When a parent is contacted by the Alabama Office of Child Protective Services, their parental rights are in jeopardy. Child Protective Services is tasked with the responsibility of protecting the well-being of children, and if you're being contacted, there is a concern present.
Whether the concern is valid, or a complete misrepresentation or false accusation, it's critical that you take the situation seriously. Read our blog to learn more about what you should if you've been contacted.
Listen Without Reacting
Once a concern reaches the desk of a Child Protective Services agent, they have a legal duty to pursue the claim. Based on the information, the agent can open a full-fledged investigation or choose to interview someone closely related to the case. Once the agent makes contact with you, it's imperative that you listen without reacting.
Agents are required to provide you with precise details about the claim, what the next step in the process is, and any other information you need. Avoid using this forum as an opportunity to plead your case.
The agent you're speaking to has similar rights and obligations as a police officer, in that, everything you say can be used against you. You could inadvertently say too much and only make matters worse for yourself. Use this time as an opportunity to listen, and only talk to your lawyer.
Exercise Your Fourth Amendment Right
The 4th amendment allows citizens the right to deny access to any law enforcement or government agency attempting to enter their home without a warrant or a court order. Even the Office of Child Protective Services must align with this constitutional right.
If an agent shows up to your home without legal representation allowing a search, you can exercise your fourth amendment right and deny them entry. The burden of proof rests on the shoulders of Child Protective Services and when they search your home, they will look for evidence that your children are being abused.
For instance, during a week when you may not have made it to the grocery store yet, an agent could use the lack of food in the pantry as evidence that you're not meeting the nutritional needs of your children.
Adhere to the Safety Plan
Child Protective Services has the right to set a safety plan in place during the investigation process, which is a set of guidelines put in place by the state. A parent must closely adhere to the guidelines within this plan. Failure to do so puts your parental rights in jeopardy.
For example, let's say the Child Protective Services was told that a parent's partner was abusing the children. As part of the safety plan, the court can require that the partner move out of the house and stay away from the children during the investigation period.
If the parent violates this rule and moves the person back into the home, this would be considered a violation of the safety plan and could lead to their parental rights being terminated.
A parent with concerns about the fairness of this agreement does have a legal right to request a modification, however, they must follow the agreement until any requested changes are documented. If you've been falsely accused, remember these rules are in place to protect children who are being abused, try to remain patient and understanding.
If you're being investigated by Child Protective Services, then you need to take this situation seriously. Follow the tips listed above to protect your parental rights. Contact our team of experts at JP Coleman Law, LLC Attorneys At Law to learn how we can help you.