The Arizona Department of Child Services (DCS) has had its day in the media spotlight. In fact, that “day” has been going on for decades now. There have been more horror stories online and in the media about the old Arizona CPS department and the new and supposedly improved Department of Child Services than any other States child protection agency. Knowing how to stop Arizona Department of Child Services from taking your child is vital.
The old Arizona CPS was completely dissolved by the then Arizona Governor in 2014 because it was so bad. The new Arizona Department of Child Services is not much better. Just because they have better funding and more policies in place doesn’t prevent them from taking perfectly safe and happy children from their homes and place into a dangerous and unsafe foster system.
As parents, it is a natural instinct to fight for our children when they are in danger. However, yelling, screaming, and being combative when child services are involved will not stop the Arizona Department of Child Services from removing your child. In fact, that behavior would hurt more than help the situation. Knowing the process is important. You must know just what to do. Additionally, you must know how to stop the Arizona Department of Child Services from taking your child.
How Arizona Department of Child Safety Decides to Remove a Child
Prior to the old Arizona CPS department being dissolved in 2014, the CPS workers would get a report from their hotline and show up to these people’s houses and just take the child without even performing an investigation. This was one of the reasons the department was disbanded and rebuilt. Thankfully, the new Department of Child Services in Arizona has a more detailed and precise investigation process than the old CPS. Learning this process and understanding what to do at each step, as a parent, will allow you to stop Arizona Department of Child Services from taking your child from their home.
Pre-DCS era in Arizona, the CPS department was so underfunded and understaffed that the caseworkers did not have the time or resources to investigate claims of child abuse and neglect. Most of the time if the caseworker decided that there was a chance the allegations were true, they would just remove the child and put them into foster care. Now, the Arizona DCS must meet a certain criterion in order to justify the removal of a child from their home. Furthermore, they must document that process in detail.
How It All Works
Before CPS was disbanded, the decision to transfer calls to caseworkers was largely up to the discretion of the person taking the call. However, the people taking calls were not qualified or trained to decern whether reports were worthy of investigation. Frequently, they hadn’t received training to sort legitimate calls from people who had trouble minding their own business. One of the reasons CPS was having issues was that over 70% of the calls made to the hotline were being sent to the agency for investigation. There was little to no screening. This bogged down the agency and led to apathy and failure on the part of everyone involved.
Now, there’s a process where calls are double-screened to ensure claims are legitimate before sending them to DCS for investigation. If the hotline staff decides that the call is not a legitimate cause of concern, it’s logged into a database. At that point, the case is closed and that is that. However, if the call does meet the criteria and passes through the screening process, it’s sent to DCS for investigation.
Stages of the Investigation
After that, the investigation and child assessment begin. It’s at this stage that you will get that most unwelcome visit to your home. Thankfully in most instances, they don’t just show up and remove your child anymore. The Department must do a thorough investigation into the allegations of abuse and neglect and document each step of the process. If the report alleges any criminal conduct, then our friends at DCS will be accompanied by a police officer when they show up at your house.
There are three different ways a visit from the Arizona Department of Child Safety can turn out. Hopefully, the Department finds that the allegations were unjustified and that the child is safe, and at this time DCS will close the case and leave you alone. That’s the first scenario. The best scenario in instances like these. However, that may not be the way things work out for you.
The second scenario is that DCS finds that the child is safe, but there are reasons for DCS to continue their involvement. In this case, they will not remove the child but will keep the case open to provide you with services. The third and most feared scenario is if DCS decides that the child is unsafe because of whatever reason and a “safety plan” needs to be created and enacted. This is when the Department will take your child away from you.
It’s a Tough Situation to Navigate
Here’s the kicker. It’s still largely up to the caseworker’s discretion whether a safety plan needs to be enacted after the initial investigation. So that means if the worker didn’t have their coffee that morning or their boyfriend just won’t text them back, things just may not go great for you that day. It’s at this stage that knowing what to do and what to say to stop the Arizona Department of Child Safety from taking your child from you is very important. The key here is that there are “in-home safety plans.” Meaning if you play your cards right the DCS involvement will not include removing your child from their home.
In order to stop the Arizona Department of Child Services at this stage in their process, it is very important for you to always remain calm and try to be as polite and rational as possible. I know, that reads like it should be easy. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.
When some stranger shows up at your house with the intent of taking your child from you, it’s our instinct as parents to grab the nearest heavy blunt object and make sure that your baby is safe. Do not do that! Anger is normal and emotions run high. After all, these people are trying to break up your family. However, if you treat the worker with respect, it will show them that you are in control of yourself. Furthermore, if you can keep your emotions under control at this stage, then surely you are able to parent your child correctly.
How to Stop Arizona Department of Child Safety from Keeping your Child After Removal
After the Arizona Department of Child Safety decides the child is unsafe and enacts a safety plan, they will go and file a petition of dependency with the Juvenile Court. If you have the resources this is where a good attorney will come in handy. There are many local attorneys that know how to stop Arizona Department of Child Safety from continuing their “safety plan” at this point in the process.
