In North Carolina, if the Department of Social Services determines that there is reason to believe that a child is either abused, neglected or dependent, they may begin an investigation into the case. These terms all have specific meanings, and can include inappropriate discipline, lack of proper care, lack of supervision, lack of medical care, or placing a child in an environment in which the child is at a substantial risk of harm.
If they conclude that the child is either abused, neglected or dependent, the Department of Social Services will file a petition with the court asking the court to adjudicate the child and to put formal measures in place to protect them.
If you are facing a situation where DSS is conducting an investigation, it is important that you retain an experienced family law attorney so you can avoid the filing of a petition and the necessity of an adjudication hearing.
In an adjudication hearing, the judge listens to evidence and testimony from the DSS, as well as both parents, to determine whether the allegations made in the petition have merit. The burden of proof falls on the DSS in these proceedings, and they are not permitted to present evidence outside the petition. The adjudication must happen within 60 days of the filing date of the petition.