By: Woodnick Law, PLLC
I frequently get calls from parents who have come home to find a DCS note on their door. It is usually a business card from a DCS investigator requesting that the parent contact them immediately.
In Arizona, Child Protective Services has an obligation to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect. (The investigations include, but are not limited to: unexplained bruises, malnutrition symptoms, Munchausen’s Syndrome, and parents with substance abuse issues.) Their job is to assure that children are safe, but often their investigation leads to serious legal consequences, including DCS taking the children from their parents and criminal charges.
When you get a note on your door, you should not ignore it. If you fail to respond you could be sending the wrong message to DCS or unwittingly keeping your child in danger if they suspect that someone else under your roof is abusing the child. Yes, you need an attorney. Even if DCS does not remove your child, their ‘substantiated’ findings can impact you dramatically. Teachers, doctors, therapists and other licensed professionals can lose their careers over these issues.
The Constitution guarantees you the right to remain silent and not answer questions. While not answering their questions can be dangerous, you need to strongly consider telling DCS that you will cooperate with their investigation but only with your lawyer present. In most cases, this will make the process with DCS somewhat smoother.
Remember, if you get a note on your door, do not panic, but be sure to seek out the help you need to handle the situation with proper care.