The Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”) handles the task of investigating reports of child abuse and neglect in an effort to protect children throughout Indiana. DCS has a legal obligation to investigate all allegations of child abuse and neglect and they have specific statutes and procedures that they are required to follow throughout the investigations. Although the goals of DCS are always to protect the children—the same as all parents want—they may be an intimidating agency to be contacted by if you are accused of abuse or neglect. This blog covers the top five things that you need to know if DCS contacts you.
- What is a “CHINS”? After an allegation of child abuse or neglect has been made, DCS will initiate an assessment of the situation. Throughout the complex and extensive DCS proceedings, they will be attempting to assess if your child has been a victim of child abuse or neglect, otherwise known as a Child in Need of Services (“CHINS”). Indiana statutes describe the CHINS definitions, which provide detailed reasons that a child can be deemed a CHINS. If DCS assesses the situation and believes that there is neglect or abuse as defined under these statutes, they will file a Petition alleging that your child is a CHINS and they will open a case.
- DCS proceedings are confidential. You will not be able to publicly search online to see if DCS has filed a Petition regarding your child. DCS will contact you directly and all information regarding an allegation or possible case will be given to you directly from DCS or during Court proceedings. Additionally, reporting child abuse or neglect is confidential and you will not be provided with any information on who made the allegation.
- Any admissions can be used against you. During DCS’s initial assessment, you will be interviewed and asked multiple questions regarding the situation and your child. There is no statute that provides you with immunity in this situation and any admissions you make to the DCS workers can be used against you. This does not mean that it is wise to deny the interview -- depending on your specific case -- refusing to speak to DCS may cause more harm. This is a strategic decision to make with counsel. Misstating to the DCS workers can also be used against you and may be included in their reports.
- DCS can remove your child if they find cause. Possibly the most important aspect to be aware of if DCS contacts you is that they have the ability to remove your child from your care if they find cause and meet the statutory requirements. As mentioned above, DCS investigates child abuse and neglect allegations and they attempt to remedy the situation as they see necessary, and as required by statute. DCS can remove your child and place them into foster care or relative care. If your child has been removed, a detention hearing will be set within forty-eight (48) hours to determine the child’s temporary placement during the DCS proceedings.
- You have a right to counsel. DCS proceedings and CHINS matters are case-specific, county-specific, and extremely complex. If DCS has contacted you regarding your child, the best course of action is to retain counsel familiar with the complexities of the DCS system. It is important to begin preparing immediately, as the DCS process varies, but it can develop very quickly.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle CHINS (Child in Need of Services) matters and DCS (Department of Child Services) matters throughout the state. It is intended for general educational purposes and not a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.