If you and your family are involved in an investigation with Child Protective Services (CPS), you should be aware that part of that investigation will be an inspection of your home. A CPS investigator can show up at any time on your doorstep to conduct the investigation and does not need to give you any notice before doing so.
When the caseworker arrives at your home for an inspection, they must identify who they are, that they work for CPS and the purpose of their being at your doorstep. They must also ask for your consent to enter your home and cannot do so without it. In certain instances, a CPS investigator may come to your home with a police officer with them. Even with this show of authority, there is no need to allow them to enter if you do not want them to. The caseworker will typically bring a police officer if they have concerns over their safety.
Any adult living in your home can consent that CPS needs to enter your residence. Babysitters, relatives, or family friends may not be aware of what they are consenting to, so it is a good idea to make regular visitors or fellow residents of your home aware that CPS may attempt to enter.
It is possible to state to a CPS employee that they may enter and retract that consent and ask them to leave your home immediately. The CPS worker cannot stay at that point, and if they do, you can contact their supervisor to address it directly with CPS.
Should you allow CPS to enter your home to conduct an investigation? Consider the following before doing so
Telling a CPS investigator that they can enter your home will do some good in building goodwill with the employee. You will likely be working with this person directly for the foreseeable future, so it is worth building a report and trust level. The bottom line is that you need to think about what CPS will find in your home. If you have nothing to hide and your home is in good repair, you may want to consider allowing them access to conduct the investigation.
On the other hand, if you deny CPS access to your home, a caseworker could believe that you are being difficult and are attempting to impede their investigation. What's more- even if you deny them access to your home, they can still enter if a judge issues a court order. If a CPS investigator believes that your child is in imminent danger that requires their being removed from the home, they may be able to enter against your wishes. An inspection cannot be done, however. All that is allowed is quickly removing your child from their temporary care. A court order would need to be sought immediately to allow them to keep temporary custody of your child.
Can a CPS investigator photograph the interior of your home?
Yes. If you decide to allow a CPS employee to enter your home and conduct an inspection, you can expect them to want to take photographs of the home's condition. Suppose you have piles of dirty clothes, broken appliances, animal feces, drug paraphernalia, or weapons within reach of children. In that case, these are the sort of items that almost assuredly will be photographed.
The benefit of you being at home when the inspection occurs is that you can deny them permission to take photographs. If you have a teenage child, keep in mind that they are probably old enough to give consent for the CPS employee to enter your home and for photographs to be taken.
Also- if you permit CPS to photograph your child about the investigation, then any injuries like bruising or cuts will be documented in that manner. These photos are never to be taken of a child's private parts unless the purpose is to document diaper rash in infants and toddlers. Be aware that the sex of your child will determine if a man or a woman CPS employee takes the photographs.
CPS will do a background search of you for their investigation
You will conduct a criminal background search at the outset of their investigation. Not only you but your spouse and any other adult living in your home will be looked into to determine if they pose a potential risk of harm to your child. Crimes involving drugs, violence, or sexual abuse will be considered heavily when deciding whether or not to have your child removed from your home. If jail time is in your past, this may be another factor that CPS considers. The thought is that if you are expected to spend time in jail in the future, your ability to provide and care for your child is almost zero at that point.
Another background search that CPS will perform on you is a CPS history report. If CPS has ever been involved with you, your spouse, or any other member of your family, they will find that out early in their investigation. The critical part of understanding is that if you have a CPS history, your investigator will look to see how you handled the other investigation. Suppose you cooperated with the prior investigation, and it was quickly closed. In that case, you will be in better shape regarding your current investigation than a person who refused to participate and made life difficult on the CPS employees who attempted to work with your family.
Finally, school records are often requested by CPS regarding your child. If your child has low grades, frequent absences, and disciplinary problems, you will likely need to account for those when speaking with your investigator. Many children with these sorts of problems are not always the victims of abuse or neglect. However, it can be argued that many children who do suffer abuse or neglect begin to exhibit the effects of abuse or neglect in their school work and attendance.
The conclusion of a CPS investigation
We've spent a great deal of time the past few days preparing for a CPS investigation and detailing what occurs when you are involved with one. Now we've reached a point where we can discuss what ultimately happens when CPS concludes an investigation into you and your family.
CPS will apply a designation to your case, no matter the result. If enough evidence is gathered that indicates that abuse or neglect of your child has occurred, then a Reason to Believe designation will be applied. On the other hand, if it is determined that no abuse or neglect has occurred, then a Ruled out label will be utilized.
Two designations that are not as clear to most people are "Unable to Complete" and "Unable to Determine." Unable to complete means that because your family moved, would not cooperate and a court order was not granted allowing forced cooperation, CPS was unable to complete an investigation into the allegations of abuse or neglect of your child. Unable to determine means that there was not enough evidence in existence to determine as to whether or not abuse or neglect of your child has occurred.
What CPS does after determining in your case- tomorrow's blog post topic.
Come back to the blog tomorrow to learn more about what happens after your case has concluded. In the meantime, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, would be honored to speak to you about your family law situation. We can answer your questions in a free-of-charge consultation here in our office. Families across our community have achieved positive results with our assistance and advocacy. Talk to us about how we can do the same for you and yours.