What do you do when a Children's Division worker shows up at your house and wants to talk to you?
I get a call at least once a week from a parent who has been "hotlined". Anyone can allege you abuse or neglect your child(ren) and the Missouri Children's Division (you might know them as DFS, CPS, DCFS, etc.) must conduct an investigation.
If the allegation is serious enough (physical abuse, sexual abuse and drug abuse being the most common), a worker may come to your house with a member of law enforcement and try to speak with you. The worker will ask you questions. Your answers can and will be used against you. The police may question you. Your answers can and will be used against you. The worker may ask you to submit to a drug test. If you are positive for drugs, the results will be used against you.
Most parents believe they must comply with what the Children's Division employee instructs them to do. WRONG. You don't have to do anything they tell you to do. Most parents believe if they sign a "safety plan" or other document, it is legally binding and enforceable. WRONG. That piece of paper is meaningless. You can toss it in the trash and ignore it. Most parents believe that if the worker tells them they must place their child with a relative, they have no choice but to do so. WRONG. Until there is an order SIGNED BY A JUDGE to take your child into protective custody, you are the legal and physical custodian of your child.
If you've read my prior blog posts, you will notice a theme: Don't ever speak to law enforcement or a worker from the state (consider them the same as cops) without first talking to a lawyer or having a lawyer present. If a Children's Division worker comes to your home, you do not have to let them in. They have no right to enter your home without a warrant. If they ask you to take a drug test, don't submit to one unless there is a 0% chance you will be positive for any controlled substance. By that I mean: you haven't used any drugs not prescribed to you (medical marijuana card from another state doesn't count) for at least six months. None. Not one joint, pill or toot.
Be polite, but firm. Don't give the worker evidence that can be used against you. Once a child is taken into state custody, getting that child back can and will be a lengthy, frustrating and exhausting process. The workers for the state will tell you they want you to get your child back, but they will do everything they can to keep that from happening. I have seen it in countless cases. And if it takes you too long to jump through their ridiculous hoops, they'll ask the judge to terminate your rights permanently.
BREAKING NEWS: I just had a father walk into my office. He is under investigation by the Missouri Children's Division because of a hotline alleging abuse or neglect. I told him not to talk to law enforcement or to any investigator with the Children's Division. He said he had just spoken to a worker for the Children's Division over the phone and was told if he didn't submit to a lie detector test he would be charged criminally! This happened in Howell County, Missouri folks. Not North Korea. You cannot be charged with a crime for exercising your right to remain silent.
As usual, Schuyler is the author of this post.