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Parents don't forfeit rights in suspected child abuse cases

A sense of community-wide social conscience can be a dicey thing. On the one hand, everyone is an individual and the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. On the other, the legitimate exercise of society to identify and impose common norms through legislation is also guaranteed.

Sometimes individual and community consciences can conflict and it can lead to some awkward, even confrontational situations. For example, every state has child welfare laws on the books that are intended to prevent the youngest, most vulnerable members of society from suffering neglect or abuse.

In Louisiana, the law identifies certain individuals to be mandated reporters. That means that if they suspect a child is the victim of neglect or abuse, they must report their suspicions to authorities or face possible prosecution. Child welfare authorities are then granted a level of latitude that could include getting an order to remove a child or children from the care of parents or their recognized guardians.

Sometimes mistakes are made. Suspicions don't mean that parents give up their rights. So if custody of a child is revoked on the basis of false claims it's important to consult with an attorney to understand your rights and protect them. But keeping in mind the latitude the law allows to child protection authorities, it's also important to work within the system.

There may be times when false accusations are leveled intentionally for the purpose of causing pain. But most of the time, mandated reporters are sincerely watching out for the welfare of the children they are obligated to protect. That being the case, regardless of how you come to be the victim of a false abuse or neglect claim, it's important to take positive, decisive action for the sake of yourself and your family. There are steps you can take.

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