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Handling DHR Child Custody Cases

Often times parents are confronted with the Department of Human Resources (DHR) coming into their lives due to allegations regarding safety of their children. It is vital that parents seek counsel immediately. Although a DHR social worker may act as your confidant and friend while removing your children or investigating allegations related to the removal of your children, anything said to a DHR social worker can be used against the parent during a hearing. Through no fault of DHR due to their large caseload and overprotective measures, children may be removed from the home. It is vital that when children are removed, the parents act quickly to correct their behavior. If at all possible, children put under a safety plan should be placed with a relative. Placing children with a relative with DHR approval can eliminate their case landing on the TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) track. If children are placed with relatives and the parents are unable to correct any problems that led to the children’s removal, the case will simply be closed out with the relative retaining custody. If there is no relative placement, the parents rights can be terminated and after six months or less the children may be adopted or left in foster care.

Hiring counsel immediately can help to eliminate issues that would lead to the case being closed or terminated. Attorneys practice regularly in these courts, and their relationships with DHR attorneys, social workers and judges can greatly affect the outcome of the case. If the requirements to have custody returned are such things like parenting classes, random drug screens or psychological evaluations, an attorney may assist a parent in obtaining these. Upon successful completion of the requirements, an attorney can ensure that custody is returned to the parent promptly.

Removing a child from their parent is an emotional time for both the parents and the child. For the parent, the spider web of DHR recommendations may be a daunting task. Having counsel to interrupt court orders and recommend additional steps can be the most positive thing a parent can do in a DHR case. Parents need to know that if they are unrepresented they are going up against a state agency that is fully staffed with DHR attorneys and social workers. During a DHR case the social worker that handles your case may change several times. Many times parents are faced with a social worker who has positive feelings about their case only to have that social worker changed just prior to the next hearing. When this happens it is typical that the parent has to start all over again with earning the new social worker’s recommendation. When this happens the outcome is rarely good for the parent. Having counsel during the case from the onset can alleviate transitions that would be negative for the parent. The attorney can ensure that all drug screens, parenting certificates, etc follow the case through each hearing.

When deciding whether to obtain an attorney for a DHR case, do it early and make sure they regularly work in the area of law. Juvenile case law that governs DHR cases is its own set of laws. Some attorneys have difficulty transitioning from other areas of law into the world of DHR cases. Plus the added benefit of an attorney who regularly works in this area bring with it the familiarity with the actual social workers , DHR attorneys, and Judges. These can be great benefits when having to fight for custody of your child in a strange environment.


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