It is among every parent’s worst nightmares: child welfare services takes your children away and puts them in foster care. Thus begins a fight against the power of the Department of Human Services to get your children back.
Juvenile dependency cases usually begin when DHS Child Welfare investigates a complaint of child abuse or neglect. These often start by anonymous tips to the agency, and can also start when medical providers and law enforcement officers see what they consider signs of abuse to children. We’ve all heard of the child taken to the emergency room for a broken arm from a playground accident, who never gets to come home again because a child welfare worker thought the injury was intentionally inflicted.
Many of these child welfare workers have their hearts in the right places, but they are very busy. Don’t get us wrong: In most cases when children are removed it is truly for their safety, it’s just not in their best interest to keep them out of the home once the reasons for removal have been corrected. Getting them back home in the shortest time possible requires quick and competent intervention and the assistance of an attorney experienced in juvenile dependency cases.
Getting children returned to their parents usually requires convincing the juvenile court judge that the parents are safe and the reasons for removal no longer apply. If the children were taken away for domestic violence, for example, they often won’t be returned until a divorce has been initiated and the parent granted custody has taken classes to teach them how to avoid being victims of domestic violence in the future. If removal was for drugs, the parents will probably have to complete drug treatment and show they can stay clean and sober for several months. It’s a lot of work, and getting the parents to the right treatment providers quickly is often an art and science best practiced by an attorney.
Sometimes the child welfare workers are just plain wrong. In that case, or if the State is just plain unreasonable, a trial may be needed. In that case, each parent definitely needs experienced trial counsel.
In any event, the clock is ticking once a child has been put into foster care. The Adoption Safe Families Act, a Federal law, requires the government to begin the process of terminating a parent’s rights to the children and adopt the children out if they have not been returned home within one year.
Our attorneys have worked on juvenile dependency cases for most of their careers. Chris Eggert has defended the rights of parents and children in dependency cases for nearly all of his practice. He even spent two and a half years prosecuting juvenile dependency cases for the State when he was in the Polk County District Attorney’s Office, so he’s seen all the tricks the State can try to pull and knows how to handle them.
If you think your children are about to be taken away by DHS Child Welfare, or if they have been, call us now!