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What happens if CPS won't help?

It can sometimes feel like you are all alone when it comes to a Child Protective Services case. IF CPS comes knocking on your day and asks permission to speak to your child or you about a matter involving abuse or neglect of your little one then it is likely that they will have your attention. The last thing that you want is for your child to be harmed in some way. However, you may have also heard that CPS does not help children as much as it makes the lives of families difficult during a CPS case. Who can you believe in a circumstance like this?

It's hard to trust people when you are in a CPS case. Did you know that anyone can make an anonymous report to CPS about alleged abuse or neglect of a child? It’s true. The person just must, in good faith, believe that he or she saw your child be abused or neglected. Or he or she heard something credible about your child being abused or neglected. Either way, the person can contact CPS and make a report about what they observed or heard. From there, CPS will investigate the report to determine if it is credible and if an investigation needs to be opened. 

Many calls and messages that CPS receives are not investigated because there is a lack of information or other limited availability of witnesses to corroborate what was said by the reporter. As I am sure you can imagine there are also likely to be persons who make false reports for one reason or another. These false reports can be especially damning and can be enough to throw a family in a loop. Do not underestimate the damage that can be done to a family due to a false report of abuse or neglect of a child. It isn't necessarily something where these reports can be swept aside once discredited. You may be curious about who made the report to CPS and whether the person could do it again. 

Even if CPS is investigating a case involving your family it can feel like they are doing everything they can to disrupt your family life and make your circumstances more difficult than they need to be. One day your family is rolling right along your merry way, and the next someone comes to your doorstep from CPS and interrupts that life. You may feel betrayed, upset, and frustrated. These emotions would be warranted especially if you have no idea what any allegation of abuse or neglect of your child could be about. 

The other major component to this equation is that most of you have never had to interact with CPS before. Have you ever gone to someone’s house for the first time and not known what to expect? Maybe you weren't sure what to do or so? Was it ok to sit on the couch or was it a fancy couch that was really for decoration? You had to figure out all these things quickly so that you could interact with the people effectively. The last thing you wanted to do was embarrassed yourself or the people that you were with. 

The same sort of idea applies to CPS cases, as well. CPS investigators are not the easiest people to get a read on. They are professional and have a job to do, but they don’t exactly offer helpful information at every turn. Sometimes you can feel like you have to drag information out of them to learn anything about your child's case or investigation. You will be given the supervisor's information who is working with that person but getting a hold of him or her on the phone can be a chore in and of itself. How can you be sure how to handle yourself in a case like this that is professional yet strong on behalf of your children?

In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss some tips and tricks on how to interact with CPS during an investigation. Not only may you be concerned about how to conduct yourself in an investigation, but you will also be invested in the case from an emotional perspective. Balancing these competing interests is tough but we are going to walk through some information that may be of help to you and your family both now and in the long term. Nobody wants to be involved in a CPS case but if you are being investigated by CPS it does not mean that you must lose your mind and forget how to interact with other people. 

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, we recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video to answer questions and meet with you for a free-of-charge consultation. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about CPS cases and also to have your questions answered by a friendly and knowledgeable attorney. 

Be polite-it costs you nothing 

Again, nobody is saying that you are going to be thrilled to find out that your child is the subject of a CPS investigation. Finding that out can be enough to make your blood boil- in many ways. The way that CPS notifies you of an investigation is not pleasant, either. You can be at the breakfast table eating with your family when you receive a knock on the door. When you open the door, it may be a CPS investigator there to introduce themselves and to ask if they can speak to you about a report that they received about abuse or neglect of your child. They may even have a badge to show you and we are unpleasant to talk to. Their job is not to make you feel comfortable, but rather to do their job and decide about abuse or neglect of your child. 

That feeling of going to the principal's office as a kid when you had no idea why you were being called in there is nothing compared to learning for the first time why CPS may be investigating your family. Some of us may be threatened by the idea of government intervention in our lives. To be a part of a CPS investigation can be enough to cause us to feel like we are being taken advantage of by a system that has become too powerful. No matter how pleasant the CPS investigator maybe it is normal to feel threatened by him or her. 

Nobody appreciates being surprised at home by news of an investigation. It can be scary to learn about the abuse or neglect of your child. A CPS caseworker should know that their very presence is enough to frighten and intimidate a person. Remember that just as you are forming an opinion of the CPS caseworker for the first time so, too, is the CPS caseworker forming an opinion of you. If you act in a way that is unprofessional or unbecoming that may be a hard image for the investigator to shake no matter what the rest of their investigation turns up. Do not underestimate the importance of building a strong working relationship with this person. Being decent and professional, no matter how you feel about the investigation on the inside, is incredibly important for you and your child. Do not forget your manners and do not assume that the investigator “has it out for you” simply because he or she is investigating your child and your family about abuse or neglect. 

