First Contact: Social Worker
What do you do when first contacted by a social worker? This is a complex question which I will try to answer, but the answer depends on several sometimes related factors. The simple answer is to immediately contact an attorney that has knowledge and experience in representing people in juvenile dependency matters. And don’t talk to the social worker without the attorney present.
County Social Workers are given an extraordinary amount of power by law. The rationale for this is that it is there job to protect children. This make sense. But, the problem comes up when social workers abuse this power, which is human nature; and when social workers don’t understand certain family dynamics based on race, cultures, religion and economics. You should think of social workers as police men, the street cop. And as you’ve seen on television and movies, you should probably lawyer up, not discuss anything about the case with the social worker unless your lawyer is present. This is provocative advice, but all too many times your statements will show up in a later report to the court and it will be used against you. Additionally, I’ve been involved in many cases where clients have claimed that they said “A, B, C” to the social worker, and the worker wrote in the report, either intentionally or mistakenly, that the parent said “X, Y, Z”. So, as you can see, talking to a social worker may not be in your best interests.
But the lawyering up doesn’t always happen. Things get emotional, parents get desperate, and in the hope that the social worker will not take your children, or give your children back to you, parents talk to the social worker and provide evidence that will be used against them. Although this is not an optimum situation, consulting with an attorney as soon as possible may limit the damage that may have been caused, and minimize the admissions you may have mistakenly made. Many times social worker don’t remember everything that you’ve said, and rely on second and third interviews to get the story “straight”. So do yourself a favor and talk to an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
You first contact with the county social worker can come in many different situations. But remember, you don’t have to talk to the social worker. However, having said that social workers are probably allowed, depending on the circumstances, to speak to your child/children. A typical situation might be when they come to your home, with or without the local police authorities. Do yourself a favor, don’t talk to the worker without an attorney present. In most situations, the social worker will still want to talk to the child.
It is important for you to inquire and find out if the social worker has a court order or warrant to detain (take away) your children out of your custody. If they do not, do not talk to the worker without immediately contacting an attorney. Absent a court order or a warrant signed by a judge, the social worker is not supposed to detain your child/children, unless there are “exigent” or emergency circumstances. Absent these items, social workers can be sued for violating your civil rights pursuant to federal and state constitutional protections. But don’t tell the social worker you’re going to sue him/her. It may cause other negative things to happen, and they begin to cover themselves which could only work to your detriment.
If you have a question please give me a call for a free legal consultation.