Children Issues with the Department of Social Services

If your case involves the Department of Social Services, you may need representation to protect your parental rights. North Carolina has specific statutes regarding the abuse and neglect of children that are quite tedious and complex. Having an attorney experienced in these matters evaluate your case with you can be extremely helpful. The Department of Social Services is a powerful agency that can file a petition to strip you of your parental rights and remove your children from your home.

The Department of Social Services has established Child Protective Services for juveniles alleged to be abused, neglected, or dependent, which are all technical terms defined in the statute. N.C.G.S. §7B-300 notes that “protective services shall include the screening of reports, the performance of an assessment using either a family assessment response or an investigative assessment response, casework, or other counseling services to parents, guardians, or other caretakers as provided by the director to help the parents, guardians, or other caretakers and the court to prevent abuse or neglect, to improve the quality of child care, to be more adequate parents, guardians, or caretakers, and to preserve and stabilize family life.”

As you can see by the above quoted statutory language, the Department of Social Services has authority to take a wide range of actions under the umbrella of Child Protective Services. This authority kicks in as soon as a child is alleged to be abused, neglected, or dependent. Thus, one allegation – maybe from a disgruntled ex-spouse – can get the powerful Department of Social Services involved in your life and your child’s life, giving them the authority to take a number of actions without your consent. 

According to N.C.G.S. §7B-302, “if the assessment indicates that abuse, neglect, or dependency has occurred, the director shall decide whether immediate removal of the juvenile or any other juveniles in the home is necessary for their protection.” This means that, following an assessment of the household, the Department of Social Services has the ability to remove the child from the home, if they make the determination that there has been abuse, neglect, or dependency and removal is needed to protect the child. Therefore, the Department of Social Services has a lot of power over your child once they get involved. Again, the only thing required for their involvement is an allegation of abuse, neglect, or dependency. 

Department of Social Services not only has the authority to remove your child from your home, but they also have the power to ask a Judge to terminate your parental rights entirely – provided grounds exist under the statute and they follow the proper procedure. This demonstrates the power of the Department of Social Services, one of the main reasons why it is a good idea to have an experienced family law attorney at your side throughout the entire process. 

Without an experienced attorney, you may have to deal with the involvement of the Department of Social Services longer than necessary and your child’s life may be disrupted to a greater extent than necessary.  Our family law attorneys here at Woodruff Family Law Group have the experience to assist you in such matters, along with many other family legal matters.