DCFS, Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services, has a bad reputation for a good reason: a lot of innocent and well-meaning parents have been the focus of exhaustive investigations, and a lot of neglected and abused children have fallen through the cracks. If DCFS shows up at your door, you likely have a lot of questions about their process and what your rights are at each stage of the process. When DCFS shows up at your residence, you need to know how to protect your family while simultaneously working with the case worker.
What Happens When a Report Is Filed?
As soon as a report is filed, DCFS will look at the report to see if there’s enough information for the incident to be investigated. If there is enough information, they will likely go to the child’s school or house unannounced. When DCFS shows up at your house, the parents of the child have the right to refuse the visit. The parent can refuse to allow the caseworker into the home, refuse to answer the caseworker’s questions, and refuse to allow the caseworker to interview the child. However, refusing to allow DCFS to enter your home may mean that DCFS comes back with a warrant. If DCFS has a warrant to enter your home, you will have to allow them to enter your home. Remember, anything you say or do with DCFS can be used against you in a court of law. Therefore, even if they are just claiming they are “investigating,” if you say or do something incriminating, it can be used to file criminal charges, file DCFS action, and/or take other actions against you.
When a Report Is Unsubstantiated
When DCFS decides to investigate an initial report, DCFS will have to go through their entire process before a decision can be made. DCFS will determine whether or not the allegations of abuse, neglect, or dependency are occurring. When a report is unsubstantiated, it means that DCFS did not find enough evidence through their investigation to determine whether or not abuse, neglect, or dependency was occurring. When a report is unsubstantiated the investigation is essentially over. However, DCFS keeps record of the inquiry and investigation so that if a report comes in again they can use the first investigation against you. Since DCFS is concerned with ensuring that children are not being abused, if a report is made in the future your case will be flagged and most likely investigated more heavily the next time. If a case is unsubstantiated you can rest assured though at this time nothing will happen regarding your children.
When a Report Is Substantiated
When a report is substantiated, a lot of things may happen. DCFS may contact the police and report the abuse. From there, the police may investigate the incident and determine whether or not there is anything they can charge the parent with. DCFS can substantiate the claim but find that the children are not in imminent harm and therefore, no further action and/or services are needed. But when DCFS has reason to believe the child(ren) are in imminent danger, DCFS may remove the child(ren) from the parents’ custody. DCFS can request emergency shelter of your children, which requires you to go to court. Substantiated claims, much like unsubstantiated claims, do not necessarily mean that the child is being abused. When a claim is substantiated, it means that the caseworker has found evidence that the child is most likely being abused or neglected, or dependency is occuring. In these cases, you need to speak with a family law attorney who specializes in DCFS claims in order to protect your family. If you believe that DCFS does not have cause for their actions, your only recourse is to prove your case in court.
Ending the Investigation
The length of a DCFS investigation varies from case to case. Sometimes DCFS takes a while to determine that no abuse, neglect, or dependency is occurring. Other times, DCFS has a difficult time determining when the abuse is occurring. If you need protection for your family, CoilLaw is here for you. Our experienced family law attorneys can help protect you and your family while fighting for your rights against DCFS. If you have questions about your rights, contact CoilLaw today for a consultation.