The DYFS Trap
The DYFS TRAP
We do so many DYFS cases that we start to notice patterns. Unfortunately, some patterns get people in a lot of trouble. What follows is a fictional scenario based upon some of these patterns to demonstrate what I call “the DYFS trap”. The purpose of this is to demonstrate how people dig themselves a hole that can be very difficult and expensive to dig out of. Although we make a lot more money with cases in court, our goal is to protect our clients. Thus, we hopes this leads some people to take action before the cases go to court. We would much rather get involved before the case goes to court because we can keep costs down dramatically and prevent children from being removed.
Bill and Sue are the parents of two young children. While not exactly poor, money is very tight. Neither parent has a criminal record and they have never really needed a lawyer before except when they bought their house years ago. One day, a DYFS worker showed up at their house and informed them that DYFS received a call that Bill hits the children, is always drunk and that Sue smokes pot and abuses prescription drugs. The parents are really upset with the allegations because they are false. The case worker explains that they will want to interview the children and the parents at the DYFS office on Monday.
At this point, the parents could have called a lawyer right away but since they think the allegations are false, they figure they don’t need a lawyer. (or – they think that a lawyer is too expensive; DYFS will get mad if they get a lawyer; DYFS will not allow them to get a lawyer; they will look guilty if they get a lawyer). Thus, they meet with the DYFS case worker on Monday without hiring a lawyer. It becomes clear that Bill has never hit the children and the other allegations are false. Thus, the case worker says that the case will probably be closed soon. Thus, Bill and Sue think that there is nothing to worry about. A few weeks ago by and they hear nothing. Then, the case worker calls and says that her supervisor wants both parents to take a substance abuse evaluation and to sign a HIPPA form so that DYFS can speak to their doctors.
At the substance abuse evaluation, Bill does admit that he likes to drink sometimes but he denies having a problem. Sue indicates that she has smoked pot before but does not use it regurarly and has not used it for some time. While she is on oxycodone for a back injury, she denies abusing them and there is no evidence that she is abusing them. Nevertheless, DYFS suggests that Bill undergo level 1 substance abuse treatment for alcohol and Sue undergo level 2 drug treatment because her urine came up diluted and she did admitting to smoking pot a number of years ago.
At this point, Bill and Sue are really upset. They don’t want to take time off of work to go to these treatment programs. Furthermore, the case worker called Sue’s doctor and found out that she has anxiety and depression. Thus, they want her to undergo a psychological evaluation. Bill and Sue refuse. They believe that the allegations were false so DYFS should just go away at this point. Due to their non-compliance, DYFS then file an Order to Investigate to force Sue to undergo a psychological evaluation. Again, they don’t get a lawyer because they don’t know what to expect and they figure that they can just explain to the judge that the allegations are false. Of course, the Judge does not care about the allegations and is only concerned with what DYFS wants. Despite the protests of Bill and Sue, the judge orders her to undergo the evalution.
The psychological evaluation reveals that Sue also suffers from PTSD as a result of an incident in her childhood. The doctor finds that her marijuana use is a form of self medication, especially since she has not refilled her xanax prescription in a year. The evaluation also reveals that she lacks parenting skills and that she enables Bill’s alcohol use. As a result, the doctor suggests numerous services including parenting skills, individual therapy and intensive outpatient for the drug use. Bill and Sue are again furious and refuse to participate in the services. The doctor twisted everything they said and felt that Sue was being devensive because she denied the allegations. DYFS then shows up at the house with the police and removes the children. They are placed in foster care and the parents have no contact with the children pending the court date three days later.
As you will notice, the children were not removed as a result of the initial allegations. Those are long forgotten. Instead, the focus shifted to other issues. Before the parents realized what was going on, the children were removed and now it will be a very long fight to get them back and close this case. I’d like to say that this is a rare situation but I’ve seen it happen way too many times. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. A twist on the begining of this case would be that Bill and Sue dealt with DYFS 2 years ago with false allegations and they were able to handle it without a lawyer and it was closed in a few weeks. Thus, why should they get a lawyer this time? That is another way people get themselves in trouble. Had Bill and Sue hired a lawyer right away, it could cost them up to 10 times less than what they might pay to fight to get the children back and close the court case. I hope that this story helped you under the DYFS trap. Please note that I am not trying to convince you that you must hire a lawyer. Instead, I’m just trying to get you to understand the trap that you could fall into by not hiring one at the right time. Most people tell me that if they knew they should have hired a lawyer from the start, they would have.