County sheriff's deputies had escorted a Division of Family and Children Services caseworker to the Deans' Harlem home Wednesday evening, when four children were removed and later released to a family member, sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said.
Morris would not comment on why the children were removed and did not supply the name of the family member to whom they were returned.
The Deans have seven children, five of whom they adopted from Guatemala in 2008.
The couple reported their oldest daughter, Marlin "Lilly" Dean, 17, missing. The girl was last seen Oct. 19 near Augusta Mall, Morris said.
Dean said in a statement that his family immediately contacted law enforcement agencies in Columbia County, Burke County and Harlem.
"As these agencies investigated, they brought in the Department of Family and Children's Services to assist," Dean stated. "Since that time, allegations, insinuations and lies were leaked to the media. These leaks have caused irreparable harm to our family."
A state Department of Human Services official said DFCS is investigating a claim but would not give details.
"My wife and I are outraged at the total lack of respect for our privacy," Dean said in the statement. "These accusations are completely false, and we will be totally vindicated."
Anyone with information about Marlin's whereabouts is asked to call the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at (706) 541-2800.