DSS Child Protective Services Removal of Child

Child Protective Services is all about protecting children from abuse and neglect.  Without child abuse or neglect, DSS has no authority to involve itself into your life.

DSS does not always remove an abused or neglected child from its parents.  The goal is to protect the child from further abuse or neglect and to remedy any physical, emotional or psychological harm the child may have suffered.  Maybe the threat can be removed, instead.

DSS is not a therapeutic agency, and has no qualified treatment professionals on its staff.  Instead, remedial and therapeutic services are provided through community resources.  DSS will make a referral for an evaluation designed to diagnose the specific problem which led to the abuse or neglect.  DSS can then formulate a treatment plan designed to treat and remedy the problem.  This treatment plan usually includes specific assessments of the parents to determine if they are in need of specialized treatment such as alcohol and drug or mental health services.

DSS will also refer the children for evaluations.  Many parents learn through these evaluations that the child that they thought was simply resistant to discipline is actually autistic or, perhaps, suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD.

The problem might be such that it can be remedied relatively easily and quickly.  DSS may find on investigation that the child has bruises on his buttocks which are consistent with having been spanked with a leather belt or a wire coat hanger.  In a case of excessive corporal punishment, the offending parent may agree to move out of the home pending completion of a treatment plan in order to protect the child from the trauma of being removed from his family, school and friends.

When children are in the legal custody of DSS, they are placed in foster homes.  These foster homes are licensed by DSS and the foster parents are agents of DSS.

DSS is generally required to make reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify a family.  The family court is required to determine whether these reasonable efforts have been made.

A so-called merits hearing must be scheduled within thirty-five days after the case is filed to determine whether removal of the child is necessary.  Before the court can order that a child be removed from the custody of its parent, it must make a finding that the allegations are supported by a preponderance of evidence (1) that the child is an abused or neglected child and (2) that retention of the child in or return of the child to the home would place the child at unreasonable risk of harm and the child cannot reasonably be protected from this harm without being removed.

DSS must file and serve a motion for the family court to review the status of any child placed in foster care to determine a permanent plan for the child. The hearing on this motion is called a permanency planning hearing (PPH).  The PPH must be held no later than one year after the date the child was first placed in foster care. At the PPH the court shall review the status of the child and the progress being made toward the permanent plan which was approved at the removal hearing. The court’s order must make specific findings that (1) the treatment plan was reasonably calculated to remedy the conditions which led to the removal and (2) that DSS made reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify the family.

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