Beyond providing direct legal services and advocating systemic change in the Illinois legislature, the Family Defense Center also provides many resources for individuals and professionals in the child welfare system. These manuals provide basic information and templates to individuals and attorneys who hope to expunge an “indicated” finding by Illinois DCFS.

Responding to Investigations Manual

This guide contains basic information for people who find themselves in the position of having to respond to a Department of Children & Family Services Hotline call. It provides information about areas in which investigative practices might be inappropriate and helps family members, including those who cannot readily obtain legal counsel, learn what to expect during an investigation. The guide includes some common experiences of family members under investigation, as well, and answers many common questions that staff of the Center receive from clients who are responding to investigations. This manual does not provide any individualized legal advice, as the facts of each case may vary significantly and a general guideline may not apply to the specifics of every case.

Responding to Investigations Manual

Pro Se Manual for Self Representation

If you think that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has wrongly targeted you as a “perpetrator” of abuse or neglect, you are not alone. Thousands of Illinois residents have been subject to “indicated reports” that are successfully removed through the DCFS appeal process. People who see their appeal through to conclusion often get these indicated findings overturned, whether or not they have a lawyer to help them. If you believe you have been wrongfully accused or if you believe the finding against you should be changed, this manual may help you get a fair decision on your appeal.

Pro Se Manual for Self Representation

Pro Se Manual Appendices

 Pro Bono Representation Manual

This manual contains basic information an attorney needs to conduct an appeal from a DCFS indicated finding and includes helpful templates and issues to consider during the course of a case. It is not, however, completely exhaustive of all the possible avenues a case could take. The Center’s attorneys are happy to answer additional questions and provide additional resources to a pro bono attorney at any point during a case.

Pro Bono Manual

Pro Bono Manual Appendices

 Mental Health Lockout Information

What is a lockout in the context of a child with severe mental/emotional/behavioral issues? 

Alleged “lockouts” occur when a parent, guardian, or caregiver denies a minor access to the home or refuses to pick up a minor upon hospital discharge. Sometimes parents want to use lockouts affirmatively in order to get help, but this is a risky process that can have negative repercussions for the family as well as the child. The context of lockouts is that they often occur when a child who has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness or behavioral disorder is being discharged from a hospital or residential treatment program despite a family’s belief the child is not ready, has not received adequate treatment, and/or is still unsafe to return home. Frequently, a minor may be discharged from the hospital due to lack of funding for continued care.

Click here to read more about what families should know when considering a mental health lockout.

Toolkit for Domestic Violence Advocates

Families experiencing domestic violence often come to the attention of DCFS. Advocates who works with survivors of domestic violence are often in the unique position of being a part of these child welfare interventions, especially during the investigation. The purpose of the Toolkit is to equip domestic violence service providers with the knowledge and strategies to effectively advocate on behalf of and empower clients to achieve safety and stability for children and families during DCFS investigations related to domestic violence.

This Toolkit can be distributed and used at domestic violence and other agencies. If you would like to schedule a training at your agency on the issue of domestic violence and DCFS or for further instruction about how to utilize the Toolkit, please contact Sara Block at

Domestic Violence Toolkit