Living in Parental Fear: A Brief Word on DCS
Personal and professional stuff to follow here. Those not interested in either can move on safely.
I live with a fear as a parent that most won't know. It's inescapable, and it's not the traditional fears of things like "will Talia reach something on the counter she shouldn't" or "will Sebastian go to a good school." I live in fear that my children will one day be exposed to the worst government agency the State of Tennessee has in existence.
I live in fear of my children meeting the Department of Children's Services.
I fear for saying or doing something that doesn't meet the arbitrary parenting norms of a well-meaning social worker who got a phone call from an anonymous tipster hell-bent on ruining my family's life. I fear the possibility of seeing a DCS worker show up at my front door, ask to come in, and then spirit my two beautiful children away with the assistance of law enforcement. I fear these "well-meaning" teams of social workers with titles like CPS, FSW, and SIU deciding to one day rip my children from the schools they attend, the friends they know and love, and place them under "treatment" plans that I won't be able to have a single say in--because I'm just not qualified, you see, and they know better than me.
I fear being forced into a room for a "child and family team meeting" where these "experts" will analyze what is needed for "permanency plan" that I will never be able to complete. I fear being told that because my parenting skills are not up to par, I will be asked to complete a "parenting assessment" by an "independent" organization that will eventually be used against me in court. I fear that anything less than blind compliance with these well-meaning social workers' every move means that I will never see my children in my home again.
This may sound like a crazy set of irrational fears. Everyone who knows me will tell me that I'm at least a passable parent, and that I shouldn't be worried. Yet after five years of working in the justice system, I can tell you well meaning parents have their children taken from them Every. Single. Day. Our Juvenile Court dockets are crowded beyond belief. They have scores of well meaning parents who are usually represented by court-appointed attorneys fresh out of law school telling them to just go ahead and stipulate, because it's not going to really matter that much.
DCS is a government agency with government titles and government authority. They have the very important power of protecting our state's children from neglect or abuse, and they take it seriously. Some, however, just like our nation's police, have gotten so out of control and drunk with the power they possess that they will say and do anything to make sure the children that come under their care are ripped from well meaning, loving homes, never to be reunited with the parents they know again.
Yet we don't hold these government actors to the same standards as the police. Here's a quick thought: did you know that you can be charged with child abuse simply by receiving a letter from DCS? That document will not be used against you until such time as DCS wants to use it against you, and if you don't fight the charges levied in the document by answering it and doing so timely, you will be placed on a list of "child abusers" and have your job potentially threatened. There are no "rights" when dealing with DCS, except those which they arbitrarily and capriciously choose to give you.
Do not trust DCS. They are not here to help you or your children, should you ever encounter any of their agents. If someone comes to your door, identifying themselves as a DCS worker, lock your door, tell them to get a warrant, and record every single conversation you have with them.
And call a lawyer.