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If you are ever contacted by the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), commonly referred to as CPS (Child Protective Service), 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 skillful attorney can help you navigate the DCS process and ensure you are making the right decisions.
There are two types of cases that DCS may open after it performs its initial investigation: an Informal Adjustment and a Child In Need of Services (CHINS) case. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Generally, an Informal Adjustment is less restrictive than a CHINS case. An important difference between the two is that an Informal Adjustment is a voluntary agreement, which means that you have to agree to work with DCS. The benefit of an Informal Adjustment is the flexibility it allows and the avoidance of a CHINS case and its subsequent adjudication. Therefore, it may be in your best interest to seek an Informal Adjustment over the opening of a CHINS case.
The Second type of case, a CHINS case, is more restrictive and requires the court’s coercive intervention. This means that a CHINS case requires your attendance at several hearings and a judge’s order opening the case. At subsequent hearings, a trial will take place where evidence will be presented to the judge to show that the child is a Child In Need of Services. If the court adjudicates your child as a CHINS, this means that the court has ordered that your child is a ward of the state. Consequently, the court may order the parties, which include parents and caregivers, to partake in certain services. These services may include drug screens, counseling, attendance of certain classes and working with a variety of service providers. A court may also detain and remove children from a parent or caregiver’s care and place them into foster care or a group home. Ultimately, DCS can petition the court to terminate the parent-child relationship. Therefore, decisions on how to proceed or work with DCS will have major consequences affecting your child and family.
If you are involved in any aspect with DCS, it is in your best interest to seek legal advice so that you can better understand the consequences you may face. Also, if you are not the child’s parent but are a concerned family member, you should seek legal advice on what options you may have in caring for the child temporarily or permanently.