What are my legal rights against CPS?

The goal of Child Protective Services (CPS) is to protect children from abuse and neglect. To do this, CPS will investigate all allegations which are reported to them as well as provide a variety of services to improve the care of children including homemaker services, evaluations, treatments, counseling services, and parenting classes.

Recently on our forum a user asked, “CPS came to my child’s school and conducted an interview without my knowledge. I want to understand my rights and whether I can have my son move in with my mother?”

What steps will CPS take?

State laws vary. The information provided below specifically applies to the State of Texas, but other states will have similar strategies for keeping your child safe. Review the CPS information for your state for more information.

All Child Protective Service Agencies have general rules they must follow when they are conducting an investigation. For example:

  • CPS must investigate all reports of child abuse or neglect claims.
  • CPS will interview the child at a reasonable time and place, including school.
  • CPS will audio or videotape the interview.
  • CPS is supposed to make a reasonable effort to notify the legal guardian or parent regarding the allegations within 24 hours of the interview.
  • CPS will collect information, including criminal background checks, of all of the alleged abusers.

CPS may also have the legal authority to visit your home, interview other children in the home, visually examine the child for evidence of abuse, interview other parties who may have information related to the allegation, gather the mental health records of the child or alleged abuser, and request a mental health examination of the alleged abuser.

If the parent or legal guardian attempts to block the efforts of the CPS worker, the worker has the right to obtain a court order to complete the investigation. Investigations are generally completed within 30 days.

What will happen if CPS determines there was abuse?

If CPS determines there was abuse they will notify law enforcement. Law enforcement will review the evidence and decide whether or not to conduct a criminal investigation. If they conduct a criminal investigation and determine you have committed a crime, they will file charges against you.

If files have been filed against you, you will need to talk to a criminal lawyer and determine your best course of action for your case.

What will happen to my child after an investigation?

Whether or not a child will be removed from your home depends on whether CPS decides there is neglect or abuse. There are several steps CPS may take prior to removal. For instance, CPS may schedule a Family Team Meeting and allow other family members to work with you to make a plan to keep a child safe.

CPS may also work with you and your family to create a Safety Plan, which includes steps you must take to increase the safety and well-being of your child.

They also may decide that your child should be placed with another family member or caregiver. If this happens they will ask you to create a Parental Child Safety Placement plan. Under this plan you agree to temporarily place your child with a family member or a close friend. This arrangement is considered temporary, and CPS will work with you to make the necessary steps to eventually return your child to your home.

Bottom line:

Although the goal of CPS is to keep children safe, some families are falsely accused of child abuse. Remember, you have the right to talk to a lawyer at any time in your investigation.

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