What Can I Expect Overall?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you have about 15 months to overcome addiction through treatment programs to get your child or children back. Throughout this time, your children will either be placed with family or in foster care.
In cases where there are no family members capable of taking care of your child, foster care is the only option left. Foster care is meant to be a place for your children to be safe and cared for temporarily while preparing yourself for your family reunited. While your children are in foster care, you can connect with support systems and treatment options during each step of the child welfare process. These procedures are in place to provide safety for your children while you recover from drug addiction and prepare for a new, healthy lifestyle moving forward with your children.
The state will likely grant some form of visitation with your children, but it will probably be supervised initially. Making an effort to see your child(ren) during scheduled time is extremely important. How often you show up is monitored. State child protection departments want to know that you’re invested in your child(ren) and want to get them back.
Termination of Rights: How Much Time Do I Have?
Each state handles situations differently. It’s extremely important to know that the state’s first and primary goal is reunification between the child(ren) and their parents. It is ultimately in the child’s best interest to be with their biological parent(s) when possible.
Some state laws state that if a child has been in the foster care system for 15 out of 22 months, the state may terminate the legal parent-child relationship. Of course, this is if no progress has been made on the part of the parents. You do not want to get to this point.
How States Handle Child Separation Cases
Every state has different but ultimately similar requirements and processes for reunification. The end goal is for parents to rebuild their lives and prove they can provide a safe living environment for their children. In Arizona, the Department of Child Services (DCS) or Child Protective Services (CPS) are differing names for a governing entity that handles parent and child separation cases. Under their procedures, the parent has certain rights and responsibilities that require active engagement and completion of programs to get their children back. It is important to know your rights when communicating with DCS.
Other names for DCS in different states are:
Child Protective Services (CPS)
Department of Social Services (DSS)
Department of Children and Families (DCF)
Will They Tell me Who Reported Me?
You have a right to know when you are officially under investigation by the Department of Child Services. You also have a right to know the accusations that put you under investigation. However, you may not have the right to know who the accuser is. Often DCS investigators receive information via an anonymous tip and do not know who the accuser is.
It is also important to remember that DCS is present for the welfare of the child or children. The goal of DCS is to bring your family back together eventually. Try to recognize and understand that efforts made by DCS are for the protection of your child or children while you focus on recovering from addiction. The focus is to provide healthy homes for children to grow up with their biological families.
Do I Have to Cooperate?
Cooperation and utilization of services and programs offered by DCS are not mandatory. You are under no legal obligation to cooperate with the investigation. DCS’s services to assist in getting your child or children back are not required to participate throughout the investigation. However, actively participating in recovery programs and parenting classes is an excellent way to begin getting your child or children back into your custody.
The law does not require DCS officials to persuade you to cooperate with the investigation. However, noncooperation will not have any effect on the continuance of the investigation. You will still be investigated, and if no effort is made on your part to cooperate, you may ultimately face the loss of your parental rights. Not cooperating will result in unspeakable heartbreak and loss.
Can I File a Complaint Against My Caseworker?
You have the right to file a grievance about how your case was handled or is being handled. The Ombudsman Citizen’s Aide or Family Advocacy Office is an entity designed to ensure fair treatment and results of all involved in the investigation. The Family Advocacy Office is where you turn to file an appeal if you feel that DCS mishandles your case, and they would intervene on your behalf.
Understanding Substance Abuse: What You Need to Know
Addiction can happen to anyone, whether the substance is prescription or illicit. Separation from your children can be an emotional and difficult time, but recovery and healthy choices can bring your children home. Participation in classes and programs is not required but recommended to take advantage of available resources.
Also, drug addiction affects not only you but everyone around you. It is important to remember that your children’s safety and well-being are the sole purposes of DCS and investigators. This time apart will be an opportunity to focus on recovery and learning to make healthy choices.
Take Advantage of this Time to Recover
Take advantage of offered resources for recovery. Drug addiction can cause serious health risks, brain injuries, and, in some cases, irreparable central nervous system damage. Healthy families begin with healthy individuals, which means it’s time to focus on being the healthy person you can be for your child(ren).
Participating in parenting classes and drug recovery programs can show DCS and welfare services that you are committed to providing a safe and healthy home for your child or children. Education and practice will keep you proactively engaged in a structured support system.
Dealing with Your Investigations’ Caseworker
Working with DCS during an investigation can seem scary. This process can become less intimidating when you know what to expect.
Roughly 3 out of 5 children will return to their families or close family members. Acquiring or refreshing parenting skills is the determining factor for your child or children returns to you. You must prove to DCS that you can provide a safe and healthy home for your child or children. A safe and healthy home includes meeting your child’s needs with hygiene, protection, nutrition, and supplies. These needs must be met and proven to continue before your child or children may come home.