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Department of Human Resources Attorney in St. Clair County

If you have been accused of child abuse or neglect, your life could be forever changed if found indicated. Even an allegation of suspected child abuse charge can haunt you with your family and community for the rest of your life. If indicated of child abuse, it can negatively impact your entire life in terms of finding employment, where you can live, and the ability to be around minor children.

Alabama Law enforcement officials take suspected abuse neglect charges very seriously. Therefore, if you have been accused of any type of criminal offense that involves child abuse, or neglect, you could lose custody of your children until the investigation is completed.

Jim Golden Law has extensive experience and can advocate on your behalf. If you require a Department of Human Resources defense in Alabama, contact our law firm, and ask to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and learn how we may be able to assist you.

What is the Difference Between Child Abuse and Child Neglect in Alabama?

Many people mistakenly use the terms child abuse and child neglect synonymously. However, there is a clear distinction between the two under Alabama law. Alabama considers child abuse to be a physical or mental injury that occurs by intentional means and impacts a child’s health. Additionally, the legal definition of child abuse also includes sexual abuse or attempted abuse, sexual exploitation, or attempted exploitation.

Child neglect is a negligent treatment of a child. Negligent treatment can include failure to provide food or water, clothing, shelter, and medical assistance. Alabama law makes exceptions for parents who have religious objections to providing specific types of medical treatment. However, a judge can grant a court order that mandates appropriate medical services for the child. Failure to render aid does not meet the legal criteria of medical care exceptions.

If you are a parent facing child abuse neglect charges, you need an experienced law firm to fight for your rights. Contact our Alabama law office and ask to schedule an appointment immediately to discuss your case.

What is the Central Registry in Alabama?

The Central Registry in Alabama is a public record registry that contains information on individuals who have committed certain offenses against children or vulnerable adults. The registry serves to protect all Alabamians by providing an up-to-date list of individuals with criminal histories related to child abuse and neglect, exploitation, and abuse of vulnerable adults.

Being on the Central Registry can negatively impact your life in a variety of ways, including hurting your reputation, limiting job opportunities, and preventing you from volunteering or working with children. Jim Golden Law can help you understand the process of being included in the Central Registry and take every measure possible to help keep you off the list. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us as soon as possible to defend your rights as a parent and keep DHS at bay.

Who are Mandatory Reporters in Alabama?

Alabama defines a mandatory reporter as any person whose profession brings them into contact with children under 18 daily, such as childcare employees, schoolteachers, or other school personnel. Mandatory reporters are legally obligated to report child abuse or neglect.

Some common examples of mandatory reporters include:

  • Social workers
  • Medical professionals employed at hospitals, clinics, or any other type of capacity who interact with children.
  • Clergy members or other religious leaders
  • Law enforcement officials
  • Mental health professionals

Anyone considered a mandatory reporter who fails to report suspected abuse to their local Department of Human Resources could be convicted of a misdemeanor criminal charge or a fine ranging up to $500.

If an individual suspects abuse or neglect, they should evaluate the situation and report it to the property authorities. Often mandatory reporters must follow procedures that include making a written report, so keeping notes of bruises or other suspicious injuries.

What Are the Criminal Penalties For Child Abuse in Alabama?

Parents convicted of child abuse are guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine ranging up to $15,000. If convicted of more than one count of child abuse or found to have caused serious physical injury, the crime is enhanced to aggravated child abuse, a Class B felony. A Class B felony is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine ranging up to $30,000.

In addition to the child abuse laws that govern physical and mental abuse, Alabama law also has special provisions for those who allow their children to be exposed to drugs or substances used to make drugs. Chemical Endangerment of a Child is a Class A, B, or C felony, depending on the case’s unique circumstances. Some examples of when a parent or adult could be charged with this crime include allowing children to be exposed to drug paraphernalia or if a child dies due to exposure to chemical substances.

Department of Human Resources will immediately begin building a case against you that could result in court action. If the children are still in your home, for safety reasons, the court could decide to remove your children and place them in foster care or consider terminating your parental rights.

Therefore, if you are facing child abuse or neglect charges, you must hire an experienced attorney like Jim Golden as quickly as possible.

