AGGRESSIVE DHR CASE GADSDEN DEFENSE LAWYERS THAT WONT GIVE IN TO DHR
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In Alabama, the Department of Human Resources is charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect. If a DHR representative has visited your home, it is critical that you contact an Alabama family law attorney right away. The social workers at the DHR are very overworked and may be inclined to remove a child from the home and err on the side of caution if they have any reason to believe abuse or neglect may be present. Remember no matter how friendly they may appear, the social worker’s sole responsibility is to protect your child.
If a DHR representative or social worker comes to your home, it is important to remember they can use anything you say against you. If your child is going to be removed from the home, it is best if they temporarily reside with a family member. This will give you time to remedy any situations that led to their removal from the home and will aid to an easier transition back to your home once situations are resolved.
Remember that the social workers and agents at the DHR have many attorneys on their side representing them. It is important that you, too, have an experienced attorney as early in the process as possible in order to avoid termination of parental rights (TPR). We understand the courts well, and therefore we can help you remedy that situations that have caused concerns. Keep in mind, you have only 12 months to get your children back in Alabama. That’s why it is critical to hire an attorney right away.
We will require the DHR attorneys to prove their allegations, and if they cannot, we will demand that your child be returned to you. We understand that the longer your children are away, the more they suffer. Reuniting your family in a safe and healthy environment is our goal and we will work vigorously to achieve it! Contact Dani V. Bone & Sam D. Bone, Attorneys at Law either online or at 256-547-1005.
WHAT IS A DHR SAFETY PLAN IN ALABAMA?
Typical Scenario: Some secretive allegation of abuse or neglect (a Child Abuse/Neglect report or CA/N in DHR lingo) is made against an Alabama parent. Typically, the parent is scared and uninformed about their rights when DHR social workers show up. Either expressly or impliedly, DHR social workers threaten to “take” the children “into DHR custody” unless the parent “voluntarily” consents to a safety plan. Parent reluctantly agrees to allow the child stay with a grandparent or aunt or other family member. The parent is separated from their child or children and has practically lost custody.
According to the Alabama Administrative Code,
“Safety plans are developed to protect children from safety threats when the parents’/primary caregivers’ protective capacities are insufficient…Out of Home (Non-Foster Care) Safety plans [are] designed to provide protection for children whose parents, legal custodians, or primary caregivers agree for them to live temporarily with others (e.g., relatives, neighbors, friends). The agreement is made between the parents, legal custodians or primary caregivers, the child welfare staff and the person responsible for providing protection. The home of the person providing protection does not have to be approved as a foster family home. As part of the safety plan approval process, child welfare staff shall make a visit to the home prior to the child being placed, except in emergency situations, in which case a home visit is made no later than the next calendar day or with supervisory approval the next working day.
Safety plan “agreements” can, like anything, be abused. Most parents don’t feel the process is “voluntary.” The threat of their children being placed in state foster care is beyond imaginable for most families. So, many parents will “agree” to anything to avoid that possibility. Additionally, as one study showed, parents describe the social worker’s perceived power over them as negative, “absolute,” “tyrannical,” indomitable, and “frightening.”
Safety plans really became in vogue in Alabama in the wake of the federal lawsuit and settlement known as the R.C. consent decree. R.C. placed an incredible amount of pressure (legal and financial) on Alabama DHR to decrease its foster care roles. So, in order to decrease the number of children “in care,” instead of running to court to obtain an emergency pick-up order ex parte from a judge, DHR started employing out-of-home safety plans.
HOW LONG CAN A SAFETY PLAN LAST IN ALABAMA?
Originally, there was no time frame for how long these out-of-home safety plans could last. Currently, the maximum timeframe that an Out-of-Home Non-Foster Care safety plan can be in place without court involvement is ninety (90) days. AL Admin Code. Accordingly, if a child remains out-of-home for 90 days or longer, DHR must file a dependency petition in Juvenile Court to sustain that out-of-home placement.
Safety plans generally avoid the judicial process. By relying on a family’s “voluntary” consent to an out-of-home placement, DHR is permitted to circumvent the need to provide due process protections to the family (No counsel, no court supervision, no ability to confront or even know accusers, etc.) As such, parents experience separation from their children without due process of law. On the otherhand, when a dependency petition is filed, several hearings are had. At each, DHR bears the burden of proving that there is probable cause to suspect the child has been abused or neglected and that immediate removal was (or was) warranted.
CAN I REJECT A SAFETY PLAN IN ALABAMA?
ABSOLUTELY!! However, such decision is ripe with danger. Such decision should be based upon the specifics of the allegations, the nature of the proposed safety plan, and only UPON ADVICE OF COUNSEL. (Seek counsel of a lawyer familiar with protective service law at this point.) A rejection of a proposed safety plan may cause of DHR to proceed immediately with judicial intervention. (Get a lawyer, if you haven’t already.) DHR possibly (and likely) can get a judge to issue an emergency pick-up order (without your presence or input.) (Again, get a lawyer.) In such a scenario, you would have an emergency hearing within 72 hours before a judge, but your children may spend that time in foster care. (If I haven’t said it before, get a lawyer.)
Many don’t know that, even after safety plan agreement is in place, it can be terminated at any point by any party. So for instance, a child is removed from a mother’s home due to an allegation of neglect and the child is placed with the maternal grandmother. Two days, ten days, thirty days later: the mother can unilaterally end the agreement and demand her children back. Again, DHR would be in a put-up-or-shut-up situation. DHR would be forced to decide whether to acquiesce or seek a judge’s order and scrutiny.
HOW DHR CASES START
Often these cases begin with a report to the Alabama Department of Human Resources by a neighbor or familiar person that there are serious problems in the household with the care and/or control of children that reside there. Children/juveniles are found to be “dependent” when the State of Alabama petitions a Family Court to find that the children’s parents can no longer care for the children.
When a child is found to be dependent, they become a ward of the state and the State of Alabama will try to place them first and foremost with an immediate family member or some other relative. If this is not possible, children may end up in a foster home.
TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
An extreme measure used by State DHR cases is to terminate a parent’s rights when clear and convincing evidence shows that those parents are unwilling or unable to properly care for their children. The defense of these proceedings involves complex legal standards and mechanisms, and many parents will lose these types of battles without proper legal representation.
To further discuss your questions, please contact us today by calling 256-547-1005.
REGAINING PARENTAL RIGHTS
After placement away from parents, it is possible for parents to come back and petition the court to allow them to get their children back. This process usually involves the parent or parents taking steps in the direction of their role as caregiver – more specifically, it usually requires the parents to fulfill whatever conditions they were ordered to perform by the court. For example, if children were taken away because of the parent’s drug use, a parent may have to show that they have attended substance abuse counseling and have been drug free for a period of time. If the children were made wards of the state because of neglect or poor conditions in the home in DHR cases, the parent may have to show that the home situation is now clean and stable, or that they have taken measures to become better parents.
It is imperative to retain a skilled attorney to protect or regain your most precious of rights: to take care of your children and to keep them with you.
DHR cases are each different. Sound legal advice can only be gotten by speaking to a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.
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