We understand a visit from a DCS Specialist can be frightening, overwhelming and confusing.
But contrary to popular belief, DCS doesn’t exist solely to take away children from their parents. The department’s main priority is to work with families to ensure children are safe.
One of the most important functions of DCS is to help families receive the services necessary for them to remain together whenever possible and to strengthen family relationships.
When DCS receives an allegation of child abuse or neglect, state law requires the department conduct a thorough investigation.
DCS needs your cooperation to assess your family’s needs and to provide services in the shortest possible time.
If your child faces serious neglect or abuse, DCS is required to take action, which may include removing your child from your home.
DCS attempts to balance the legal rights of parents and the needs and rights of children to live in a safe and healthy home.
Even if DCS investigates your family, it doesn’t mean your child is going to be removed.
In fact, only 10 percent of DCS reports results in a child being removed.
In the vast majority of our contacts with families, DCS and families work together to resolve safety concerns and without any children being removed from the home.
So what can you expect if DCS contacts you?
Your Rights: In a DCS Investigation Arizona law requires DCS to provide the parent, guardian or custodian with written information outlining his/her rights. Upon initial contact, DCS must inform the parent, guardian or custodian that:
- The person accused is under investigation by DCS and the specific complaint or allegation made against the person.
- DCS has no legal authority to compel the parent, guardian or custodian to cooperate with the investigation or to receive services.
- Whether or not he/she agrees to cooperate with the investigation or participate in the services offered, DCS will proceed with the investigation.
- DCS may file a petition with the juvenile court indicating that the child is in need of protective services.
- Refusal to cooperate in the investigation or to participate in services offered does not constitute grounds for removing a child, unless temporary custody is clearly necessary to prevent the child from suffering abuse or neglect.
- The person’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation or participate in services offered does not in itself constitute grounds for temporary custody.
- The parent, guardian or custodian has the right to file a complaint about how their case is being handled with the Ombudsman Citizens’ Aide and/or the Family Advocacy Office, and to appeal DCS determinations. DCS must provide the person with the telephone number to the Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide.
- Parents have the right to respond to the allegations verbally or in writing, including providing information, and to have the information considered in determining whether the child needs protective services.
- Anything the person says or writes can be used in a court proceeding.
- Any written response, including any documents, will be included in the case record.
- Any information provided in response to the allegations will be considered during the investigation.
- DCS will keep any response to the allegations, including any information provided, in the case record and will provide this information to the court before a hearing or trial relating to the dependency petition.
Removals: Few of the children who are reported to DCS are actually removed from their homes.
However, sometimes children must be removed to keep them safe while their parents work to improve their situation.
When DCS removes a child from their home, or considers removing a child, DCS will hold a team decision-making meeting.
This meeting brings together people who are involved with the child and the child’s family.
DCS encourages the family to bring supportive persons such as relatives, friends, neighbors or community persons to the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the child’s safety, where he or she will live, and to identify family resources that may help the family protect the child.
DCS considers all viable options to protect the child from abuse or neglect prior to foster care placement.