We understand a visit from the Department of Child Safety can be frightening, overwhelming and confusing.
The Department’s main priority is to work with families to ensure children are safe. When the home situation is dangerous to a child, DCS works with the family on a plan to keep the child safe at home whenever possible, or to live with a relative if remaining in the home is not possible. Children are only moved to non-relative foster care as a last resort.
When DCS receives an allegation of child abuse or neglect, state law requires that the Department conduct a thorough investigation. The investigation includes gathering information and conducting interviews to ensure the children are safe.
DCS also gathers information to assess family strengths and needs, and connect families to services and supports. Information is gathered about child health and development, adult functioning day-to-day, general parenting practices, and disciplinary practices in the family.
If DCS investigates an allegation of abuse or neglect involving your child, you are most likely to receive referrals or connect to services or supports and unlikely to have your child removed from your home. In fact, only 12 percent of children in a report to DCS are removed from their home. Children are only separated from their parents when no other family members, services or supports can ensure the child’s safety.
When DCS removes a child from their home, or considers removing a child, DCS will hold a team decision-making meeting (TDM). A TDM is a meeting called by DCS to discuss and make decisions about your child’s safety, permanency, and well-being. This may also include decisions about where your child resides. This meeting brings together a team of people who are involved with you, your child, and family.
You are encouraged to bring supports to the TDM such as:
- your spouse, partner or significant other;
- friends, neighbors, caregivers or babysitters;
- members of your faith/spiritual community;
- school contacts (teachers, principal, or counselor);
- a therapist/counselor or others who work with you or your family;
- a tribal or consulate representative; and
- military supports.
DCS considers all viable options to protect the child from abuse or neglect prior to foster care placement.
Arizona law, A.R.S. 8-809, requires DCS to provide information on parents’ rights pursuant to A.R.S. 8-809.01 and other information to assist parents and guardians in understanding the process of removal of a child from their home.
On initial contact with the Department of Child Safety, you as the parent, guardian or custodian under investigation for an allegation of abuse or neglect have the following rights:
- To be informed of the specific complaint or allegation made against you and that any responses to the complaint or allegation may be used in a subsequent court proceeding.
- To receive information about the investigation and the Department's decision-making process.
- To refuse to cooperate with the investigation or receive services and supports offered pursuant to the investigation. Your child may not be temporarily removed based solely on your refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
- Unless otherwise ordered by the court, to deny the worker entry into your home.
- To seek the advice of an attorney and to have an attorney present when questioned by a worker.
- To respond to allegations either verbally or in writing and to have this information considered in determining if your child requires DCS intervention.
- Unless otherwise ordered by the court, to refuse to sign a release of information, consent to take a drug or alcohol test, or submit to a mental health evaluation.
- To appeal determinations made by the Department.
- To be informed both verbally and in writing of these rights and any parental rights under state law and to provide written acknowledgement of receipt of these rights.
- To report a violation of the rights specified in this section without fear of punishment, interference, coercion or retaliation.
Under Arizona law, you as a parent, guardian or custodian whose child is placed in the custody of DCS have the right to:
- Be notified verbally or in writing if your child is taken into DCS custody and the reasons why.
- Receive information on the services available to you and your child and the dependency process and timelines.
- Have an attorney present or an attorney appointed by the court at all court proceedings.
- Be timely notified of the date, time and location of all hearings and to participate in all hearings.
- Receive services if your child has been removed from the home, including services that facilitate family reunification.
- Maintain contact with your child unless it is determined by DCS or the court to be harmful to your child’s safety or well-being.
- Be consulted about your child’s medical care, education and grooming.
- Request that your child be returned home if the court finds that the return of your child would not create a substantial risk of harm to your child's physical, mental or emotional health or safety.
If you believe your rights have been violated, you may:
- Attempt to resolve the dispute with the assigned DCS Specialist by phone or email.
- Elevate your concerns to the assigned DCS Program Supervisor by phone or email.
- File a complaint with the DCS Office of the Ombudsman at 602-364-0777 or [email protected].
- File a complaint with the Ombudsman-Citizens Aide at 602-277-7292 or [email protected].
- Notify the juvenile court in your child's ongoing dependency or severance proceeding, either orally or in writing, if applicable.
These rights do not establish an independent cause of action.
Learn more about DCS decision making, and review our Parents' Guide page or download the guide here.