DHS Appeals – It’s Your Right

If you’ve heard from the Department of Human Services that a worker is performing an “assessment” of you or someone in your family, it’s time you protected your rights. Regardless of whether it’s a child abuse assessment, or an assessment of a dependent person, you have a right to appeal the department’s findings if you do so within the time allowed by statute. These assessments generally fall into one of two categories: Child Abuse Assessments and Abuse of Dependent Persons.

Child Abuse Assessments

If the DHS is doing a child abuse assessment, someone has informed them that you have committed an act of child abuse, and, they have taken the referral seriously enough that they are investigating. At some point, they will want to talk to you. We recommend that you get experienced counsel prior to giving the DHS an interview. One reason for this is that the DHS worker will often wish to carry out its interview with the police present. Listen to your counsel on whether or not to give the DHS, the police, or both an interview.

If the DHS finds that you have committed an act of child abuse, they will usually confirm their findings and place you on the central abuse registry for a period of ten years. Unfortunately, the DHS only has to find abuse by a preponderance of the evidence — which means it is more likely than not, or, it’s at least 50.1 percent. This is a much lower standard than in a criminal case. In fact, it’s the lowest burden of proof we have in our judicial system.

You must appeal any child abuse finding within 90 days. At Graves Law Firm, we routinely appeal child abuse findings for our clients. A finding like this will many times also result in a juvenile court case or Child in Need of Assistance case, for which you also need representation. But remember, by Iowa law, you cannot have a lawyer appointed to handle your DHS appeal. That’s why you should call us.

There are several grounds for a finding of child abuse, including:

  • Physical abuse of a child
  • Emotional abuse of a child
  • Failure to provide the critical care a child needs
  • Sexual abuse

Child abuse is wrong. The DHS has worthy goal in seeking to prevent any Iowa children from facing abuse. But it is clear that many Iowans are unfairly accused of abuse every year. That is why we have a right to appeal.

Contact the Graves Law Firm at 515.309.3776 if you need help with a DHS appeal.

Abuse of Dependent Persons

Sometimes, we take care of persons who are adults, because they are also dependents. This can be because they are elderly or because they face mental or physical handicaps which require a caretaker. If you are accused of abusing a dependent person, a DHS assessment will be made. Again the burden of proof is low, it’s only a question of whether or not it is more likely than not. If the assessment is founded against you, you have 6 months to appeal and to get your name removed from the central abuse registry.

These cases usually fall into one of two categories:

  • Physical Abuse — Generally, this refers to not providing the dependent person with sufficient health care. Often, these individuals face certain medical problems which the DHS believes should have been ameliorated. Bedsores, for instance, are a red flag to a DHS assessment worker.
  • Financial Exploitation — The DHS will also do an assessment of whether you or someone else has taken advantage of the financial resources of the dependent person. This can be a challenging and difficult area, because caretakers will often spend the money or income of a dependent person, but must do so to benefit the dependent person.

The DHS worker will usually include the police in interviews and in these investigations. It’s important that you have experienced counsel to help head off charges if possible and to appeal any finding by the Department.

At the Graves Law Firm, we stand with you and will seek a fair result for you in the process of a DHS appeal.

Call us today at 515.309.3776 or click here to contact us.