A parent who is the subject of a child protection report will have a lot of questions when a social worker comes to their home. It is normal to be worried, confused, or even angry. The goal is to resolve these matters as soon as possible and minimize involvement with your family.
The reason a social worker has come to your home is because a report has been made. Idaho law requires anyone who believes a child is being abused, neglected, or abandoned to report it within 24 hours. The identity of the person who made the report is conﬁdential, but you have a right to know what was reported.
A social worker will conduct an assessment to ensure your child is safe. This includes making home visits, conducting interviews, and gathering information to make a safety decision.
Child interviews can occur at the school, daycare, hospital, police station, a Department of Health and Welfare office, a child advocacy center, or at home. The social worker will speak to people who have ﬁrst-hand knowledge of your family such as friends, neighbors, teachers, counselors, doctors, and relatives.
After the social worker completes the safety assessment, you will be contacted about the results and will have the opportunity to discuss any questions you have.
If abuse or neglect occurred, you could be placed on the Idaho Child Abuse and Neglect Registry for a substantiated incident. You have the right to appeal the decision within 28 days as well as receive a copy of your records.
We understand this is stressful for you and your family. Stay calm and do your best to cooperate, accurately describe the facts, and share your concerns. You can ask as many questions as you need to.
The social worker is required to see and speak to all children who live in your home, including children in shared custody situations. The social worker is required to contact you immediately, or as soon as possible, after interviewing your children.
You can refuse entry into your home and access to your children. But if the safety of your children cannot be determined, the social worker may request assistance from law enforcement or seek a court order. You are encouraged to voluntarily talk with the social worker to help understand what led to the report and share information about your family.
You have a right:
- To know what was reported, but not who made the report
- To request referrals and services
- To obtain a copy of your records
- To appeal a substantiated decision
- To obtain an attorney
- To refuse to talk to the social worker
You can contact an attorney at any time. However, a safety assessment is not a criminal investigation. If court intervention is needed, the court will notify you of the steps to obtain an attorney.
If it is determined that children are unsafe but can remain home, your family will receive in-home services and supports to resolve the safety concerns. These may include counseling, parent education, safety planning, and more. The social worker will connect your family to other community services that provide help such as housing, transportation, food, and medical care.
Children are only removed in the most serious situations. Social workers cannot remove children. In Idaho there are three ways children enter foster care:
- Imminent Danger: Law enforcement determines a child is in a dangerous situation and so they declare the child to be in imminent danger, placing the child in the temporary custody of the Department of Health and Welfare.
- Order of Removal: A petition is filed with the court by the department indicating it is unsafe for the child to remain in their home; a judge then determines whether to enter an Order of Removal.
- A Rule 16 Expansion Order: Rule 16 of the Idaho Juvenile Rules allows for the court to expand a Juvenile Corrections Act proceeding into a Child Protective Act proceeding. The court must have reasonable cause to believe that the juvenile is within the jurisdiction of the Child Protective Act.
If this happens, a civil, not criminal, court process begins with the primary goal of reunifying children with their parents. DHW believes children should be with their parents. If abuse, neglect, or abandonment has happened, a social worker will help your family make a plan to keep everyone safe.
This booklet was developed for parents to answer questions if a child is removed from their home: Parent’s Guide to Foster Care.