If you cannot hire an attorney, the court will provide one for you. However, even if you get a good court-appointed lawyer, keep in mind they have a massive caseload. Consequently, they will not have the time to properly defend you. This will be detrimental to your case.
Playing the Game
Regardless of if the petition for dependency is granted or denied by the court, DCS may still allow the child to remain in their home. As a parent, you must think like a DCS worker in order to beat them at their own game. Consider an overworked caseworker with way too many cases than there are hours in the day. These workers have a necessary function to perform. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t take the first opportunity to close a case and move on to the next.
These workers can just take your child and send them to foster care and that may be the easy way. Or they can make a determination that the child is safe in their own home and case closed. If you are smart as a parent, you will provide the worker with every opportunity to “take the easy way out” and leave your child home where they belong. This means you have to play the game as they set the rules, regardless of how angry you get.
If all this fails and your child is placed into foster care, then the Arizona Department of Child Services will enter into the reunification services phase of the process. Depending on the reason the child was removed will have a lot to do with the particular reunification plan. Consequently, at this point, you as the parent really need to dance to whatever tune the department is singing. You need to follow all of the programming set for you. This includes passing drug tests, attending an anger management course, engaging in therapy, or whatever else they throw at you.
Independent Living, Guardianship, and Adoption
If all of this fails to stop Arizona Department of Child Safety from interfering with your life, and the “safety plan” has progressed past the point of reunification services, normally after about 12 months since the first report, then beings the last part if the process. This is when the Department moves the court to terminate your rights as the natural parent of your child.
You can fight this process in court. And you have a few choices. Choose a competent and experienced attorney hired by you. Accept the court-appointed attorney with such a large caseload you will be lucky to meet with them once before court. You can also represent yourself. However, unless you have extensive legal knowledge and experience, this is rarely a good idea.
When Reunification Fails
If after a year of failed reunification attempts by the department, they will present every single conversation, photograph, missed therapy appointment, and failed drug test as evidence against you at the termination of parental rights trial. The department will call witnesses against you, such as family members, foster parents, and neighbors. They will find and call anyone with a bad thing to say about you to testify.
Remember court is nothing like they make it look in the media. This trial isn’t going to be like you the ones you see on TV, where 12 normal people all get together to decide if you are good or bad. It will just be the Judge that decides your future with your child. A judge that probably already made up his or her mind about you even before looking at the first piece of evidence. Before hearing the first testimony of a witness.
Sad to say termination of parental rights trial very rarely goes the way of the parent. After it’s all said and done the next step in the process is for DCS to decide what to do with your child. The options are either permanent adoption, guardianship with another family member like a grandparent or adult sibling, or even independent living if the child is old enough.
The Arizona Department of Child Services published their child safety overview decision-making process here.
Stop the Arizona Department of Child Services Before They Even Start
Obviously, the best way to stop Arizona Department of Child Services from entering your life is to make sure you never get that knock on your door in the first place. However, sometimes it can be unavoidable. Many times, a kid can just slip and fall, get a bruise and say something incorrect to a teacher that invites a call to CPS. Now, the hotline used in Arizona to report calls alleging abuse and neglect has a much better screening process. However, that doesn’t mean DCS workers aren’t dispatched to unfounded allegations of abuse and neglect every day.
When that day comes and you get that knock on your door, follow these tips to stop Arizona Department of Child Services from progressing any further:
- Remain non-combative
- Be open (without accidentally incriminating yourself
- Be as honest as possible during their questioning
Even if there is a problem in the household, being receptive will drastically increase the chances that they will leave your child home where they belong. If you follow your instincts and try to scream and fight for your baby, then the chances of them removing will skyrocket. You must remember that these caseworkers are just doing their job, and they want their job to be as easy as possible.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
If you make it easy for the caseworker to decide that the child is safe and that the allegation of child abuse or neglect that came through their hotline was false, then you just made their job nice and easy, and that caseworker will work with you.
Following directions and answering all of their questions in a clear and concise manner, while remaining receptive to any advice the worker gives is the best course of action. The chances are that the worker will decide that you are capable of providing a safe environment for your child. As a result, the case can be closed and you can move on with your life.
Help Us Fight the Good Fight
Costs to document this historical government tragedy have been excessive. However, they are far from over. Our personal expenses to fight the powers that continue to victimize our children and their families have exceeded over $1,000,000. They continue to grow by the day. In order to save face, the state of Arizona continues to blame the victims of corruption. They do so at great damage to their reputations and credibility.
Any contribution you can make to aid our cause is most appreciated. You can donate to Saving Grace Advocates using the link provided. Please help us fight Arizona CPS corruption. We must bring justice to the families and children who have suffered at their hands. Thank you for your continued support and contributions.
Saving Grace Advocates