By statute, the Indiana Department of Child Services (“DCS”) has to investigate every claim of abuse or neglect by a parent reported to the hotline number. Unfortunately, DCS is understaffed and its primary investigators are not trained sufficiently to handle the onslaught of parental neglect reports including those who make false reports to gain some tactical advantage (such as in a divorce case). Thus, it is not uncommon for a parent to be falsely accused of neglect/abuse of their child and be caught up in the DCS system. This blog explores your rights and what you might want to do if you find yourself in that situation.
First, you have the right to counsel before speaking with a DCS investigator. Rest assured the words/statements you make can be used as a basis for a CHINS filing (where DCS files suit against you) to force you to have services. Attorneys familiar with CHINS understand the one-sided nature of some DCS investigations and can assist you in making the best choice as to time and location if you are going to make a statement.
Second, if DCS removes your children against your wishes, you have the right to have a detention hearing within 48 hours. A seasoned attorney can advocate for your children be placed in relative care while all of this is sorted out. Without this, your children may be placed in foster care and you may have supervised visits at a foreign location that may be far removed from your home. Thus, the earlier you get counsel to navigate this complex process, the more you can minimize your risk.
Third, children cannot be removed from your family for long, so the court must have an initial hearing and a fact-finding (like a trial) within 60 days. If this does not occur, you can move to dismiss the case. Skilled attorneys defending those trapped in this system know these laws and can use them to speed your case, and depending on the allegations made, will prove your children are not CHINS.
Fourth, if your children are found to be CHINS at the fact-finding, there will be a dispositional hearing (much like a sentencing in a criminal case) immediately following. It is at this time, you may appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals an erroneous true fact-finding if DCS really did not make their case. A significant number of CHINS cases are reversed on appeal. But you have to know your rights, such as you have only 30 days to timely file your notice of appeal.
Fifth, if you are improperly ensnared into the DCS system and you do not cooperate to protest, this can be viewed as non-compliance and ultimately DCS can move to terminate your parental rights so your children can be adopted, and your legal rights severed. Thus, participating in CHINS services is key to protect your children, although skilled counsel may be able to assist with such services in a myriad of ways.
Ultimately, if you are contacted by DCS, the implications are significant for you and your family and your future. The DCS rules and timelines are foreign, and you would benefit from skilled trial counsel familiar with the DCS system. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle CHINS cases throughout the state from the initial contact through appeal. This blog is written for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.