Having an unwanted person come into your home and invade your privacy is a disheartening feeling. All types of emotions go through your head. The first thing you think of is, what can I say to keep my child in my home. I can imagine that being at the forefront of a child abuse or neglect investigation is overwhelming in itself; but now, to realize that your child is being taken from your home has to absolutely be devastating and gut wrenching. I sympathize with anyone this has happened to. It’s important to keep in mind that once the Department of Child Services (DCS) is in your life, you must not give them any further reasons to keep your child from your care longer than is needed for you to complete their demands.
Depending on the reason your child is removed from your care, DCS will require you to complete required services to get your child back in your care. If you can not afford your own attorney, you will be appointed one by the judge. Once you have gone through mediation with your attorney and DCS, the case goes before the judge. The judge will affirm DCS’s recommendations for services that you must complete. It is important to be very clear about what you must complete in order to get your child back. For example, if you were caught with drugs in your system and DCS is requiring you to complete a drug program and random drug tests two times a week, make sure you complete everything asked of you through the program and never miss a testing day. Sometimes what happens is that while you are going through the dependency process, you miss a drug test for whatever reason and can not make it to the testing facility. This will be counted against you. Any test missed for any reason is considered a “dirty” test. So now you’ve created something against you that can give DCS a reason to recommend that your child remain in their care longer.
The following are things you can do and keep in mind while your child is in DCS care:
- Utilize upright family members and friends. When DCS needs to remove your child from the home, one of the questions they ask you is if you have any family or friends that can temporarily take your child while you are going through the process. Many parents think that if they say they do not have anyone to temporarily take their child that DCS will not remove the child. This is absolutely not the case. Either way, DCS is removing the child. However, at least if family or friends temporarily take the child, DCS may permit the temporary caretakers to allow monitored visits between you and the child outside of the scheduled DCS monitored visits. DCS is usually only required to provide two visits a week for two hours each, unless the judge changes it for whatever reason. Therefore, with a family member or friend, you can be provided visits outside of the required visits as long as the family member or friend is okay with it. If you do provide DCS with a family member or friend to temporarily take your child, please make sure it is someone that can pass a criminal background check (required of anyone in the home 18 and over), and a home-study (check your home for safety and interview you and all household members). It is also important to advise the person taking the child that they will be required to not only care for the child, but to take the child to scheduled appointments. Also, advise the temporary caretaker that on average a child’s minimum stay is usually 6 months. This does not mean that a child will not be back in the home before 6 months, but on average this is the minimum length of stay. I can not tell you how many times temporary caretakers are misinformed about the length and scope of their duties which ends up hurting the child if DCS has to remove them again from a temporary placement. So please, be very clear with temporary caretakers about what’s expected of them.
- Keep in regular contact with your DCS worker. It is no secret that DCS workers are overworked. Their caseloads are high and they work well over a normal 40-hour work week. Let’s examine a case load of about 50 kids, which is well below what I had before I left DCS, but this is just for example purposes. Among many other duties, the DCS worker has 50 children they must lay eyes on and talk to every month. They also receive several calls and emails on a daily basis that requires immediate attention. Now, one of the 50 children is your child. You’re upset because you have not heard from the DCS worker and you called last week and the worker has still not returned your call. Unfortunately, this happens a lot with DCS and it’s usually not intentional. You ever heard the saying of, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”. Well, it is the same with DCS. Those who stay in contact with DCS more gets things done more. I hate to say that, but it’s true. Also, a DCS worker is rarely at their desk because of all the visits, meetings, and court they have to attend. Therefore, the best way to contact your DCS worker is by email. Email is fast and it reaches the DCS worker wherever they are. Not only do you need the DCS worker’s information but you should have their supervisor’s information as well.
- Attend all offered visits through DCS. When your child comes into care, DCS will setup monitored visits between you and your child. It is very important that you show up promptly to all visits offered by DCS. Not only do you need to show up, but you need to show up prepared. You need to bring nutritious food to all visits as well as activities for you to do with your child during the visits. A successful visit is one that involves you interacting with your child and conveying your parenting skills. Since these visits are monitored, DCS watches everything you do with your child and takes notes regarding you and your child’s interactions. You want these notes to be positive when the DCS worker reports the status of your visits to the judge. Depending on how you grew up, you may not know how your interactions are supposed to be with your child. Do not worry. You can usually find parenting classes in the community to help you build a better relationship with your child. Also, one thing about having your child in DCS care is that DCS can refer you for a plethora of services to help you for FREE. So, if there is something you feel you need help with, ask the DCS case manager to refer you to an agency. This also shows the judge that you are taking initiative in order to get your child back in your care.
- Attend all court hearings. Court hearings are important and impact you and your child tremendously. It is so very important that you attend all required court hearings. I have seen things change very quickly at court hearings. Keep in mind, DCS is making recommendations about you and your child to the judge, but it is the judge who is the deciding factor. Whatever you do make sure you are at your court hearings at least 15 minutes before court in order to be able to speak with your court-appointed attorney before the hearing. You want to give your attorney a full update on what has been happening with the case and how you are doing with the requirements of DCS. Yes, unfortunately, court appointed attorneys are often times so busy that you may not be able to speak with them until right before your hearing. This leads me to my next point, make sure you take great notes and keep a record of everything that has transpired with the case. This will make it easy to give your attorney updated information. Because of the high turnover rate with DCS, this also makes it easy to ensure that DCS is doing what they told you they would do in regards to services or the child’s well-being.
- Any services you agree to do with DCS, complete them! It is important to show the Judge that you are complying with everything asked of you. Not only is it important to comply, but both DCS and the judge want to see that you are actually making the necessary behavioral changes in order to get your child back. I encourage you to take full advantage of services offered to you by DCS in order to help decrease the behaviors that DCS is questioning. If you do not want to be referred for services through DCS, you can always self-refer for behavioral health services in order to complete the requirements. For example, if DCS wants to refer you to domestic violence classes, you do not have to wait for DCS to refer you. You can self-refer to an organization that helps with overcoming domestic violence challenges. Being proactive is always good.
These tips are not all-inclusive, but should give you an idea of some things you can do while you are going through the dependency process. Following opinions from this site does not guarantee that you will get your child back. However, it is anticipated that this information will help you understand what is expected of you while you are going through the process.