Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Substantial Risk of Physical Injury / Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare in Illinois DCFS Cases

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » DCFS and DHS Child Abuse Accusations » Substantial Risk of Physical Injury / Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare in Illinois DCFS Cases

In situations where Illinois DCFS has become involved, there may be an allegation that a child has been subjected to a Substantial Risk of Physical Injury / Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare.  That allegation in Illinois (DCFS Allegation #60) is defined as follows:


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An Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare is when there are conditions that create a real, significant, and imminent likelihood of harm to a child’s health, physical well-being, or welfare and that the likelihood of harm is the result of the parent/caregiver’s blatant disregard of his/her responsibility to exercise reasonable precautionary measures to prevent or mitigate the imminent risk of moderate to severe harm.

“Blatant disregard” is an incident where the real, significant and imminent risk of harm would be so obvious to a reasonable parent or caretaker that it is unlikely that a reasonable parent or caretaker would have exposed the child to the danger without exercising precautionary measures to protect the child from harm. [325 ILCS 5/3]

Examples of circumstances that may create a real, significant and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm include, but are not limited to:


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  • Exposure to toxic vapors resulting from flammable or corrosive chemicals used in the manufacture of illicit drugs;
  • The circumstances surrounding the death of one child provides reason to believe that another child is at real, significant and imminent risk of harm;
  • Exposing a child to an environment that significantly affects the health and safety of the child, based on the sale or manufacture of illegal drugs;
  • A court has adjudicated a parent as unfit and the parent has not completed services that would correct the conditions or behavior leading to the court finding;
  • Being coerced or forced to participate in or witness the use of physical force or restraint of another person.

Environment injurious includes incidents where the circumstances may create a real, significant, and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm.

Examples of circumstances of an environment injurious include, but are not limited to:

  • Domestic violence: An incident of past or current domestic violence when the domestic violence creates a real, significant, and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm to the child’s health, physical well-being, or welfare, and the parent or caregiver has failed to exercise reasonable precautionary measures to prevent or mitigate the risk of harm to the child;
  • A perpetrator of child abuse who has been court ordered to remain out of the home returns home and has access to the abused child;
  • Anyone living in the home who has a documented history of violence directed toward children or has been arrested for violence directed to a child;
  • Exposure to toxic vapors resulting from flammable and/or corrosive chemicals used in the manufacture of illicit drugs;
  • Surviving siblings of a child who dies as a result of unsafe sleep practices where there are other safety issues that place the surviving siblings at risk;
  • Coercing or forcing the child to participate in or the witness the physical abuse or restraint of another person;
  • The circumstances surrounding the death of a child provide reason to believe that a sibling or another child is in real, significant and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm;
  • Exposing the child to an environment that significantly affects the health and safety of the child, based on the sale or manufacture of illegal drugs;
  • A court has adjudicated a parent as unfit and the parent has not completed services that would correct the conditions or behavior leading to the court finding;
  • Allowing, encouraging or coercing a child to be involved in a criminal activity;
  • Children in the home of a stillborn child whose still birth was the direct result of an action by the parent;
  • Children in the home of a stillborn child who was delivered substance exposed;
  • Substance Abuse/Dependence: an incident or behavior caused by a parent or caregiver’s substance use creates a real, significant, and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm to a child’s health, physical well-being or welfare, and the parent or caregiver has failed to exercise reasonable precautionary measures to prevent or mitigate the risk of moderate to severe harm to the child;
  • Prior Harm to a Child: The prior harm to one child creates a real, significant, and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm to another child’s health, physical well-being or welfare and the parent or caregiver has failed to exercise reasonable precautionary measures to prevent or mitigate the risk of moderate to severe harm to the other child; or
  • Mental Health: An incident or behavior by the parent/caregiver that is symptomatic of mental illness creates a real, significant, and imminent risk of moderate to severe harm to the child’s health, physical well-being or welfare, and the parent or caregiver has failed to exercise reasonable precautionary measures to prevent or mitigate the likelihood of harm to the child.

Example of a circumstance that in and of itself does not constitute “risk of harm”:


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  • Failure to follow a service plan does not in and of itself constitute an allegation of environment injurious.

There are many cases in Illinois where parents and other caregivers are falsely accused of abuse and neglect by DCFS.  Many times, DCFS reports will contain inaccurate information, making it important to timely appeal the Illinois DCFS finding.

Defending against a DCFS accusation of abuse for Substantial Risk of Physical Injury / Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare in Illinois DCFS Cases is a situation that must be handled carefully.  A child abuse or neglect accusation from a DCFS report can quickly become a criminal case or otherwise affect a person’s life in profound ways.  Anyone who is facing a DCFS investigation should avoid speaking to DCFS on their own, and promptly retain an attorney.


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