Contrary to popular belief, the mission of the Department of Social Services is to keep families together and not tear them apart. However, the DSS always wants to ensure that families remain healthy. So, DSS investigators are very aggressive when it comes to following up on complaints. Families need equally aggressive representation in these situations. Families also need attorneys who understand the emotional aspect of DSS cases.
At the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, “aggressive” and “compassionate” are not just occupational buzzwords. The most critical parts of the process, like trials and hearings, require the most assertive representation. But at other times, thoughtful compromise is best. Furthermore, our Columbia child protective services lawyers do not just pretend to listen to you. Our clients are our partners, so we consistently practice open, two-way communication so we may understand your needs and goals.
As a rule of thumb, initial DSS complaints are either mandatory or optional. Certain government workers, such as teachers and police officers, are required to report certain events. For example, a criminal court may report a child passenger DUI to the local DSS office. Or, a teacher may report a malnourished or drowsy student to investigators.
That second example is sometimes controversial. A child may be malnourished not because the family does not feed the child, but because the family cannot afford healthy meals. Furthermore, many people consider a late or lax bedtime to be a form of child abuse, while others consider it a matter of parent/child choice.
Optional reports are almost always anonymous. Many investigators are afraid that if they do not follow up on everything, a case may turn out badly or slip through the cracks. So, they are sometimes overly-aggressive in these situations. Later on, DSS lawyers are overly-aggressive as well, because they want to protect the investigator who began the case.
If the complaint has any merit whatsoever, the DSS has a legal duty to investigate it. Physical or sexual abuse investigations must begin within twenty-four hours; other investigations must begin within five days.
Especially if the family is not in the system, many investigators prepare action plans. Such a plan could involve no contact between the child and a certain adult or attending a parenting class. Families have legal rights in these situations. An attorney can protect your rights and also fully explain all the ramifications of the action plan.
If the family is already in the system or there is substantial evidence of serious physical abuse, the DSS investigation usually proceeds to court. These court cases may even involve a temporary removal. If the parents show that they are serious about keeping the family together, this separation is only temporary. An attorney is a strong voice for families and makes sure that DSS investigator and lawyers do not cross the line.
In extreme cases, authorities may seek permanent removal. In termination proceedings, the state usually must present clear and convincing evidence that permanent removal is in the best interests of the child. Given the strong presumption in favor of preserving the family unit and upholding the authority of the parents, such a showing is difficult to make.
A DSS investigation is one of the worst trials that a family can endure. For a free consultation with an experienced family lawyer in Howard County, contact the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.
7310 Ritchie Highway, Suite 910
Glen Burnie, MD 21061
30 Corporate Center
10440 Little Patuxent Parkway,
Columbia, MD 21044