When is DSS Removal of a Child Appropriate?

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South Carolina DSS removal of a child is, many times, not in the best interests of the child.  Of course, a child who is being systematically physically or sexually abused should not remain in the care and custody of an abusive parent.  But what about an eight-year-old child from a low income family that is not getting proper nourishment or who is habitually absent from school without excuse?

In an earlier post we asked “Is removal of the child called for in this case?” and answered “Maybe, maybe not.”   Why?  Because it all depends on the circumstances.  We listed earlier several principles (South Carolina Code Section 63-7-10) on which the law pertaining to child protective services is built.  All are important, but the following have particular meaning, and can be used by the parent as a sword or a shield.

(1) Parents have the primary responsibility for and are the primary resource for their children.

(2) Children should have the opportunity to grow up in a family unit if at all possible.

(3) State and community agencies have a responsibility to implement prevention programs aimed at identifying high risk families and to provide supportive intervention to reduce occurrence of maltreatment.

(4) Services for families should be accessible and designed to encourage and enable families to adequately deal with their problems within their own family system.

(5) All child welfare intervention by the State has as its primary goal the welfare and safety of the child.

(6) Child welfare intervention into a family’s life should be structured so as to avoid a child’s entry into the protective service and foster care systems if at all possible.

Why are these important?  Because they demonstrate that removal should be a last resort.  Remember, when a child is removed from its home, he is placed in a foster home licensed by DSS.

Assuming that DSS has probable cause to intervene in your life, what are the alternatives to removal?  The best alternative is to leave the child in the physical and legal care of its custodian.  But that may not be realistic.  The next best solution is to place the child in another familiar home, such as with a relative or close family friend.

Remember, and this is in your favor, DSS does not want to place children in foster care. It has a limited number of foster homes and a lot of abused or neglected children to provide for.  DSS should ask you at the onset of the case if there are any relatives who can assume temporary custody of the child pending the outcome of the case.  If she fails to ask this important question, you should take the initiative and ask the caseworker about alternative placement.

Remember, this is the time to suck it up and think about your child and put aside your anger, hurt feelings and embarrassment.  No matter how much you hate DSS at this point, by cooperating with DSS to identify placement resources, you can help reduce the shock and confusion that your child will surely experience.  This is your first chance to show DSS, and even more importantly, the court, that you can be a reasonable, protective  and loving parent and are not the out of control monster DSS will try to portray you to be.

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Written by

Graves H. Wilson, Jr. worked as a staff attorney for the South Carolina Department of Social Services in Dorchester County, South Carolina from 2005 to 2011. He now represents clients involved in DSS cases--parents, grandparents, or other interested parties. He practices state-wide and accepts cases in all South Carolina counties.

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