Virginia Department of Social Services: What You Need To Know

The Department of Social Services (“DSS”) is an organization created by the Virginia government. DSS was created to help people get state and federal benefits, protect children from abusive parents, prevent people from taking advantage of individuals with disabilities or special needs, and help with adoption proceedings.

If DSS has become involved in your life, it is because there is some concern about a friend or family member that needs help or protecting. Alternatively, you may be under investigation for some alleged wrongdoing. What do you need to know before you interact with DSS?

DSS Works With Law Enforcement

In order to provide people with the protection or services they need, DSS works closely with local law enforcement. Law enforcement may be notified about any information that DSS obtains during their investigations.

For example, if DSS is doing a family assessment on your family, and you admit to leaving drugs or alcohol in areas where children are located, that information could make its way to law enforcement. If you admit to using any controlled substances to DSS, that information may also make it to law enforcement. Be careful about what you admit to DSS.

There Are Several Types of DSS Workers

There are several different types of workers that are employed. During the time you are working with DSS, you may meet several different individuals. It is important to know who these individuals are and what their roles are. That way, if you have any questions about the status of your case, you will know who to talk to.

If you are dealing with a child that has been placed in foster care, you will likely have at least two (2) different workers. There will be a worker who does the initial investigation to determine placement options, and a worker that works directly with the foster care provider. If you have questions regarding how a child is adapting to foster care, the foster care worker is the better person to speak to.

DSS is Trying to Help

If you are the subject of an investigation, if you believe a child or an adult with disabilities is being abuse, or if your children have been taken away, keep in mind that DSS is trying to help your family. You should immediately report any possible family abuse. DSS’s goal is rarely to initially prevent someone from ever seeing their family again. DSS is there to try and identify safety and health issues that would make the home unfit.

If a family member has been taken away or placed under a protective order, DSS is required to work with you to identify services that can help return the child to your home. Some common types of services include substance abuse evaluations, mental health evaluations, in-home therapy, parent mentors, medication management, and family meetings at DSS’s office. The types of services that will be recommended depend largely on the needs of each individual family. You may have more or fewer services depending on why DSS is involved.

Why You Need a Lawyer if DSS Contacts You

As previously stated, DSS works closely with law enforcement. Additionally, DSS has a heavy caseload and may delay in getting you the services you need. If you say the wrong thing to DSS you could be subject to criminal proceedings. Alternatively, a delay caused by DSS may result in a significant period of time where you could have your child returned to you. A lawyer can help you understand what information could be dangerous to share, how best to receive the services your family needs, and how to interact properly with DSS. If DSS is involved in your family, make sure you consult a lawyer.