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What Instigates the State to Remove a Child from the Home?

Parents overwhelmingly work to protect and nurture their children from physical and emotional harm. The best way to achieve this end is to have knowledge and control over where a child is located, who they are with, and what they are doing. However, if the state seizes your child as part of a dependency investigation, which is a family law issue, as a parent, your ability to exercise your authority over a child is lost. This is a terrifying situation for any parent, and with a dependency investigation, there is the added risk that a parent’s rights over their child could be permanently terminated. A recent story in the Orlando Sentinel highlights the psychological and emotional danger a child faces in foster care that parents’ have little power to defuse or prevent. The Department of Child and Families (DCF) recently scuttled plans to institute protections for gay and transgender youth in foster homes, including one that would have banned conversion therapy. Children in the foster system are inherently living in a vulnerable situation, and proponents of these protections worry that gay and transgender children will continue to experience pressure from foster parents to change their sexual orientation and/or maintain their biological gender.

What Prompts the Police to Knock at the Door

The majority of dependency cases begin with a phone call to DCF’s central child abuse hotline where the caller reports a suspicion that a child is being abused, neglected or abandoned. Representatives from DCF will then determine if the report warrants further onsite investigation. Much of this decision will rest on whether the family had previous reports of child welfare issues. In addition, law enforcement is notified about allegations of abuse, and officials make their own determination about opening a case file with an eye to possibly filing criminal charges. Assuming an investigation is opened, law enforcement and/or DCF representatives will visit the home to assess the condition of the child and family, and most importantly, to assess the child’s health and safety. If either of these is at issue, the child will likely be removed.

Initial Steps of an Investigation

Once a protective investigator makes the decision to perform an onsite visit, the following information must be provided to the parent or guardian under investigation during the initial contact:

  • investigators’ names and identifying credentials;
  • the purpose of the investigation;
  • the parent’s/guardian’s right to retain a attorney;
  • the potential outcomes of DCF’s response to the abuse report;
  • the parent’s/guardian’s right to be involved, to the extent possible, in the investigation of the allegations and identified problems and possible remedies; and
  • the ongoing duty to report a change of residence or location of the child who is part of the investigation until the case is closed.

In addition to providing this information, the investigating agent will conduct in-person interviews with the child, any siblings and the parents or legal guardians.

Talk to a Family Law Attorney

If you are facing a dependency investigation and a possible termination of your parental rights, you need an attorney on your side to argue why your child should be returned to your care. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. understands the emotional turmoil of your situation and will work to reunite your family. Contact the office today to schedule a free consultation.

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