I have been contacted by DSHS and/or CPS to do an interview! What should I do?
If you have been contacted by an officer with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS) or Child Protective Services (CPS) for an interview then you should consult with an attorney. DSHS investigators often bring a law enforcement officer with them to the interview or turn over their notes and reports to law enforcement. You should never perform a DSHS interview without an attorney present. This is because you are being accused of a crime and could be charged with a crime. Often times DSHS and police run parallel investigations and both prosecute people through the DSHS system and the criminal justice system.
The DSHS system has the power to remove children from the home and keep you away from the children in question. Additionally, the DSHS system has the power to enter a finding of "committed" against you. This may effect your employment, ability to be an involved parent an reputation in the community.
Law enforcement has the ability to charge you with a crime. This means a possibly criminal conviction and jail. The consequences for participating in a DSHS interview without a trained attorney can be significant. You should remain silent, do not try to explain the situation and contact a professional.
WHO IS DSHS? ARE THEY LAW ENFORCEMENT?
DSHS investigators are technically NOT law enforcement officers, however, they are generally able to initiate criminal charges through law enforcement. Additionally, DSHS investigators do not have an obligation to read you Miranda rights but keep in mind that these statements can be used against you.
Statements made to DSHS investigators can be used against you by law enforcement. Cooperating with a DSHS investigation is generally advisable but only with an attorney familiar with the process. The local DSHS is located at:
- Washington State Dept of Social and Health Services
- 805 156th Ave NE N40-1
- Bellevue, WA 98007
WHAT IS MEDICAL NEGLECT?
Doctors and most medical employees like nurses are "mandatory reporters." This means that if they witness an instance of abuse or neglect they are required to report it and DSHS is required to investigate this. Unfortunately, many doctors and medical professionals seem to report parents for "medical neglect" when the opinion of the parents differs from the opinion of the doctor. Parents are frequently reported by medical professionals when the parent disagrees with the doctor or wants to get a second opinion. In these cases it is essential to obtain representation to avoid being bullied by medical professionals.
WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?
It is not necessarily illegal to hit a child in the State of Washington. There are many factors that are taken into consideration when determining if an act against a child is illegal. The physical discipline of a child is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and inflicted by a parent, teacher or guardian for the purposes of restraining or correcting the behavior of a child. Use of force by other persons is illegal unless it is authorized in advance by parent or guardian.
The following actions are presumed to be abuse:
- Throwing, kicking, burning or cutting a child.
- Striking a child with a closed fist.
- Shaking a child under the age of three.
- interfering with breathing.
- using a weapon.
- Any other action likely to cause serious bodily damage.
The main legal issue faced in CPS investigations is what actions are "reasonable and moderate." The age and size of the child are the main factors in this. The terms "reasonable and moderate" are open to interpretation by a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator. Additionally, a CPS investigator may take your statements out of context or misquote you.
Adult Protective Services (APS) Investigations
APS is similar to CPS but they are charged with the protection of elderly or vulnerable adults. The main difference with APS is that they investigate cases of financial abuse of the elderly. In many APS investigations there is a person or persons accused of taking money from the victim adult.