You might be surprised if you are contacted by the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). Any abuse allegations made against you may be in error. However, DCS is required to investigate every report, so it’s typically best to cooperate calmly.
If you are contacted by DCS, you should immediately call a CHINS lawyer who can help you with the CPS investigation defense. This significantly reduces your stress and enables you to prove the allegations are false.
Why Would DCS Investigate My Family?
DCS initiates investigations after reports that may come from a variety of sources. Calls may be made directly to DCS or through an abuse hotline.
Some people, such as teachers and counselors, are considered mandatory reporters. They are required to tell DCS about any suspicions they have of child endangerment.
In other cases, an incident involving your child may lead to an investigation. For example, if they miss too much school or are frequently sick, DCS may want to determine if the child is being cared for properly.
Unfortunately, some false accusations of a child abuse scandal come from people who have malicious intentions.
For example, if you are embroiled in a child custody battle, your child’s other parent may make a false report about your child’s safety to DCS to build evidence to support their domestic case against you.
If DCS finds that there is imminent harm to a child, it could affect your ability to get shared custody or joint custody of your child. That is the goal of some adversarial parents.
DCS must investigate every report of abuse or child neglect, no matter how frivolous it seems. This can be frustrating for parents and social workers on the case.
How Long Do Investigations Last?
DCS investigations often begin unexpectedly and can last for an extended period. If the allegation of abuse involves imminent harm, a social worker may arrive at the family home within 24 hours.
However, if there is no immediate risk of harm to the child, it could take a week or more for DCS personnel to contact you.
A social worker will ask you questions and may visit your home. Those questions will be very invasive, and what you say may be used against you. You do not have to allow them to enter your home. You should consult with a DCS investigation defense attorney before you engage further with the agency.
A DCS investigation will end with either a finding of substantiated or unsubstantiated. If it is substantiated, an Informal Adjustment or Child In Need of Services (CHINS) case will be opened and progress forward.
What Happens When DCS Arrives?
When DCS arrives at your door or gives you a call, you are expected to comply with their investigation. You might want to refuse them access to your private life, but failure to cooperate can make things worse in the long run.
Should I Allow DCS Into My Home?
Although DCS will eventually want to see your home, you should get an attorney on your side first. If DCS shows up unexpectedly, you should tell them they can schedule a time to see the inside of your home after you speak with your lawyer.
Ask for the DCS Agent’s Information
When a DCS agent calls you or comes to your door, you should always get their name and contact information. They will likely have a card that they can give you. This is essential information that your child protection attorney will need when you begin your case.
Write Everything Down
When you are contacted by the police or a DCS agent, you should ask for details of the report that was made. They may not give you information. If you do know or suspect you know what the report was about, you should write down everything you can remember about the situation.
Ask to Record All Interactions
Anytime someone from DCS calls you, ask to record the phone call or interview. This will prevent them from taking your statements out of context. It will also allow your attorney to start building evidence for your defense.
Prepare for an Informal Adjustment or CHINS Case Filing
If your case is substantiated, DCS may file either an Informal Adjustment or a CHINS case in your situation.
An Informal Adjustment is a voluntary agreement that complies with DCS requirements. There s a lot of flexibility in Informal Adjustment agreements. Through an Informal Adjustment, you can create a safety plan for your child.
A CHINS case is more restrictive and requires coercive intervention of the court. You will have to attend court hearings in a CHINS case to show the judge that your child is safe and there is no threat. Ultimately, if the court adjudicates your child as a CHINS, they are seen as a ward of the state.
They may be removed from your care, and you may undergo drug screening, counseling, and parenting classes. In extreme CHINS cases, DCS may petition the court to terminate the parent-child relationship.
Get a CHINS Attorney
If you’re involved in a DCS case, you should contact an attorney who keeps you informed of your rights and makes sure you don’t lose your child. Your CHINS lawyer can review the allegations as well as your actual situation. They can also negotiate with DCS on your behalf to reach a resolution.
What Is DCS Permitted to Do?
When DCS investigates your case, they can take many actions whether you give permission or not. They can speak to your children without parents present.
They can also establish a “safety plan” to ensure your children are not at risk of harm. In extreme situations, DCS may remove a child from a home or petition the court to terminate parental rights.
What Are Caregivers Allowed to Do In an Investigation?
You have a right to know what the allegations against you are. However, you cannot know who made those accusations. While you can refuse DCS entry into your home, that action may be used against you in court. You may also refuse to answer questions. If you do not speak English well, you can ask for an interpreter.
How a CHINS Lawyer Can Help You
DCS investigations can be confusing. You will probably be unsure of your rights. A CHINS attorney can explain what is happening throughout the investigation and help you file a case if needed.
Your lawyer can also help you develop a statement and provide safe answers to DCS questions. Anything you say can be used against you and could be damaging in court.
To best protect yourself, work with a CHINS lawyer who knows the law and has handled cases like yours.
Call an Indianapolis CHINS Lawyer for Help Today
Indianapolis CHINS lawyer Sean Hessler has extensive experience handling DCS cases throughout Indiana. He knows that these cases are sensitive, and it’s essential to act fast.
Our legal team will gather as much evidence as possible to support your case and build you a solid defense against false allegations of abuse and neglect.
Hessler Law P.C. is ready to help with cases in Marion County, IN. Call us today at (317) 886-8800 or contact us online for a consultation.