Know your rights in a child welfare investigation


Fla. Stat. § 39.301(5) requires a child protective investigator to inform any subject of the investigation upon commencement of the investigation the following information:

1. The names of the investigators and identifying credentials from the department.

2. The purpose of the investigation.

3. The right to obtain his or her own attorney and ways that the information provided by the subject may be used.

4. The possible outcomes and services of the department’s response.

5. The right of the parent or legal custodian to be engaged to the fullest extent possible in determining the nature of the allegation and the nature of any identified problem and the remedy.

6. The duty of the parent or legal custodian to report any change in the residence or location of the child to the investigator and that the duty to report continues until the investigation is closed.”

Further, the statute requires the investigator to inform the parents or legal custodians of their rights “including opportunities for audio or video recording of investigators’ interviews with parents or legal custodian.”

In reality child protective investigators rarely inform parents of their right to record the interview prior to starting the interview.  Investigators rarely inform parents or custodians of their rights until the conclusion of the interview or they do so by having the parent sign a document informing them of their rights without reading it. It is not uncommon for a parent to believe that if the parent just meets with the investigator and answers questions that the parent will be able to clear their name.  Rarely does that happen. 

In reality, many investigators typically document anything negative that the parent may mention and rarely include anything positive about the parents or the incident.  The facts that the parent discussed are often spun by the investigator leading to a very different scenario or interpretation of the facts than as presented by the parent or custodian.  The investigator is there to build a case to be used against the parent or care giver in Court. 

Parents and care givers should NEVER meet with a child protective investigator without a lawyer and without recording the interview.  Don’t be tricked by the clever investigator or accompanying police officer or detective that asks, “why do you think you need a lawyer if you haven’t done anything wrong?”

PROTECT YOURSELF and YOUR FAMILY.  Promptly contact our firm as soon as you hear from a child protective investigator, prior to meeting with the investigator and prior to responding to any inquiries, to obtain competent legal representation and help protect your family from being involved with the child welfare industry. Removal of children often causes children to be traumatized.