If you find yourself with a Department of Human Services (DHS) worker at your door for the first time, what do you do? We recommend that you politely ask for their card, tell them that you intend to be cooperative, ask for them to come back at a time that can be coordinated with your attorney, and immediately contact a competent attorney. Often times workers threaten parties with sanctions, taking away children, no contact orders, arrests, etc. if parties don’t immediately let them in. Be aware that DHS caseworkers do not show up unless there has been a report to the agency about you, a member of your household, your child, or the other parent.
Reports can be for anything that relates to the general supervision, care and/or safety of a child. Some examples of reports we have dealt with concerned abuse, neglect, mental health issues that affected one or both parent’s ability to parent, drug use, dirty house or unsanitary conditions, exposure to a third-party that is believed to be unsafe, household domestic violence, and inappropriate discipline. There are an infinite number of reasons why DHS could be standing at your door but unless you immediately seek legal advice you may not be aware of why and what they are really there for until well after you have let them in, spoken to them in detail, and had your statements to them written down in notes by one or both of the workers (which may or may accurately represent your actual statements).
DHS investigations require several interviews, home visits, and sometimes production of evidence (texts, social media posts, pictures, medical records, etc.) We work collaboratively with the agency so that the agency can complete their investigation but we do it in a way that ensures transparency and fairness in the investigative process. We don’t settle on “he said/she said” investigations where the caseworker aligns his/herself with one of the parties and only hears, receives, and considers evidence that supports that alignment. We demand that the agency resolve investigations within the timelines they are required to do so and that they issue findings within the required timelines so that clients can contest findings and timely request agency reviews of those findings.
At Arnold Law, we have successfully resolved investigations without any adverse findings by the agency against our clients. We have also negotiated voluntary service agreements between DHS and our clients without the necessity of formal court petitions being filed. If a petition is filed in juvenile court, our attorneys are experienced at handling the case from the first appearance at the original hearing through the conclusion of the case.