Requesting Records from the Illinois Department of Family Services
Title 89, section 431.15 et. al. of the Illinois Administrative code references who has access to DCFS records, to whom DCFS may disclose personal information without prior consent, and under what conditions access to records will be granted or denied by DCFS.
Under Section 431.30, DCFS shall maintain a record on all persons for whom a child abuse or neglect report has been indicated, unfounded or for whom a decision about the report has not yet been made. Retention schedule timelines vary based on the seriousness of the allegations. Depending on the seriousness of the injury, allegations involving cuts, bruises, welts, abrasions and oral injuries may be retained for 20 years. Unfounded allegations may be retained anywhere from three years to 30 days depending on the severity of the allegation. All retained records are of a confidential nature and shall not be available to the general public except as provided for in Section 431.85.
Under Section 431.50(a) a parent whose parental rights have not been terminated or a guardian of the person of a minor shall have full access to the personal information contained in the records of said minor, unless access is prohibited specifically or otherwise restricted by that section. DCFS has to provide access to the records within 10 working days of the receipt of the request, “if practicable”. If the material cannot be easily identifiable or assembled, DCFS will provide the records within a “reasonable time.” Although the identity of mandated reporters is usually excised, it is usually not difficult to determine who made the report from the context of the excised name.
Under Section 431.60, subjects of reports of suspected abuse or neglect are allowed access to the child abuse/neglect investigative records which have been indicated or unfounded. Keep in mind that none of this information will be released during the pendency of an investigation before DCFS has determined whether the report is indicated or unfounded, except as allowed in Section 300.160 of 89 Ill. Admin. Code 300 (Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect) or for purposes of a fair hearing requested prior to a final determination. Subjects of reports of suspected abuse or neglect are allowed access to the child abuse/neglect investigative records that have been unfounded, provided the subject requests the report within 60 days after receipt of notification that the report was unfounded; or the filed are retained as evidence of false reporting.
Under Section 431.85, the DCFS director or designee may disclose to the public certain information regarding the abuse or neglect of a child if he determines that such disclosure is not contrary to the best interests of the child, the child’s siblings, or other children in the household, provided that:
- The subject of the report has been criminally charged with committing a crime related to the child abuse or neglect report;
- A law enforcement agency or official, State’s Attorney, or a judge of the State court system has publicly disclosed in a report information regarding the investigation;
- An adult subject of the report has knowingly and voluntarily made a public disclosure concerning a Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System report; or
- The child named in the report has been critically injured or has died.