If during an investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS), an investigator seeks to interview your child, you should know that this is normal and not an indication of any specific direction that your case is expected to go. By this, do not assume that because your child will be interviewed, the result is either good or bad for you and your family. This is just a necessary step that your investigation must take to reach its eventual conclusion.
The question remains- how can you handle yourself when CPS speaks to your child without you being in the room or within earshot? What’s more- what can you do to prepare your child for talking to CPS about topics that they may know nothing about?
Today’s blog topic will touch on these subjects and more about being interviewed by a CPS employee. These are not easy times for your family, but the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, would like you to be aware of this information so that you will be able to make better decisions regarding your situation and circumstances.
Do not coach your child before being interviewed by CPS.
Children are not good liars and display obvious signs of “coaching” when questioned by an experienced interviewer. With this in mind, do not attempt to coach your child to answer questions in a certain way, withhold information, or lie. Your child will wear their worry and concern over what you have told them all over their face, and this will impact their responses.
CPS will not look favorably on your actions if and when they find out, and you can rest assured that they will find out that you attempted to manipulate your child into giving specific answers to questions asked during an interview. The bottom line is that the CPS case is not your CPS case- it is your child’s. They will already be on edge due to the nature of the investigation and will likely be uncomfortable speaking to a stranger about private matters. Your attempts at coaching will only add to those feelings of unease and will not assist an investigator in getting to the bottom of any situation.
Interviewing your child at school
It sometimes happens that rather than interviewing your child in your home that CPS would prefer to interview your child at their school. The situation changes a bit if this is the chosen course by CPS. On the interview day, if you are present at the school, CPS must still get your permission to speak to your child. On the other hand, if you are not present that day, CPS does not need your license and can talk to your child without your consent. Logic would dictate that if you have previously refused to allow CPS contact with your child, the investigator will want to get around your lack of support by meeting with your child at their school.
Consent to interview your child for a CPS investigation means that you have to give that consent affirmatively. The lack of saying “no” or other wishy-washy responses will not suffice. You have to provide an affirmation- verbal or nonverbal- indicating that you are permitting CPS to interview your child. If your child is interviewed, CPS has to let you know that the interview was conducted within 24 hours of having done so.
How CPS will examine your child
To this point, we have discussed the interview process where questions are asked by an investigator to your child either inside or outside your home. We want to get into what can occur when CPS examines your child. Depending on the type of allegations being made against you in the initial report to CPS, the type of examination done will vary accordingly.
As with an interview, CPS must first ask your permission to examine your child in any way. Again, this rule applies if you are available at the time of the attempted examination or the examination is to occur in your home. If the exam happens in a place other than your home and you are not available at the time of the attempted examination, your permission is not needed to have the exam occur.
Your child can provide their consent as to whether or not they will allow the exam to occur. A court-ordered exam will arise if a judge has ordered that CPS be allowed to conduct the exam. At that point, no lack of consent by you or your child can stop it from happening. This typically occurs after a judge has ordered that CPS remove your child from your home and place them into the temporary custody of a relative or CPS group home facility.
CPS can request a court order to allow an examination or interview
If you refuse to provide the consent that we have already discussed is necessary for many settings to allow for an interview or examination of your child to occur. This does not end the process as far as CPS is concerned. They can have one of their attorneys file a request with a judge to have the interview or examination occur, as we previously discussed in this blog post.
If a judge decides that it is in your child’s best interests to order the interview or examination to occur, then they will make a ruling by that belief. The CPS attorney will need to show that there is a likelihood of harm that could or has already occurred to your child in the form of abuse or neglect. You are subject to pretty severe penalties if you violate a court order.
What a physical exam looks like in the context of a CPS case
A visual exam of your child is pretty typical in all CPS investigations. This is true even if there have been no allegations of any physical harm to your child. It is standard to have the investigator examine the child involved in the investigation and any other child living in your home with you.
Obvious signs of physical injury or neglect will be looked for, such as bruising, cuts, poor hygiene, or diaper rash, for instance. The exam does not necessarily mean that your child will have to disrobe for the investigator, but often the investigator will need to ask your child to do so. A female investigator will examine a girl, and a male investigator will examine a boy.
What a sexual exam looks like in the context of a CPS case
If the allegations against you to CPS are regarding sexual abuse, then a special examination will be conducted in a CPS facility. An interview and assessment will be commenced in which photos will be taken of your child, and tests will be run to determine the extent of the harm that has occurred to your child.
These exams are not typical, however. Only if you have given your permission for it to occur, a judge has approved the exam in the form of an order, or CPS has already been given conservatorship rights to your child will an examination of this magnitude happen. An exam will be done by a physician or nurse and never by a CPS caseworker or investigator.
An inspection of your home in the context of a CPS investigation- tomorrow’s blog post topic
If you are interested in learning more about what an investigation of your home will look like in a CPS case, please come back tomorrow to find out more. In the meantime, if you have questions about CPS cases or any other subject in the field of family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, today. We can arrange to speak with you in a free-of-charge consultation where your questions can be answered by one of our licensed family law attorneys.