“DSS came by and said that someone reported me for child abuse. They want to ask me questions about what happened. Should I cooperate?”
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is a well-respected New Jersey attorney with extensive experience representing families embroiled in Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) litigation. (Note in South Carolina this agency would be called “DSS” so we’ll use that term.) Allison also lectures on the subject and writes extensively on her blog. She was recently interviewed by Katie Couric on the Katie Couric Show.
Allison addressed this very subject in detail in her November 8, 2012 blog entry, “Should a Parent Accused of Abuse or Neglect Agree to an Interview with DYFS? As she points out, “Some parents want to exonerate themselves and often feel that a quick chat with the Division may resolve the issue. Other parents fear exchanging any words with the Division, no matter how innocuous the alleged infraction or conciliatory the worker who contacts them.” “The determination of whether or not a parent should be interviewed is fact sensitive and requires legal advice,” she stresses.
A good attorney will understand that the parents will be walking a thin line. As Allison further points out, “If a parent is contacted by the agency and an interview is requested, the parent should ask for the opportunity to consult with counsel.” The attorney will base his advice on his perception of the case, and at this initial stage, the attorney’s sole source of the facts is the client.
Absolute honesty is mandatory. Remember, anything that you say to your attorney about the case is protected by attorney-client privilege. However, what you say to DSS is not protected. Those statements can and will be used against you by DSS in proving its case.
In addition, if you anticipate criminal charges, your statements will probably be used against you by the prosecutor in the criminal case. Your attorney can help you through this difficult time. He may even be able to negotiate a protective agreement which will assure that what you say during the interview with DSS will not be used as evidence against you in either the abuse or neglect case or any criminal case case.