The Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS) investigates over 37,000 reports of child abuse and neglect each year. The goal of DSC is to assure the safety and welfare of a child, and where possible, reunite the child with his parents and family. If a DCS investigation uncovers abuse or neglect and the child is removed from the parental home, the parents can appeal a DSC finding of abuse, and should participate in the DCS services and counseling which will rehabilitate the parent.
The Initial DCS Investigation
DCS is required to respond to any report of neglect or abuse and the child is interviewed separately from an alleged abuser, and if required, examined by a forensic medical examiner. DCS social workers conduct an interview the parents, and survey the home as part of the initial phases of investigation. It is important for parents to comply with DSC requests for information, and access to the premises. If parents refuse to comply, DCS can obtain court-ordered compliance through the use of local law enforcement. If the investigation finds valid concerns, the child is taken into DCS custody.
Parent's Right to Appeal
As part of the DCS investigation, a parent may receive a 'allegation indicated' letter and 'perpetrator indicated' if the abuser is identified. This is a DCS determination based upon investigation of the allegations which were originally filed with DCS.
If DCS finds that abuse has occurred, but there is insufficient evidence as to the identity of the abuser, this is noted as 'allegation indicated.' If DCS is able to identify the abuser, this is noted as 'perpetrator indicated.' After the parents receive this type of letter, the parents may appeal the finding within ten days of receipt by filing an appeal request in writing with the local DCS office.
Parental Rights During DCS Custody
DCS involves the parents actively in the investigation and child assessments, the goal of which is to identify the areas where the parents and family need to improve in order to obtain permanency for the child. DCS schedules a family team meeting within 30 days of the investigation which includes all DCS representatives involved in the matter, as well as the parents. The team creates a permanency plan, which is a roadmap the parents and family must follow to obtain custody. The parent is entitled to regular updates from the DCS on the status and progress of the child throughout this process.
Release of Child from DSC to the Parents
If the parents successfully comply with the permanency plan produced by the family team plan, upon judicial review, the child is released from DCS custody and returns to the parents. The release date depends upon the cooperation and effort of the parents.