In many cases where county social workers investigate allegations of child abuse and child neglect they don’t have enough evidence against parents to file a juvenile dependency case and the social workers don’t have enough evidence to remove the children from the parents’ custody.
One of the ways the social workers try to obtain that evidence to be used against you, is to convince you to sign a Child Safety Plan. Usually this is done under the auspicious of helping you and your family.
Typically this is done before you have a chance to speak to an attorney. I even believe there is, or at least was some type of Miranda warning a social worker is supposed to give you, but I have never heard of it being done. The warning would be informing you that you had the right to seek the advice of counsel, or something like that.
So, generally, what happens is you sign this Safety Plan and you agree to a bunch of things, and in some cases the social worker removes the children from your home!
So it is my advice, do NOT ever agree to a Safety Plan until you have the chance to speak with an attorney. Now here’s the problem: There are very few attorneys experienced in handling this “pre-litigation, pre-court” matters with social workers. I recently talked to a colleague who is a very experienced juvenile court and juvenile dependency attorney; at both the trial court and appellate court levels. But she admittedly knew nothing about how to counsel a client before the court started, when the family first started dealing with the county social workers.
Most attorneys will tell you that you should cooperate with the county social workers, and leave it at that. And that’s probably really bad advice depending on the situations.
Here’s an example of a real case that happened a few months ago. Mother and Father are not married living together. They have an argument, she kicks him out of the home. In retaliation, the father makes a report to CPS alleging the mother has several problems including anger, domestic violence and drug abuse. In other words, father is looking to retaliate and get custody of the child.
Social works storm the mother’s home, take the child and place the child outside the home, and convince the mother to sign a safety plan agreeing to all of this. And this safety plan lasted 30 days. The mother signed the plan, but told the social worker that she wouldn’t talk to about the allegations, and not drug test until she talked to a lawyer. That part was very smart.
The social worker was hesitant to file a juvenile dependency case against the mother because the father’s statements, even though some were true, weren’t backed up by any other independent evidence. And father credibility was in question based on his own background.
Mom called me, I advised her not to talk to the social worker, not to take any drug tests; and I started dealing with the social worker and her supervisor, directly.
The children were returned to the mother within 3 weeks. It took that long because mom had signed an agreement for the children to be placed out of her home, and the social workers were trying to hold her to that agreement.
I finally informed the social workers, if they didn’t return the children, or file a juvenile court case that my client was going to initiate a civil rights lawsuit against the County. Finally, they relented, and advised the father to go to family court to get custody of the children. He tried that, but we represented the mother, and his attempts at custody failed.
Talk to an Attorney anytime the County Social Workers come knocking!