Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) Investigations
DSHS is a branch of the Washington State Dept. of Social and Health Services and Child Protective Services is an agency of DSHS. They are charged with protecting children from 1) abuse; 2) neglect or 3) abandonment.
If you are under investigation by DSHS, a CPS officer will generally contact you for an interview. You may have been reported to DSHS by a doctor, hospital employee, teacher, relative, neighbor, ex-lover or acquaintance. They will also generally want to speak with family members, other children, your spouse and any witnesses to the alleged event. The contents of these investigations by DSHS can quickly be forwarded to law enforcement for criminal charges.
WHO IS DSHS? ARE THEY LAW ENFOREMENT?
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.