Updates to DCFS Visitation Policy Prolongs Separation of Families

Each day children and parents continue to be apart exacerbates existing harms

In these difficult times, parents should be able to hold their children close. 

For 3 months, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has kept over 11,000 parents, children, and siblings apart, many of whom are Black. Last week, DCFS released a policy updating its visitation ban, and while it is a step in the right direction, it prolongs the unjust and unconstitutional suspension of visits.  

We remain concerned about the continued delay of in-person visits. Regular, weekly parent-child and any sibling visits are not slated to resume until July 15, almost a month from now. 

Every day that children and parents continue to be separated only exacerbates the harms already experienced by the families impacted by the Department’s policies, many of whom are families of color. 

For Black Lives to matter, Black families must matter. Among our recommendations, we urge DCFS to take the following actions: 

  • Immediately restore all in-person parent-child visitation and sibling visitation; 
  • Develop and share a policy that details how the Department will ensure that parents are provided with visiting time, in addition to regularly scheduled visits, to make up for the missed visits due to the Department’s ban (i.e., scheduling make-up visits); 
  • In instances of health risks or other documented serious concerns in which a virtual visit must occur, provide all parties, including parents, with the requisite technology and access to participate in the visit; and 
  • File drafted and updated visitation plans with the court. 

The Shriver Center on Poverty Law, the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, Movement for Family Power,  along with parent advocates and partner organizations, sent a letter to DCFS urging the Department to expedite the return of visits to the over 11,000 families impacted by its ban. 

It is time for DCFS to reimagine what it means to support families.

This process starts with immediately restoring all in-person family visitation and must continue with changing current policies and practices that police and punish. We remain hopeful that the Department will continuously evaluate its role and impact as it works to support Illinois families. 

Read the letter.  

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