As a parent, you make difficult decisions every day. What is the best lunch to pack? Should you fight with your child to wear a coat? What is the best way to discipline your child? Every minute of the day, you do the best you can with the information and resources you have.
Unfortunately, how you parent can be judged and misunderstood by others, leading to allegations of abuse or neglect, or in some situations – DSS investigations.
Under North Carolina law, the Division of Social Services (DSS) is in charge of investigating reports of child abuse and neglect. If you are investigated by DSS, you will work with a social worker and their supervisor from your local county’s Child Protective Services. DSS is also responsible for taking appropriate action to protect children who are being abused or neglected. This does not always mean removing your child from your home.
Placement of a child outside the family home is for specific, extreme situations. Instead, appropriate action often means providing services and guidance to improve the family and child care situation. You may have to complete classes, go to counseling, or make some changes at home following a DSS investigation.
If you your child’s other parent are being investigated by DSS for abuse or neglect, contact an experienced custody attorney at Breeden Law Office. Attorney Jonathan Breeden will guide you through a DSS investigation with compassion while tenaciously protecting you and your child’s rights. He will also represent you in court if the findings of a DSS investigation lead to a request for a modification to your current child custody and visitations schedule.
You may be investigated by DSS if someone makes a report regarding suspected abuse or neglect toward a child living in your home. The individual who made the report may be a mandatory reporter, such as a child care provider, teacher, or physician. They will contact social services if they notice any signs of possible physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect.
Failing to report suspected abuse could lead to liability on their part. However, the report may also come from someone who is not a mandatory reporter. If an individual saw or heard something concerning, they can make a report of suspected abuse or neglect to social services. Reporters to DSS are confidential and you will not be able to find out who reported you to DSS.
You may be investigated by DSS if someone noticed your child:
Once DSS receives a report of suspected abuse or neglect, a social worker will be assigned to the case. This social worker is required to begin an investigation into the allegations right away. Depending on the report, an investigation may begin immediately, or within 72 hours.
A social worker will typically come to your home and meet with you, your child, and other members of the household. They will review the household situation and determine whether the allegations fit into the legal definition of abuse or neglect. If the allegations fit the legal definition of abuse or neglect, then the social worker will open a DSS case. If the allegations do not, however, arise to the level of abuse or neglect, then there will not be a full DSS investigation.
Next, the social worker will conduct an investigatory assessment. This is an investigation into the facts surrounding the alleged abuse or neglect and the current risk of harm to your child. If you have not worked with an attorney yet, now is the time to call Breeden Law Office. The outcome of a DSS investigation can dramatically affect your parenting rights, custody, or visitation. While you need to cooperate with social services during this time, you also need an experienced attorney to protect your and your child’s rights.
Once a social worker has completed the investigative assessment, they will determine whether the allegations of abuse or neglect are substantiated or not. This can take weeks or months but usually last about 45 days.
During this time, social services or your child’s other parent could seek to have your child custody or visitation reduced, supervised, or revoked. DSS has the right to file a petition in Court to request that DSS or another relative of the child be granted custody of the child. If the child is placed in the custody of DSS then the child will be placed in a licensed foster care home.
If DSS substantiates neglect against you they will request that your name be placed on a Responsible Individuals List (RIL), which is state registry of people who DSS believes neglected or abused children. If DSS attempts to place your name on the RIL list you only have ten days to appeal that decision to Court and if you do not appeal your name will be added to the list automatically without a hearing.
If the accusations are unsubstantiated, then the case is closed. However, if there is enough evidence to prove the accusations were valid, then DSS will take action to correct the situation, which may include seeking to remove your child from the home or requesting you complete a case plan that may include things like parenting classes, substance abuse counseling, and anger management classes.
If the DSS investigation arises during a custody battle or when you share custody of your child with their other parent, contact an experienced child custody lawyer immediately. If DSS opens a full investigation into accusations of abuse or neglect, this may have immediate consequences on your parenting arrangement. You or the other parent may return to court to ask for a temporary change in custody. If a court believes it is within your child’s best interests, you may lose custody or visitation until the DSS investigation is completed.
If a DSS investigation substantiates allegations of abuse or neglect, then your custody or visitation may change for the long-term. This could lead to the child’s other parent being granted full custody. However, even if social services does not ask for this extreme measure, your child’s other parent might. Your child’s mother or father may return to court and ask for a modification based on DSS’s findings of abuse or neglect. Depending on what is in your child’s best interests, the court could severely limit or supervise your visitation time, or take away your custody or visitation.
If allegations of child abuse or neglect have led to a DSS investigation into your actions and behavior toward your child, you should work with an experienced Johnston or Harnett County family attorney. Social services has a great deal of power, yet they must work within the law. By having an experienced and compassionate lawyer by your side, you can be sure that a social worker does not overstep their bounds or try to unlawfully or unnecessarily remove your child from their home.
By working with Breeden Law Office, you also gain an attorney that will strive to ensure your child custody and visitation arrangement are in line with your child’s best interests. Attorney Jonathan Breeden will fight to make sure you do not lose time with your child over false allegations or that your child is not forced to spend time with a parent who is abusive or neglectful.
Call Breeden Law Office today:(919) 296-3978