Here's an interesting piece of propaganda put out by DCYF. The comments in brackets [are my editorial comments].
What is DCYF?
The Division for Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) is the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services which provides a variety of services for infants, children, adolescents and their families. One of our jobs is to respond to and assess reports of child abuse or neglect.
How Did DCYF Hear About Me?
N.H. State Law, RSA 169-C, The Child Protection Act, states that any person who has reason to suspect that a child under the age of 18 has been abused or neglected must make a report to the Division for Children, Youth, and Families.
[Yes, the reporting law is 169-C:29, It specifically states that a person having REASON TO SUSPECT that a child is abused or neglected. It takes away even the reasonable professional judgment of physicians, therapists, teachers, etc. It's one reason why over 90% of the reports are unfounded. Most states have criminal sanctions for bad-faith reporting, but even doctors tend to report before they rule out medical causes for apparent abuse. Also, NH is only one state where the law requires reporting of abuse whether or not the children are abused or neglect BY THE PARENTS OR CARETAKERS. So, DCYF can, and sometimes does, file petitions against parents that place their parental rights at stake when they have no blame for abuse.]
To help keep the main focus of our involvement on family safety and concerns, in most situations, the name of the person who called will not be provided to you. It is important to remember that a report is a statement of concern, not blame.
[This is true, that a person requesting anonymity is entitled to have his or her name withheld. The parent also has a right to say that an anonymous report is, by definition, not reliable, and to refuse to speak with a social worker unless the parent knows the nature of the allegation. The social worker is entitled to investigate; she is not entitled to obtain a search warrant to enter a home based on unreliable information from an anonymous reporter. The parent has the absolute right to refuse to cooperate with an investigation based on ridiculous allegations.]
What Happens Next?
When DCYF receives a report of possible abuse or neglect, a social worker meets with the family to discuss the concerns.
[IF the parent knows what the allegations are in the first place, they may or may not want to meet with a social worker to discuss them. The Division has a statutory duty to investigate, but the parents have no statutory duty to cooperate, and indeed, have the absolute constitutional right to refuse to cooperate.]
This may involve visiting and speaking with the people who live in your home. It may also include speaking with individuals in the community who know your family, such as relatives, minsters, doctors, teachers, neighbors, and friends.
[It may also involve the social worker telling the parent that they must report to the DCYF office for an interview with the child, or that the parent MUST allow DCYF into their home to do this investigation. Neither of these things is true. U.S. Const. 1st Amendment, 4th Amendment, 14th Amendment, NH Constitution, Article 15, Part 1, NH Constitution, Article 22, Part 1. So if the social worker tells you this, you know she is a liar right off the bat. Why would then speak with her?]
We will be asking you why you think the report was made and what your home and family life are like.
[DCYF has no statutory duty to go on a fishing expedition. You have the absolute right to know what the nature of the allegations are, and to only respond to the specific allegation in the report. There is neither a need, nor is it a good idea to dump your entire life history on someone who very likely will use the information against you and paint the worst possible picture about you to a court if she gets the chance.]
It is up to you to provide honest answers and to make sure that the information you believe is important is available. This will be very helpful in planning together what services will best help your family.
[Wrong - see paragraph above. Absolutely NO obligation on the part of parents. Many a murder case goes unsolved because the suspect exercised his absolute right to refuse to speak with the police - allegations of child abuse or neglect are no different constitutionally than suspicion of murder.]
The DCYF social worker may decide immediate action is needed to protect children from harm. Children may be removed from their family and placed in protective custody only by order of the Court or the police and only if it is determined that they may be in serious danger at home.
[This is true, and they will often take this immediate action not based on the severity of the conduct alleged in the report, but on the parent's refusal to cooperate with the investigation. This is one reason why it's important to have a good attorney in there keeping them in line. I do my most effective work at the investigative stages of a report. It's a lot easier to prevent a Petition for Neglect than it is to get one dismissed.]
After meeting with your family and gathering information, the DCYF Social Worker and Supervisor will review the facts that are available to determine if the report is "founded" or "unfounded."
When a report is "founded," it means that the information gathered supports a finding of child abuse / neglect. The social worker may open an on-going case with your family and/or refer you to services in the local community.
When a report is "unfounded," it means that the information gathered does not support a finding of abuse/neglect. The social worker may end his or her involvement with your family or refer you to community services if more help is requested.
[Yes, and in a case I handled in 2002, the social worker sent a cheery letter after getting a search warrant to investigate a ridiculous allegation stating that she thought, based on the couple's impending divorce, that the children needed counseling. How arrogant!]
Together with the DCYF social worker, you will help determine if services are needed and what may be available and appropriate for your family.
DCYF Mission Statement
"We are committed to the support of families to ensure the protection of children in the communities in which they live.
To accomplish this, we will provide leadership and develop community collaboration in the creation of policies and programs which strengthen and assist families.
We are dedicated to providing services in the least restrictive manner possible while respecting the dignity of the families we serve."
Where can I get More Information?
The DCYF Social Worker is:
The Social Worker's number is:
The Supervisor's name/number is:
[Or for MUCH BETTER INFORMATION:http://dcyf.home.attbi.com/index.html, my collection of informational pages and http://ewerme.home.attbi.com/dcyf.html, a less formal collection.]
Contact Paula Werme, Esq. or return to Law Practice home page.
Last updated 2002 April 24.