The idea of having your child removed from your house because of abuse or neglect is not something any parent wants to think about, but it happens every day. In Kentucky, this is usually the result of a Dependent, Neglected or Abused (DNA) action. The most obvious circumstances that could result in a DNA action are those where physical or sexual abuse is present.
Any of the following actions by a parent, custodian or other guardian could be classified as child abuse:
- Hitting or kicking
- Choking or otherwise restraining the child in a harmful manner
- Using a weapon or other object to strike the child
- Doing anything to cause the child substantial pain
- Fondling or inappropriate touching
- Engaging in any type of sex act
Neglect can be a bit more of a gray area. Situations that social workers and the courts may categorize as neglectful include:
- Failing to provide the child with food, water, clothing and education
- Denying the child necessary medical treatment
- Failing to supervise the child adequately
- Abandoning the child
- Failing to meet the child's physical and emotional needs
The rights of the parents and involved family members
It is very important for the parents to be aware of their rights, even if the allegations are unwarranted and an "unsubstantiated" ruling is likely. The first thing to understand is that a child cannot usually be removed from the parents' household without an emergency custody order in place. However, the law does allow for exceptions in cases where the child is in immediate physical danger or is being sexually abused. In these situations, the child may be removed by an officer, and an emergency custody order is to be requested within 12 hours.
The state of Kentucky prioritizes placing children removed from their homes as a result of DNA actions with relatives over placing them in the foster care system. This helps ensure that the children are in a familiar environment with people they already know and trust. However, taking in a child under these circumstances comes with its own set of rights and responsibilities. In some cases, the parents will still be able to see the children through some type of visitation schedule, and the guardian will need to have the children ready for those visits.
Parents also have the right to legal representation, and guardians may find seeking guidance from an attorney helpful. Talking with an attorney who has experience dealing with DNA actions can help the parents and guardians be fully aware of all their rights and obligations and provide guidance on what to do and not to do during the process.