How to know your rights when a child is removed from your care
The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services (DCYFS) has the responsibility to act when things are going wrong in the home and children are being placed in danger. Although it is the last resort, this could mean removing a child from his or her home if necessary.
When can a child be removed, and by whom?
The child will be removed from the home by a Police officer or a social worker. They must show you proof of identity when they enter your house.
Removing a child usually requires a warrant from the court or from a Justice of the Peace. However, the Police also have the power to remove a child without a warrant if they believe that doing so is critically necessary to protect the child from injury or death. Social workers do not have this power.
Who has custody of the child after he or she is removed?
A child that is removed from home falls into the custody of the DCYFS. The child will be sent to stay with a family member or someone the child knows well. If this is not practicable or appropriate, the child may be placed in a Department home or residence.
You should be informed as soon as possible about what is happening and why, and about what will happen in the future. You can also phone the Department for information at any time of day or night.
When a child is removed from home and placed in DCYFS custody, the matter must come before a Family Court within five days. You will be notified of the court's decision.
Can I apply for my child to be returned to my custody?
You have the right to apply to the court immediately for the return of your child to your custody or for access to the child while he or she is in DCYFS custody.
If your child has been removed from your care, he or she may be examined by a doctor. Your permission will be sought for this. However, if a social worker has made reasonable efforts to obtain your consent but you may have not given it, the social workers can order the examination to take place without your consent.
If a social worker exercises the power to order an examination without your consent, he or she must provide the chief executive of the DCYFS with a report on this within three days.
An internal examination of the child is only allowed if it is believed there has been recent sexual or physical abuse.
- The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services aims to keep families together and to work with them to improve their situation. Taking children away from parents is a decision that is not made lightly and is a measure of last resort.
- You have the right to take the matter to court; if you wish to do so you should contact a lawyer.