What should I know about CPS?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been fighting Child Protective Services (CPS) to stop removal of my children from my home. I get that the state has an obligation to keep kids safe, but the person who reported the abuse made false allegations and is not really concerned with trying to protect my child. What should I know about CPS?”
Overview of Child Protective Services (CPS)
Child Protective Services is the agency which provides protection to children who may be experiencing emotional, physical or sexual abuse. They are required to investigate all allegations which threaten the safety of a child. In some cases, if they determine a child’s safety is at risk, they will remove a child from their home and place them in another home or foster care. Removals can be temporary or permanent.
What should I know and do if contacted by CPS?
- CPS takes all accusations seriously.
No matter how absurd the charges are which have been levelled against you, Child Protective Services is required to investigate the charges and will take all charges seriously. Unfortunately, all too often the CPS operates with the mentality that you are guilty until proven innocent, and although they may attempt to keep an open mind, they may enter your home with preconceived notions about your guilt.
- Say as little as possible but be polite.
Regardless of how you feel, do not become angry or hostile. Treat social service workers with respect, but say as little as possible. Ask them to provide information about the allegations and accusation. Do not allow them to provide only vague answers such as, “You have been accused of neglect.”
When a CPS worker comes to your home they may be attempting to gather evidence about your case. If enough evidence is gathered they may file criminal charges in addition to removing your children from your home.
You do not have to provide evidence voluntarily. In fact, it is better not to talk too much and to instead talk to a lawyer who has experience dealing with CPS workers.
- You do not have to let CPS workers into your home if they do not have a warrant or court order.
Although the CPS agent may come to your home with an official badge and may be an investigator for the court, you do not have to allow them to come into your home. In fact, it is well within your rights to politely refuse entrance. If the CPS worker insists, you should ask to see their court order or warrant. You can also ask to keep a copy of it.
If the CPS agent cannot produce a warrant or court order, you are legally allowed to let them know you would be glad to invite them into your home when they can produce an order. Do not voluntarily waive your Fourth Amendment right to unlawful search and seizure even if you think you have nothing to hide.
- Never admit you are guilty, even if CPS suggests they will be lenient.
Just like a criminal should never plead guilty to a crime they did not commit, you should never admit any guilt, even if CPS says things will go easier for you and you can get your kids back. Talk to your lawyer first. If you do have some issues you need to work on it’s easier to solve your issues if you are not in jail.
What should you do instead? Ask CPS about your rights. In many counties CPS is required to outline your parental rights and they may have information they can give to you. After you get the information you can tell them that you would love to talk to them, but you need time to talk to a lawyer and identify your legal rights.
Although Child Protective Services (CPS) has a very important job and they do help thousands of children each year escape very dangerous homes, it’s not unusual for false allegations to be made against parents. If you have been falsely accused of child abuse and CPS is threatening to remove your children, it’s important not to forfeit your rights and jeopardize custody of your children.
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