The Department of Child Safety performs an invaluable service in seeking to protect minors from mistreatment. However, it is not infallible; it is not unheard of for it to make a mistake and wrongfully target an innocent family.
This is especially true with poorer families where it is easy for outsiders to misconstrue frugality as neglect. If you find yourself unfairly on the receiving end of DCS’s scrutiny, remember two things: You have rights, and you need to avoid certain actions.
1. Not remaining silent unless necessary
Answer all questions truthfully, but do not offer more information than necessary. Anything you say may count against you. You may feel the urge to proclaim your innocence. Resist it because, again, any word you speak may serve as evidence against you.
2. Not asking the right questions
While talking excessively may hurt your case, not asking certain questions may lose you advantages. You have the right to bring up queries like:
- What is the investigator’s name and may you see his or her ID?
- What is the nature of the accusations made against you?
- Does the investigator have a warrant or a court order?
DCS agents do not always have warrants or court orders and are not able to enter your home arbitrarily and take your child from you without a court order except in emergencies. Make sure to write down the answers to the questions you ask.
3. Not obtaining representation
You have the right to legal counsel. If you are unable to afford it, the court may provide free, court-appointed representation.
It may be painful to find that you may lose your children over a phone call or report over a misunderstanding. However, it is important to remain calm and exercise your rights.