You do not need to let CPS in your home without a court order or warrant

Our instinct is to be courteous, polite, and otherwise hospitable when it comes to letting people see things that they ask to look at. Many people would allow a police officer to view the contents of a bag or the trunk of their vehicle upon being pulled over. If a CPS caseworker asks that you let them into your home, then you have every right to tell them no. That doesn’t mean that you should be rude or over the top angry that he or she would ask. It’s their job to collect information. Their asking to come into the house is no different than any other person off the street who would ask your permission to do so. 

You can ask to see if the person has a court order that permits them to enter. It is likely that if he or she has an emergency court order that a law enforcement officer would be accompanying him or her. It is not customary for a CPS case worker to come to your home to enter and likely remove your child without law enforcement to be present for the safety of all parties involved. As you could probably imagine violence in a situation like this is not out of the realm of possibility under some circumstances. Law enforcement being present is intended to decrease the likelihood of this happening.

Simply put, you should be steadfast and consistent in your denial of their ability to enter your home. Under no circumstances should you allow the person to enter your home without a court order. Ask them to produce the court order if they say that they have one, while you’re at it. Once you let the person into your house there is no telling what he or she can find and use later to remove your child or even to try and remove your child at that moment. This does not mean that your child is going to be removed immediately or at any point in a CPS case. However, the possibility exists that it could happen and for that reason, you need to be vigilant. 

Who can take possession of your child if he or she is removed from your home?

If your child is removed from your home by CPS then you need to start thinking of a person who may be able to step in and house your child for as long as he or she is not able to remain in your home. Foster care would be the option for your child if you are unable to produce a family member or other individual to house your child during this time. While I am sure that there are a great many well-meaning and competent foster families out there, the reality is that you would prefer to have your child live with someone you know and trust rather than a foster family. 

Keep in mind that the most likely source of adoptive parents in Texas is a foster family. I am not saying that your child is going to be adopted by their foster family or that your parental rights are going to be terminated because of this CPS case. However, the likelihood exists that it could happen, and it is something to consider. It would be preferable to not be put in that situation in the first place. Do not assume that this could not happen to you or your child. Instead, submit names, addresses, and contact information for persons that you would prefer your child remain with rather than a foster family. You will be happy that you did. 

Never admit to something that you did not do

CPS representatives can be persuasive. First, there is always the concern that any wrong words that come out of your mouth could be used to have your child removed from your home. This is a frightening proposition to be sure. For that reason, most people are a bit on edge when it comes to interacting with CPS. What you say to a CPS employee can be used against you in an investigation even if you are making comments or generally are talking about a subject casually with a caseworker. Remember to keep your guard up, be professional and speak to CPS like what you are saying will be transcribed. 

If a CPS representative asks you to admit to something that you did not do, you absolutely should not do so. Even if the person is telling you that by admitting to something you may have an easier road to ending the case or having your child returned home to you. The general thought I would share with you is that a CPS employee is not coming out to your home to investigate why a claim being made against you is incorrect. Rather, from my experience, a CPS employee investigates to determine whether a report made to CPS can be substantiated. For that reason, do not assume that information that you provide to CPS will be used in a way that is at all advantageous to you. 

Work with an attorney who has experience successfully defending parents from CPS

It is not enough to hire an attorney or even a family law attorney once you become involved in a CPS investigation. You may think that all attorneys are created equal or that any lawyer can defend you from having your family life torn up or your children removed from your home. However, a CPS case is a different breed of the case from even most family law cases. It pays to have an attorney who knows how to navigate the CPS case process and who can advise you competently. 

A CPS case involves a lot of moving pieces. The timeline of a CPS case is not determined by you. Rather, there is a set timeline for CPS cases that your attorney needs to be aware of and then needs to help you manage as best as possible. Therefore, hiring a family law attorney who has experience in CPS cases specifically is incredibly important. You can schedule a consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys to discuss the subject matter of your case and your concerns as you head into a CPS case. It is important to understand that you are not alone in this process but that the help you can provide can make a tremendous difference in the overall trajectory of your case. 

Do not assume the worst just because CPS contacts you about a report to their office involving abuse or neglect of your child. However, you do need to act intentionally within the case and not make mistakes that are unforced or unnecessary. While you can read as much as you would like on this subject there is no substitute for having an experienced family law attorney available to guide and advocate on your behalf with a judge. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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