The law charges social services agencies (“SSA”), like the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”), Child Protective Services (“CPS”), Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”), or Department of Public Social Services (“DPSS”) with investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect.
Whenever there is a referral to a social services agency, the agency is required to investigate any allegation of abuse or neglect of a child. Usually an agency case will be opened and referred to an Emergency Response social worker with training and experience in identifying cases of abuse or neglect involving children. Some allegations against parents might include domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, neglect of a child, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abuse of a sibling, in appropriate physical discipline, failure to provide medical care, a dirty home, or the parent is arrested and unable to make provisions for a child’s support.
In most cases an Emergency Response social worker will attempt to contact the family to take their statements and check on the welfare of the child. Whether a parent should participate in this investigation is a legal question determined by the facts of the specific case and the attorneys at the Johnson Criminal Law Group have spent years counseling countless clients in making this choice. How a parent facing an allegation of abuse or neglect handles an interview with an agency social worker can mean the difference between a case being closed or a petition being filed with the juvenile court. Once a petition is filed, the court can make all sorts of orders regarding the child on a temporary or long-term basis.
Many parents are caught off guard and make statements against their own interest prior to speaking with an experienced juvenile dependency lawyer. Most parents are rightfully frightened that if they do not cooperate with the social worker their children will be separated from them. Some parents think that even if there are issues in the home, they should be able to explain their situation to the social worker and be understood. Too many times parents do more harm than good when they participate in interviews without first obtaining legal counsel.
It is critical that parents accused of child abuse or neglect, either because there are criminal charges pending or because they have been contacted by a social worker, contact an experienced juvenile dependency attorney like the attorneys at the Johnson Criminal Law Group. Only an experienced attorney with expertise in juvenile dependency cases can properly advise a client to try and avoid the filing of a petition with the court.
Ms. Johnson-Norris has successfully prepared many clients in preparation for interviews with social workers to result in no charges of abuse or neglect being filed. Sometimes just a single consultation with Ms. Johnson-Norris can assist parents in avoiding a petition from being filed. While each case is different, it is critical that any parent accused of abuse or neglect consult with an attorney like Ms. Johnson-Norris prior to making any statements to a social worker or police.
Ms. Johnson-Norris handles these specialized cases not only in the trial court but on appeal and has handled every type of child abuse and neglect case. Contact our office today if you have been contacted by police or a social worker prior to making any statements.