If you are ever contacted by the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), you should know your rights and what to expect. A DCS investigation can be a very intimidating process, and interaction with DCS can be frustrating and confusing. A knowledgeable attorney can help you navigate the DCS process and ensure you are making the right decisions.
DCS will often ask families to sign a “Safety Plan” that typically include agreements not to engage in certain inappropriate behaviors. This can include simple statements such as: the parents agree not to engage in domestic violence. Such basic statements often seem harmless and are unlikely to lead to issues. However, a Safety Plan is, nonetheless, an agreement between the individuals and DCS where the parents agree to perform certain tasks or to avoid certain behaviors. Safety Plans, like other agreements, should be considered fully before entering into them.
While DCS is often quick to tell parents and caregivers that Safety Plans are not binding, they are unlikely to advise that non-compliance with a Safety Plan can lead to problems. If a person violates a Safety Plan, DCS may consider that action as a signal that you are not compliant with their office. Any non-compliance with DCS provides the Department with an argument that if their office needs to interact with your children or your family, that such interaction requires the coercive intervention of the court. This leads a case to significant consequences.
If you are confronted with a Safety Plan, you should know that you are signing that plan voluntarily. Therefore, if the Safety Plan’s language is unclear or you do not understand the consequences of entering into the Plan, you should ask DCS for time to consider it and to have your attorney look at the document before signing.