Child Protective Services (CPS / DSS) FAQ

If you’re under CPS investigation feelings of helplessness and fear can be overwhelming.  Regardless of the severity of the allegations, it can be difficult not to think about when, if ever, your family will return to a sense of normalcy.  We’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequent questions we get from clients under investigation to help ease the stress in your situation at no cost to you.  We hope that these answers are helpful to you in deciding how to proceed with protecting your rights.

Do I have a right to have an attorney present when DSS social workers interview me?  

Absolutely.  DSS has no authority to force you to speak with them if you wish to have an attorney present. While it is not always necessary to have legal representation during these interviews, there are occasions where having an attorney at a Child Protective Services meeting or interview would be extremely helpful. Many instances when it would be helpful to have an attorney present would be:

  • if you have been accused of physically or sexually abusing a child;
  • if you are suspected to have verbally and/or physically abused the parent of the child or the child;
  • there is a pending criminal investigation which may have given rise to DSS’ involvement with you.

Do I look guilty if I hire an attorney to represent me during the investigation stage of a DSS case?

Many social workers and law enforcement officers may make you feel like it is unnecessary to have legal representation during the investigation or in-home services case with DSS.  Some may even question your motives to have an attorney represent you and accuse you of having something to hide. Do not allow the tactics of DSS or police investigators convince you that you don’t need legal representation.

Child protective services - Termination of parental rights

Are the statements I make to DSS confidential?

For the most part, it is safe to assume that nothing you share with DSS is protected by confidentiality.  No privilege, like attorney-client privilege, exists between DSS and you.  On the contrary, there are legal statutes that direct DSS and the police department to share information regarding DSS matters where children are suspected to be neglected or abused.  Additionally, even when law enforcement is not involved, DSS cannot protect the statements that you make to the social worker from other persons that may be involved in the case, especially if the other parent is involved in the investigation. 

If someone calls social services about me or my family, can I find out who made the report?

No.  Under North Carolina law any person that reports suspected child abuse, neglect or dependency is protected by anonymity. DSS is prohibited from disclosing who made the child protective services report.

Will CPS talk to Law Enforcement about my case?

North Carolina law requires that DSS contact law enforcement regarding all reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. It is up to law enforcement to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted.  It is important to note that while child protective services and law enforcement communicate with one another, each agency will conduct separate and independent investigations.

Who will DSS speak to during the investigation?

During a DSS investigation, the social worker may speak to any persons the agency believes has information regarding the reported allegations of abuse or neglect.  DSS may call a variety of people to include, but not limited to your employer, former spouse, the child’s teacher or daycare worker, neighbors, the other parent, doctors and mental health providers.  DSS is also mandated to speak with your children and can do so without the parents’ knowledge in certain circumstances.

If you are involved in a DSS investigation, the attorneys at Batch, Poore, & Williams, PC have a combined 25+ years experience representing clients in your position.  We take pride in representing indigent clients involved with DSS as well as private clients.  Our attorneys are Certified Child Welfare Law Specialists and help shape the Wake County Local Rules governing DSS cases as members of the Wake County advisory committee.  We know the law and more importantly, we know how to help you.  Contact us today for a confidential consultation.

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