Investigated by the Department of Social Services? Get an Experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side Today
The Department of Social Services in Maryland oversees many different areas of government oversight for families and children. One of these areas is their involvement in the investigations of complaints of neglect and abuse. No matter if the investigator is from Child Protective Services (CPS), the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), or DSS, these agencies are all part of the same larger agency, DSS.
DSS receives complaints from mandatory reporters, citizens, and even the Court system. Mandatory reporters are people who are required by law to notify DSS if the are aware of possible neglect or abuse of a child, including doctors, nurses, social workers, police officers, psychologists and teachers. If these mandatory reporters do not report what they know, they face consequences themselves.
When a report is made to DSS, the reporter remains anonymous to all but to DSS. DSS can not be made to divulge the name of the reporter. When the complaint comes in to DSS, it is screened for validity, as it must be determined whether the complaint of abuse or neglect is true. If the complaint is not true, it is not taken beyond this stage and is closed.
If the complaint could be neglect or abuse, then the local branch of DSS has a duty to investigate the report. The local department must send out someone to investigate within 24 hours of receiving a complaint of physical or sexual abuse, or 5 days if the complaint is of neglect or mental injury. The DSS worker or police officer (they often work side-by-side to handle many of these complaints and investigations) must attempt to see the child and try to complete a safety plan with the child’s caretaker to put in place a temporary agreement to ensure the child’s immediate safety.
A safety plan is a contract between DSS and a child’s caretaker. DSS and the caretaker will agree to do, or not do, certain things on a temporary basis to allow DSS time to complete their investigation.
The DSS investigation can take up to 60 days to complete. During that time, the investigator will try to interview people with knowledge of the allegations and of the child to determine their validity. The sources often interviewed include the child, the child’s daycare provider, the child’s parents, and the person suspected of neglect or abuse. DSS has the ability to obtain school, medical and mental health records without a Court Order during these investigations.
DSS often works with local and state law enforcement officials during these investigations. The nature of the allegation determines which part of DSS will conduct the investigation and whether they will work closely with the police or not during this investigation. The police and DSS investigator may interview people together or separately and will often share information in completing the investigation. The DSS process has a specified time frame, whereas a police investigation into the same conduct does not. DSS will complete its investigation independently of the police. The police may or may not charge a crime against someone based on what they learn during one of these joint investigations, but DSS must complete their investigation regardless of the timeframe of the police.