It's a lot of work to raise a child in Illinois. When parents need extra help, they should not be penalized by losing custody of their charges.
The Prairie State just issued a new law designed to protect parents' claims to custody if their children require certain forms of treatment. Many families were previously trapped in a difficult choice between custody and treatment after children have run-ins with the law that involved untreated mental health conditions.
Previously, the state would pick up the bill for mental health treatment after a child was arrested if the delinquency judge remanded the youth to the custody of the state. This meant parents could be paying $100,000 for residential mental health care or decline to fight the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Springfield's claim for custody.
The public guardian, an officer advocating for neglected children and others in Cook County, estimated that 100 families in the Chicago area and a further 100 families across Illinois have been affected by this decision.
"It's bad for the parents, the families, it's certainly bad for the child," said the public guardian. "It's bad for society because DCFS has enough to deal with [with] actual legitimate cases that need to be in their custody."
The new law would allow for state grants to parents who will no longer need to give up custody just to afford treatment. When custody of a child is challenged, legal representation can be helpful to parents and guardians for appearances in court. A lawyer also ensures that no parent has to deal with custody cases alone.