Often I am contacted by parents who have run into issues dealing with Children and Youth Services. It is not uncommon for CYS (sometimes called DFS) to run roughshod over the rights of parents under the guise of protecting children. If you are contacted by CYS you should be sure to get the contact information for the caseworker and then contact an attorney to discuss your rights. Here are some answers to some Frequently Asked Questions that I get about CYS:
I got a phone call or a letter from CYS, but I did not do anything wrong. Why are they contacting me?
Just because CYS contacted you does not mean that you did anything wrong. All it means is that CYS received a report from someone alleging either possible abuse or neglect which they are required to investigate. Nevertheless, you should take the contact by CYS seriously.
A CYS caseworker showed up at my house with a police officer asking that they be allowed to come into my house. Do I have to let them in?
Unless the caseworker has a court order or a warrant, they do not have the right to come into your house without your permission. The fact that they have a police officer there with them does not change this.
The caseworker threatened to take my children if I do not let them into the house. What do I do?
In the absence of a threat of imminent harm, neither the caseworker or the police can take your children without a court order even if they threaten to do so. However, if you do receive such a threat, it is very important that you talk with an attorney to make sure that your rights are protected.
What should I do if I am contacted by CYS?
You should make sure that you get the contact information for the caseworker and as much information about the report of suspected abuse as they will give you. You should let them know that you want to talk with an attorney before moving forward. You should then contact an attorney.
What if I cannot afford an attorney?
Unfortunately, you are not entitled to a free attorney during the investigation phase. However, if CYS takes legal action against you, such as by filing a dependency petition, you will be entitled to a court appointed attorney if you cannot afford an attorney.
What is the difference between a child protective services investigation and a general protective services investigation?
A Child Protective Services investigation involves an allegation of abuse. A general protective services investigation generally involves allegations of neglect.
If you are contacted by CYS or find yourself in that system now, I would be glad to talk with you. We will sit down together and get all of the information about your situation. At that point we will come up with a plan to address whatever the issue is that brought you into contact with CYS and, most importantly, what can be done to stop your children from being taken away or to get your children returned to you if they have been taken away.