiently in order to achieve the discharge of a safety plan at the earliest possible time. Because safety plans are, by their nature (and federal court decree) a voluntary agreement, there are times when a parent is best served by aggressively defending their parental rights and “walking away” from a safety plan. Our office can help you in navigating the implementation of a DCFS safety plan and in making the right decision for you, your family and your children.
Contact The Law Offices of Charles Rohde & Pierina Infelise, P.C., online or call us at 630-478-9924 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.