When Child Welfare IS Involved

When the Department of Social Services (DSS) receives a report of suspected neglect or abuse, they are required to investigate. If they determine that the child is not safe in the home, they can either take custody of the child at that time or they can create a Temporary Parental Safety Agreement with the parents.

Temporary Parental Safety Agreement

A Temporary Parental Safety Agreement (TPSA) is a voluntary agreement between the child’s parents and DSS. The parents ask someone, usually a relative, to care for the child temporarily while DSS determines if there are safety issues and tries to help the parents take care of them so the child can return home.

DSS Takes Custody

In North Carolina, each county has a Department of Social Services (“social services” or “DSS”) that receive reports of child abuse, neglect, or dependency (meaning that the parent is unfit or unable to care for their child). Abuse, neglect, and dependency are caused by various factors ranging from a parent’s illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, poor parenting, no housing, inadequate food, safety issues, or mental health concerns. If DSS finds that a child cannot be cared for safely by their parents, they file a dependency action in Juvenile Court to take legal custody of the child. This is also referred to as taking the child into foster care. When DSS has custody, they try to find a relative to care for the child. This relative can choose to become a licensed foster parent or not. If they cannot find a relative, the child will usually be placed in a non-relative foster home.

What Options Are Available When You Are Caring For The Child?

What If the Child Will Not Be Able to Go Home?

DSS custody of the child is temporary. First, they will work with the parents to address the safety issues that caused them to remove the child. Once those issues are addressed, the parents regain legal custody, and the child will go home. If the safety issues are not corrected, DSS must look for other options so the child will not remain in foster care. These are called “permanency options” and include custody, guardianship, and adoption. DSS will work with the kinship caregiver to decide which option is best for the child and family.

*Not Intended as Legal Advice