What is Considered Child Abuse and Neglect in Alabama?

In Alabama, child abuse and neglect are defined as any physical injury, sexual abuse, emotional harm or threat of harm, or negligent treatment inflicted upon a child by an adult. In addition to this definition, the state also considers certain acts as sufficient enough evidence that a parent or guardian is failing in their duties towards their child. These include:

  • Refusal or inability to adequately provide for the child’s basic needs including food, shelter, and safety
  • Failure to provide proper medical attention when needed
  • Allowing a child to be exposed to drug use
  • Placing the child in a situation where he or she is exposed to violence
  • Exposing a child to an environment that is harmful to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being

Citizens are often reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect. This means that any person who has reasonable cause to suspect that is being abused or neglected, regardless of their profession or relationship to the child, can report it immediately. If a report of suspected child abuse is made in good faith – meaning it was done truthfully and not maliciously – the reporter is immune from civil or criminal liability.

Additionally, certain individuals, due to their profession, are considered to be a ‘mandatory reporter.’ Those that are a mandatory reporter are legally required to report possible incidents of child abuse or neglect. Mandatory reporters include:

  • Health care providers
  • Public and private school employees
  • Social service workers
  • Childcare professionals
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Members of the clergy

Can DHR Take My Kids If I’m Accused Of Child Abuse?

In Alabama, if DHR suspects that a parent has abused their child, they will investigate the incident. During this process, DHR will seek information from both the parent and any possible witnesses. If there is sufficient evidence of abuse, DHR can take several steps to protect the child, including removing the child from the home or placing them in protective custody. Depending on the severity of the case, the matter can also be referred to the local district attorney’s office, and criminal charges can be filed against a parent.

DHR has the legal ability to take your child into their temporary protective custody if they determine that the conditions present an immediate danger to your child’s life or health. Code of Alabama § 26-14-6 states:

A police officer, a law enforcement official, or a designated employee of the State or County Department of Human Resources may take a child into protective custody, or any person in charge of a hospital or similar institution or any physician treating a child may keep that child in his or her custody, without the consent of the parent or guardian, whether or not additional medical treatment is required, if the circumstances or conditions of the child are such that continuing in his or her place of residence or in the care and custody of the parent, guardian, custodian, or other person responsible for the child’s care presents an imminent danger to that child’s life or health.

However, such official shall immediately notify the court having jurisdiction over juveniles of such actions in taking the child into protective custody; provided, that such custody shall not exceed 72 hours and that a court of competent jurisdiction and the Department of Human Resources shall be notified immediately in order that child-protective proceedings may be initiated.

During such period of temporary custody, the director of the county department of human resources may give or cause to be given effective consent for medical, dental, health, and hospital services for any abused or neglected child.

As noted in the law, DHR cannot retain custody of a child beyond 72 hours without court intervention. This 72-hour rule is firm; it does not matter if the 72 hours is up on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday – a court hearing is required within 72 hours.

If DHR determines that that conditions allow, they may attempt to work with families to develop plans to help ensure a child’s safety without removing the child from their home. This might include providing counseling services, requiring parenting classes, demanding drug rehabilitation or supervised visits as part of an agreement can also be introduced. These plans are typically addressed through a DHR Safety Plan.

How Can Your Law Firm Help Me With a Child Abuse or Neglect Case?

Jim Golden Law is a law firm dedicated to helping parents and adults when they have been charged with child abuse or neglect. Our legal team understands this is a highly emotional time for you and will treat you with the care and compassion you deserve.

Jim will gladly sit down with you to hear your side of the story, answer your questions, and advise you of your legal options. However, Alabama family courts will always rule in what they believe is for the child’s best welfare. For this reason, you must have an attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

Our law firm can investigate the allegations that have been made against you by reviewing witness testimony, medical reports, and other documentation. We believe all parents have the legal right to defend themselves against child abuse and neglect charges. We will work closely with the state, social workers, and others involved in your case to help find a favorable solution to your legal problems.

Contact Jim Golden Law and ask to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We look forward to assisting you in your time of need.