When a person receives a Notice of Availability, sometimes left in one’s front door or under their windshield wiper, they likely have more questions than answers.
A Notice of Availability is the document that the Department of Child Services (DCS, commonly known as CPS) uses when conducting an investigation into the neglect or abuse of a child. Upon beginning the investigation, DCS will issue the Notice of Availability to necessary and involved parties, particularly the parents or guardians of a child. Although the title of the document and its instructions do not clearly reference what “availability” means, this documents alerts an individual that they have the ability to obtain a copy of the investigation report by DCS. These reports are confidential and may be only accessible to a select few people. Obtaining that investigation report, however, can be difficult.
Each county has their own DCS office which handles the issuing of these investigation reports differently. Sometimes you can mail in a request for a copy of the investigation report and DCS will mail you the report back. You can also try fax or email. However, most DCS offices require that you physically come to their office and present your photocopy identification before you can receive a copy of the report. Even then, depending on the county, you may obtain a copy of the report immediately or several weeks afterwards. It is best to physically come to the DCS office with a photo ID and the Notice of Availability in hand so they can understand which case you are seeking information from and proof that you are entitled to this information based upon your receipt of the Notice of Availability. One important item to remember is that time is of the essence in seeking a copy of the investigation report.
If a DCS investigation report, known as a “311”, results in a finding that allegations of abuse or neglect have been substantiated, then the report will be maintained with DCS for multiple years. However, if the report on abuse and neglect is unsubstantiated, the report is only maintained within DCS’s files for six months. Afterwards, that unsubstantiated 311 report disappears entirely and cannot be obtained at a later date.
If you are a parent or a guardian of a child who has been under the investigation of DCS for abuse or neglect, it is imperative that you collect that report whether substantiated or not. Often times, DCS cannot substantiate the allegations because of a lack of evidence. However, that does not mean that the child has not been abused or neglected. Therefore, it is in your best interests to obtain a copy of the 311 report as soon as you can to safeguard with your files.
A qualified attorney will be able to help you navigate this process and potentially obtain the report faster. If you suspect that you have been under the investigation of abuse or neglect of a child, or that your child is a potential victim, you should quickly seek legal advice on how to proceed.