The Court holds a hearing within 72 hours (3 days) if:
At the 72-hour hearing, the parent or parents can respond in one of two ways:
If the parents deny the allegations, the DCFS investigator will present evidence of the alleged neglect or child abuse. The parents also have an opportunity to present their own evidence to challenge the neglect or child abuse allegations.
After the 72-hour hearing, a child may:
remain in foster care;
be moved into the custody of a family member or fictive kin;
return home with the parents, unsupervised by DCFS; or
return home with the parents, subject to a safety plan.
Based on the evidence, the Court decides whether the child should:
The Court decides based on the grounds for continued custody or continued safety plan.
Advice and Representation
At the 72-hour hearing, the court must explain, in terms understandable to a child:
The court will also explain the parents' responsibility and involvement in the process.
The child may be assigned a "Court-Appointed Special Advocate" or CASA, to represent the child in the CINC case. The CASA is a person who has been specially trained to assist the Court in CINC cases. The CASA will help the Court determine what is in the best interest of the child.
If the allegations involve potential criminal consequences, a parent may be entitled to a public defender.
In some cases, a petition is filed before the continued custody hearing. An attorney may ask the Court for a pre-hearing conference before the parents answer the petition.
Informal Adjustment Agreement
A family may agree to court-ordered family services in an informal adjustment agreement. This is like a "pre-trial diversion" agreement in criminal court. An informal adjustment agreement can refer the case to an intake officer as a families in need of services case.
The original time for the informal adjustment agreement will be between 3 - 6 months. The case might be dismissed or remain pending during the time of the informal adjustment agreement.