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Accusations of child abuse and/or neglect can change the trajectory of a person’s life. Allegations of abuse often come from school teachers, family members, medical providers, and other professionals who are mandatory reporters under A.R.S. § 13-3620 . When these allegations arise, they are typically investigated by the Department of Child Safety (DCS) and there may also be a concurrent criminal investigation. Depending on the severity of the allegations, DCS may take immediate action, including the immediate removal of children from their parent.
Everything you say and do while in contact with DCS is placed under scrutiny, with potentially catastrophic results. A “substantiated” finding of abuse can have adverse impact on your livelihood, future custody determinations, and may be the beginning of a process in which the Department seeks to permanently terminate your rights as a parent.
In recent years, DCS has actively removed children from their homes for more complex issues, such as medical neglect and Munchausen-by-proxy abuse. Although DCS generally means well and pursues their goal to “protect the best interests of children,” they do make mistakes among the thousands of cases they intake each month. A well-reasoned defense may help the court understand that there are legitimate medical explanations for what has been improperly identified as abuse or that the allegation is otherwise false.
DCS matters are among the most sensitive and complex in the practice of law. Unlike ordinary criminal defense, the burdens of evidence to support dependency and parental termination findings are much lower and, at times, the risks are greater.