When a potential client walks into the Law Office of Bryan Fagan with a question regarding a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation it is the goal of the attorney to provide information regarding their rights and what to expect during the course of the investigation itself.
As a governmental agency CPS does provide a very basic explanation of their investigative process through their website. However, as anyone who has ever been investigated by CPS will tell you those guidelines are not always followed as explicitly as their website may indicate.
This blog post will detail what CPS can actually do in terms of their power to investigate your family and what you can do as a response. I will acknowledge from the start of this post that it can be very alarming to receive a phone call or a knock on the door and have a CPS caseworker be on the other side of the door or telephone.
However, the power of CPS is not unlimited and there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your family and your right to parent your child despite any allegations being made against you.
How CPS conducts itself during an Investigation
A CPS case-worker/investigator has the responsibility to collect information that will assist CPS in determining the safety of a child about whom a report has been made.
CPS learns about potential cases of abuse and neglect from people who can anonymously report incidents of abuse or neglect against a child. Whether CPS will need to become further involved with your family or even remove your child will be determined after an initial visit with you.
How does CPS gather the information that they need to make this sort of determination? Like a police officer, CPS investigators can:
- examine your child for injuries or signs of neglect
- obtain copies of school records, police reports and medical records
- have an examination done of your child for medical or psychological purposes
- undertake an inspection of your home including taking photos
- speak to people whom they believe may have information about the allegations of abuse or neglect; this includes teachers, neighbors, relatives, or doctors
How you can conduct yourself during an investigation
Many people, understandably, feel like they are powerless to do anything while CPS is investigating them and their family.
This is simply not true. There are many things that you can do during the course of a CPS investigation that can go a long way towards protecting the rights of yourself and your children.
The most basic thing you can do during a CPS investigation is to show the agency that you are able to keep your child safe from harm. This means addressing whatever report has been made and the allegations contained within it.
If the report is unsubstantiated then you can show the case worker that there is nothing to the allegations made against you.
If there is some merit to the report then you can take positive steps to eliminate any future risk of harm as best as possible. If that means removing an individual from your home who has harmed your child then that is for the best.
Other examples include:
- removing drugs or alcohol completely from the home,
- ensuring that the refrigerator is properly stocked with food or
- merely cleaning up the home to appear more tidy.
These are all examples of situations where a child can be removed from your care if the situation warrants it.
Information to provide to a CPS Caseworker
If CPS is investigating you it is always a smart idea to speak to a family law attorney who handles CPS cases. Having the assistance of an attorney can be helpful for no other reason than because CPS typically treats people with attorneys with more respect.
Attorneys are also good at helping clients communicate with CPS in terms of information that may be helpful to both CPS and you as the person being investigated.
Making sure that CPS has the name and contact information for any person who can provide further explanation for the harm (if any) that has occurred to your child can be extremely helpful.
Having another person provide the same explanation for the mark on a child’s head, for example, can help a CPS investigator determine the actual risk to a child much faster.
The faster the information is collected, the faster an assessment can be made and the faster that CPS can be out of your and your family’s lives.
Talking to CPS: Do I have to?
The short answer here is, no, you don’t have to talk to any person from CPS if you do not want to. You have a right to remain silent. However, the risk in doing so is that your silence may lead a case worker to believe that you are hiding something or more at fault than you actually are.
I realize that this is not fair. A defendant in a criminal trial does not have to take the stand to testify in his or her own defense and the judge will instruct the jury that the defendant’s failure to testify should not be considered when making their final verdict.
However, CPS is not a Court and their perception matters when it comes to your investigation.
If you do speak to CPS then the best advice that I can provide you with is to be honest. It does not pay to hide facts that make you look bad or to invent answers on the fly because they may you look good.
The CPS caseworker will ask you questions about what happened in the situation described in the report. If there has been actual abuse or neglect against your child then CPS can offer you a roadmap to rehabilitating your family through counseling and various other family based social services.
What is a Safety Plan?
A Safety Plan is a series of benchmarks that your case worker and their supervisor may lay out for you after an investigation is underway.
Especially in situations where your child has been removed from your care, the steps in a safety plan focus on minimizing the future risk of harm to your child. T
here may be requirements for you and your spouse/significant other to complete in order for any case pending against you may be closed.
Part Two of our Series of Articles on CPS Investigations is upcoming
If you are being investigated by CPS you will want to keep an eye on the website of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan over the course of the next few days as we continue to write on this subject.
As always, if you have questions for one of our attorneys please do not hesitate to contact us. Consultations are free of charge and can potential make a huge difference in your life and that of your family.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
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- CPS and how The Law Office of Bryan Fagan can help
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- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Texas Parental Visitation – Texas Standard Possession Orders in Harris and Montgomery County, Texas – Part 1
- Supervised Visitation in a Texas Divorce: Can it happen to me?
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas CPS defense Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defenseLawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our CPS defenselawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles CPS defense cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The