South Dakota
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South Dakota

January 6, 2005
Fourth Amendment Rights Protected in Social Services Investigation

A member family in eastern South Dakota responded to a knock at their door and was surprised when they opened it and found a social worker. She wanted to come into their home and question the children privately about a report the agency had received concerning child abuse and neglect.

HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff immediately assisted the family. Someone had reported that the parents were allegedly "isolating the children and not giving them adequate food."

The parents agreed to have the children briefly go outside so the social worker could see they were all in good health and of normal weight. HSLDA asked the social worker if she was satisfied that the children were being adequately fed. She said she was not, so the family brought food out on the front porch. As the pile of food grew, the social worker finally conceded that adequate food was no longer an issue.

The social worker still wanted to come into the home and question the children privately. To protect the family's Fourth Amendment rights, HSLDA advised the parents to decline her request. The social worker left annoyed, saying she would have to "talk to her supervisor."

The mother and father subsequently talked with the social worker without the children present.

Several weeks later, the social worker sent a letter to the family saying that the charges were not justified and the file would be closed.