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Two lawsuits against DHS challenge child custody issues

For citizens of Illinois and across the nation, primary child custody is granted to whomever the judge feels can offer the best for the child or children involved.

But when social workers are notified to cases of abuse, child custody rights may be in jeopardy if non-custodial parents sign voluntary placement agreements or safety plans that may lead to the removal of children from the household.

In two cases from Iowa, two families have filed lawsuits against the Department of Human Services for taking children away from custodial parents after their former spouses file claims of child abuse against them.

In one case, the mother, who lost custody of her two children in a split with her husband, later accused her ex-husband and his new wife of abusing her children. She then signed a safety plan that prohibited her ex-husband from contact with their children, despite the fact that he was their legal guardian.

In the second case, a mother was forced to file a court petition seeking the return of her 8-year-old daughter after the girl's father allegedly abused the child. The girl was taken away because the father had signed a voluntary placement agreement, allowing the girl to be put into foster care even though he was not the custodial parent.

A spokesman for the DHS claims that child-protective workers usually seek voluntary placements with relatives or foster care parents as soon as they are alerted to allegations of abuse. However, the spokesman points out, social workers are apparently unaware of who has primary child custody when they respond to these allegations.

In both cases, parents are seeking a court order stopping the DHS from "taking possession and control" of any child from parents who don't have custodial rights. They are also seeking damages from DHS workers who do.

Source: DesMoinesRegister.com, "Two parents sue Iowa DHS over kids removed from homes," Lee Rood, Sept. 1, 2012

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