DSS is statutorily required to investigate reports of abuse and neglect of children. Every case begins with the initial report (typically a phone call) wherein an investigative caseworker is assigned and given 45 days to interview and compile evidence to determine if abuse and/or neglect has occurred. Either the child(ren) will be able to reside with the parent, relatives or friends, or they will be removed from the home and placed into foster care. These first 45 days are extremely important and retaining an attorney experienced with DSS laws and policy is vital to setting the tone of a case. If the child is placed into in foster care, the action immediately triggers a court action with a very short notice window to parents and possible caregivers, which can be overwhelming in an already stressful time.
At the conclusion of the 45-day investigation period, DSS will either indicate the case (similar to a charge. For example: physical abuse) or they will unfound it (finding no abuse or neglect). The whole purpose of the agency is to identify the risk of harm to the child, identify the ways to remove the risk, help to remove the risk, and then once the risk has been removed, to return the children to the person(s) they were removed from.