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An American Horror Story

Imagine the following scenario: A young married couple with two small children living the American dream. They have a home, the young father has a good job with a nice income that affords his wife the luxury of being a stay at home mom and raising their children. One evening, there is a knock on the door. it’s a DHS caseworker with a police officer responding to an anonymous call that the children may be in danger. Even though the parents assure the case worker that the children are fine, the case worker insists on entering the home and does so without a warrant and no other reason but the anonymous call. As the caseworker enters the home she notices what appears to be a small pipe on the end table. It has nothing in it but it smells suspiciously like marijuana. The casewoker insists that both parents submit to a urinalysis right then and there and she will determine whether the samples are positive for marijuana or another illegal substance. Mind you, the method used by the caseworker is not scientific and is in fact highly subjective. If the parents test positive or refuse to submit the caseworker may exercise a 72 hour hold on the children until the parents can be brought before a Court for a probable cause hearing. Based on the pipe and the positive drug tests, the Court will find probable cause that the children may be dependent neglected and will order that custody of the children be placed with DHS and the matter will be set for an adjudication hearing. The parents will only be allowed visitation at the will of DHS. Hopefully the children will be placed with family but if there is no one available, the children will go to into foster case and not necessarily in the same home. The children will not be allowed to see their parents unless DHS authorizes visitation. The Court will set an adjudication hearing within 60 days and in the meantime the parents may be subjected to multiple drug screenings and mental health evaluations at the will of DHS. They may be allowed visitation but the children will not be returned to the parents custody during this process, which can take months.


At the adjudication hearing, the parents will have the opportunity to make their case and ask the Court to return custody of the children to them. If the children are found to be dependent neglected because of the parents drug use, the next phase of the process will be permanence planning with the goal of reunification of the children with the parents. The parents will be required to undergo counseling, therapy, drug treatment or mental health evaluations all at the direction of DHS. If the parents meet all the requirements then and only then will DHS recommend that custody be returned to the parents. After custody is returned to the parents you would think the nightmare is over but its not. The parents receive a letter, after they have met all the requirements of DHS and are informed that they are going to have their names placed on the child maltreatment registry. To avoid this they must request a hearing and will have to go to further legal expense. If the appeals Court determines that there is sufficient cause, the parents will have their names placed on the child maltreatment registry where they will remain unless the parents petition to have their names removed from the list.


By the end of this nightmare, the parents will have paid thousands of dollars in legal fees and had their lives and reputations permanently damaged. This scenario happens to parents and children on a daily basis throughout the state. Protect yourselves and your family by being informed. Its best to be able to avoid the situation entirely but if you find yourself in this situation it is of utmost importance to find a attorney who can get you through this process. Call our firm for information.