(Memphis) The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services recently adjusted its policy for removing children from unsafe homes.
The change stems from a pair of appeals court rulings where parents’ rights were violated.
The court ruled caseworkers are essentially subject to the same restrictions as police officers who need warrants to execute searches and seizures.
WREG spoke with a court administrator to get more details about how the policy will play out.
DCS Commissioner Jim Henry recently told WREG, “We make a decision whether to take a kid out of a home or leave him in, it’s the biggest decision that we make.”
DCS is now changing the policies that guide those critical decisions.
In certain circumstances, a case worker will now need a court order before removing a child from a home.
The change follows an appeals court ruling where parents’ rights had been violated.
“The court recognizes the essential nature of due process right, it must be afforded to a parent,” said Larry Scroggs, Chief Administrative Officer of Shelby County’s Juvenile Court.
The staff at Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court has been meeting with DCS recently to hash out the details.
According to DCS, caseworkers can still remove kids without a court order in emergency situations.
If there’s suspected neglect, but no immediate harm, DCS will proceed as usual and request an in person hearing.
However, if there’s a scenario where it’s not quite an emergency, but caseworkers believe it’s too serious to wait for the hearing, they can ask the judge for a temporary emergency ruling.
Scroggs says in these “in-between” sort of cases, the department will really have to do its homework and work with Juvenile Court to schedule prompt hearings.
“To be much more explicit in describing the circumstances and outlining in detail the nature of the threat, which has to be a threat to health or safety,” Scroggs added.