The unexpected ring of your doorbell and following knocks at the door surprised you. The stranger at the door identified herself as a caseworker from child welfare. Such an unannounced visit can startle any parent.
This represents a definitive sign that you have been accused of committing child abuse or neglect. Initially, panic sets in and then anger that someone claims that you are harming your children. But remember, in this situation, you must remain calm, do not let them in your home unless that person has a court order. You also should seek immediate guidance from an attorney.
Do not sign anything
Here are some of the important things to remember if a caseworker arrives at your house:
- You do not have to allow this person into your home: The only exceptions to this are if the caseworker has a court order or if they suspect the children are in immediate danger.
- You may ask for an interview at a future date: If the caseworker arrives unannounced, you may decline requests for an immediate interview. Instead, you may seek an interview at a later date, providing you with more time to prepare.
- No requirement exists that you must consent to testing at the initial meeting: This typically refers to drug and alcohol testing.
- Do not sign anything unless …: …you have consulted with your attorney. Providing your signature on a document you may not understand may harm you.
- You can refuse to let the caseworker talk with your children: The caseworker may want to meet and interview your children, but usually not in your home. However, if they do seek to talk to the children in the home, you may refuse to let them unless the caseworker has a court order that allows for such action. (Such interviews typically take place at the children’s school or day care.)
Know what you can and should do. You do want to jeopardize your right to be with your children.
Seek legal advice
When a surprise visit from a child welfare caseworker takes place, remember that is important to remain calm and civil. Maybe a mistake has been made or maybe you are the target of unfounded claims from a vindictive former spouse or relative. Above everything, though, please consult with an attorney.