Attorneys Experienced In Dealing With The DCS
Parents may find themselves in a difficult situation and in need of an Indiana DCS lawyer if they are facing accusations of abuse or neglect. By statute, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS, formerly known as CPS) has to investigate every claim of abuse or neglect by a parent reported to the hotline number. The investigation and legal process that follows can be confusing. In these cases, a child may be determined to be a Child in Need of Services (CHINS).
Unfortunately, the Indiana 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 If you have come under investigation by the DCS, you need to hire an Indiana DCS/CHINS lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your child stays with you. Call Zentz & Roberts, P.C today at 317-678-9463 to speak to an Indiana DCS Attorney as soon as possible!
A Child In Need Of Services
According to Indiana Code §31-34-1, a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) is a person under the age of 18 subject to the following types of abuse or neglect:
- The parents are unable or unwilling to provide the child with necessary food, shelter, medical care, education or supervision.
- The parents commit acts or omissions that result in actual or a risk of harm to the child physical or mental health.
- The parents manufactured illegal drugs on the property where the child lives.
- The child has been a victim or risks being a victim of crimes such as rape, criminal deviate conduct, exploitation, molestation, public indecency, prostitution, voyeurism, seduction, or sexual misconduct with a minor.
- The parents allowed or put the child at risk of engaging in an obscene performance or sex offense.
- The child is a danger to his or herself or to others, and the child is not receiving care or treatment.
- The child has been disciplined at school because of his or her misbehavior and the parents have not been cooperative.
- The child is a missing child.
- The child is disabled.
- The child is being deprived of necessary nutrition or medical care.
- The child has been born with fetal alcohol syndrome or with the presence of drugs in his or her system.
- The child’s mother used alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, which caused the child’s physical or mental health problems.
DCS Investigations Procedure
According to Indiana state law, anyone who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect must make a report to either law enforcement or the county’s Department of Child Services, unless that person has reason to believe that a report has already been made. A failure to act can result in that person receiving criminal charges. Because of this fact, often people over-report instances of purported child abuse out of fear that they may be charged with a crime.
Child Abuse Reporting
In some instances, the allegations of child abuse may be motivated by the reporting person’s ill will toward the alleged perpetrator. In some instances, the person might seek to ruin another person’s life, or one parent may attempt to get sole custody of a child, by making allegations of child abuse against an innocent person. The issue that commonly arises is that the law assumes that whoever is making the child abuse report is doing so in good faith, not completed out of malice.
An Indianapolis CHINS Lawyer
For these reasons, having an experienced Indianapolis CHINS lawyer by your side as you defend against accusations of child abuse is crucial to the success of your defense. You need an Indianapolis CHINS attorney to do the following:
- Help you fight false accusations
- Represent your interests during investigations
- Represent your interests during custody hearings
DCS policy dictates that, depending on the severity of the allegations, an investigation will begin as soon as within 1 hour or up to a maximum of five days of the report of abuse or neglect. Investigators may visit the child’s home to observe and speak with the allegedly endangered child, but parents do have a right to refuse entry into the home. The investigator may also request that the child be submitted to:
- A physical evaluation
- A psychological evaluation
- A psychiatric evaluation
To help navigate through the DCS process, and as an Indiana child protection attorney may be hired by parents to help them through the process, we successfully represent the best interests of the child and the parents alike.
After A DCS Investigation In Indiana
If the investigator concludes that the allegations of child abuse or neglect against you are unsubstantiated, there will be no adverse action taken against you and the report will be expunged from the child abuse registry. If, however, the investigator concludes that the allegations were true, any of the following may occur:
- The DCS and the parents enter into a Service Referral Agreement
- The juvenile court authorizes a Program for Informal Adjustment
- The parents have to participate in family and rehabilitative services
- The Department of Child Services requests the juvenile court to rule that the child is a CHINS
Where a child is determined to be at immediate and severe risk, the DCS may seize the child without a hearing or court order. In such cases, the parents will have the opportunity to attend a detention hearing, which must take place within 48 hours of the child’s removal. To obtain the release of their child, the parents and their lawyer that fights DCS cases in Indiana must demonstrate that continued detention is not necessary to protect the child and that the parents are able and willing to take custody of the child.
If DCS Requests Your Child Declared A CHINS
During the initial hearing, the judge will explain to you what findings of abuse or neglect led to the opening of the CHINS litigation. Should the child be placed in a rehabilitative or treatment program, the court may at this time order the parents to pay the costs. If you choose to deny the allegations against you, the court will schedule a fact-finding hearing within 60 days of the initial hearing. During the fact-finding hearing, the judge will hear evidence and testimony from the DCS investigator and the child’s family and/or parents. Based on the evidence and testimony he or she hears, the judge will decide whether or not your child is in fact a CHINS. There are several key differences between a fact-finding hearing and a criminal hearing. In Indiana, however, the child’s parents have fewer procedural protections than a criminal defendant. For example:
- The authorities need only to prove the child is a CHINS by a preponderance of the evidence, instead of beyond a reasonable doubt.
- If the child was injured in a manner that does not normally occur without an act or omission by a parent, the court will presume the child is a CHINS.
- There is no privilege to refuse to testify against a spouse, or for a doctor to refuse to testify based on the patient-physician relationship.
If you admit to the child abuse allegations, or if the judge concludes that the allegations are true after a fact-finding hearing, the court will schedule a hearing to resolve the case. As a result, the judge may order any of the following:
- Removal of the child from your home
- Issue a no-contact order between the child and the parents or any other abusive person
- Require you to obtain employment
- Require you to complete counseling
- Require you to complete psychological assessments
- Require you to complete parenting classes
- Require you to enroll in a drug or alcohol abuse treatment program(s)
- Require you to enroll in and complete anger management classes
- Require you to reimburse any expenses incurred by the Department of Child Services
It’s important to obtain the help of a CHINS lawyer with experience representing clients in DCS cases. The DCS investigation and hearing process is complex, an Indiana family lawyer with experience in DCS cases can help you develop a strong defense on your behalf and fight for you at a DCS hearing.
After A CHINS Determination
Every six months following the CHINS hearing, the court must review the case to determine the following:
- Is the case plan meeting the needs of the child?
- Does the child need placement in a new home?
- Are the services attended by the parents enough to prepare the parent to meet the child’s needs?
The DCS caseworker’s report will largely affect the court’s decision. At the conclusion of the review hearing, the court may state a projected date for the child’s return home.
If Court Orders Are Not Followed
In cases where the parents do not follow the orders issued by the court at the dispositional hearing, the Department of Child Services may request a hearing to terminate parental rights. In this instance, the Department of Child Services must prove all of the following:
- The child has been separated from the parent for more than 6 months
- The court previously found that family preservation or reunification is not required
- The child has been separated from the parent for more than 15 of the preceding 22 months
- The conditions that led to the child’s removal have not been fixed
- The relationship between the parent and the child puts the child’s well-being at risk
- Terminating the parent’s rights is in the best interest of the child
- There is a satisfactory plan for the child’s treatment and care
Hire An Indianapolis DCS Lawyer
The legal process and procedure set out by DCS can put parents at a significant disadvantage in proving their innocence. You need a Marion County family attorney with experience in DCS processes at every stage of the DCS litigation and investigation. It’s imperative that you call the best Indianapolis DCS lawyer for your case at 317-678-9463 to speak with an attorney right away. Time is of the essence. Act now.