What is CPS Looking for During an Investigation?

When dealing with a CPS investigation, it’s essential to recognize the significant authority this agency holds. Child Protective Services (CPS), a key component of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, operates with the capability to enter homes without a search warrant and, in certain circumstances, to remove children without an initial court order. Although a court order is required by the next day to retain temporary custody, this presents a daunting challenge for families.

As CPS investigates, they leverage their substantial governmental power to assess situations of potential abuse and neglect. Their findings can profoundly affect your parental rights, sometimes leading to restrictions or impacting your employment opportunities in fields involving children. Understanding the protective role CPS plays, given their mission to shield the vulnerable—especially children reliant on adult guardians—can help you navigate this complex process. Being aware of the steps you can take to protect your rights during a CPS investigation in Texas is crucial to mitigating the impact on your family.

Time limits of a CPS investigation

CPS must begin and end their investigation within 30 days. The more complex your case is the more likely it is that you require diligent representation to defend yourself and protect the rights of your child. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here every day to defend parents against obtrusive CPS investigations. For a free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys please do not hesitate to call us today.

What do you need to know about CPS? 

During a CPS investigation, caseworkers and investigators shoulder significant responsibilities, often operating with limited training. Despite these challenges, most CPS employees strive to protect children and fulfill the agency’s mission to safeguard the vulnerable.

The process begins with an intake worker who receives all incoming reports. This worker makes the initial decision on whether the situation concerning your child warrants further investigation. Factors considered include the details provided in the report and the potential for further abuse or neglect.

If a risk of additional harm is identified, the case is classified as either Priority 1 or Priority 2. A Priority 1 case involves allegations that could lead to death or serious harm. Scenarios under this category might include a young child left unattended at home or a caregiver’s use of drugs or alcohol—situations that pose immediate danger to the child and require urgent response from CPS to contact and assess the child’s situation.

Priority 2 cases encompass all other types of abuse or neglect reports. It’s important to note that CPS investigations are focused on individuals responsible for the child’s welfare—such as parents, family members, or guardians. Additionally, CPS maintains investigation records, which aid in assessing whether a new report is related to a person previously investigated. This historical context helps in determining the appropriate priority level for each new case.

Who does a CPS investigator get connected to a case?

An intake worker from CPS will review the report made to the agency and then pass along the case to an investigator. The investigator will then investigate the allegations made and determine whether enough evidence exists to pursue a full-fledged investigation. If an investigator comes to your house to contact you, he or she must identify themselves and announce the purpose of their visit to your home. It would be up to you whether to speak to the investigator or to allow him or her into your home

How much time can an investigation take?

A CPS investigation must be completed within 30 days. On top of that, an investigator would need to turn in a report on their investigation revealing its results within 45 days. Keep this in mind when you are interacting with a CPS investigator- many times CPS employees will have little experience in conducting investigations when they speak to you about a case. With that said, you should try and find out the name and contact information of the investigator’s supervisor so you can speak to him or her with any questions that you may have. 

The more complex the facts are in your case the more complicated the case will become. CPS caseworkers need to sort through those facts with limited time and limited access to information. This could be a recipe for a hastily thrown-together report and investigation. Having an experienced family law attorney to walk with you through this type of investigation is critical. An attorney can help you communicate with the CPS caseworker and ensure that their report is accurate based on what is going on in the life of your family. 

Limitations of initial contact with an alleged perpetrator

Imagine the scenario where you’re a CPS investigator who has just received a report of child abuse. A freshly trained CPS caseworker knocks on your door, equipped with only the minimal details from the report, eager to delve into the potentially perilous circumstances involving the child.

The primary hurdle for a CPS investigator is the scant information typically provided in the initial report. Since anyone can file a report to CPS without a background check, and a seemingly serious allegation automatically triggers an investigation, the investigator primarily depends on the parent for further details. If the parent is uncooperative and no other informed adults are available, the CPS investigation may face significant challenges in progressing.

Making the decision to discuss an alleged incident of abuse or neglect with CPS is pivotal. The outcome of the CPS investigation can be highly uncertain, especially given that caseworkers often face heavy workloads and time constraints. It’s vital to thoughtfully evaluate your circumstances and what’s best for your child before engaging with the CPS team. This careful consideration will inform how you interact with the investigation, ensuring you’re prepared and proactive in dealing with the situation.

How do you know if CPS is conducting a detailed investigation?

CPS should begin by attempting to interview your child. If your child is not old enough to speak or cannot intelligently be asked questions then an interview will not take place. Once an interview of your child has either taken place or has been determined to not be possible then either you, your co-parent or both of you will be interviewed. Background checks of you and your co-parent will be conducted including a determination of whether CPS has ever investigated either of you previously. If your child has any siblings, then they may be interviewed as well. Your home may be investigated, as well, especially in cases that involve neglect. 

Can CPS refer a case to law enforcement?

One of the questions that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are frequently asked is whether a CPS investigation can be referred to law enforcement. The answer to that question is that your case can be transferred to law enforcement when child abuse is being alleged in a report. District Attorneys will notify CPS if they desire to be informed of any instances of abuse or neglect within their jurisdiction. 

What will the conclusion of the case look like?

If a report of abuse or neglect is substantiated based on the evidence turned up during an investigation, then a finding of “reason to believe” will be made by CPS. An unsubstantiated investigation would yield an “unable to determine” finding. A false report made to CPS would receive a finding of “ruled out.” If your family were to move during an investigation, then the caseworker would list that “family moved” in their final report. 

Will you be notified of the CPS finding once made?

Under the rules governing a CPS investigation, the agency is legally obliged to inform you and any other alleged perpetrators about the outcome once the investigation concludes. If the investigation results in a finding of “ruled out,” meaning the allegations were found to be without merit, the case can be sealed. You must receive this notification within fifteen days of the investigation’s end. Furthermore, any request by you to seal or remove information pertaining to the investigation must be processed within 90 days.

Conversely, if CPS concludes with a “reason to believe” finding, it indicates that the evidence suggests that abuse or neglect has likely occurred. This finding could be based on information you provided during the investigation or, if you chose not to participate, on the evidence CPS was able to gather independently. In such cases, you have the right to challenge the findings and are entitled to participate in an administrative hearing to appeal the decision. This notification process is a critical component of ensuring transparency and fairness in the CPS investigation process.

What can an attorney do to help you in a CPS case?

Securing a lawyer is a vital and forward-thinking step in managing a CPS investigation, particularly when faced with serious allegations like child abuse or neglect. These charges can profoundly impact your family life, work, and most importantly, your relationship with your child. By hiring an experienced family law attorney, you can more thoroughly and effectively engage in the CPS process.

Should you learn of a CPS investigation prior to any interviews with your child conducted outside your supervision, you have several proactive options. It’s possible that CPS may not immediately go to your child’s school or daycare to interview them without your permission. Depending on the case specifics, CPS might first attempt to contact you directly to organize an interview with both you and your child.

In such scenarios, having an attorney is crucial. Your attorney can issue a formal notification to CPS and their legal representatives declaring that you have legal representation. This communication ensures that your attorney receives all notices about court motions or CPS meetings that may affect your family, especially if there is a risk that your child could be removed from your home. Engaging an attorney ensures you are adequately represented and kept informed throughout the CPS investigation.

Is it against the law to not participate in a CPS investigation?

No law in place states you must participate in a CPS investigation involving your child. This can complicate the case to an extent and throw CPS off. Most parents will participate and talk with CPS about the investigation and what is going on. When you choose not to participate this not only limits the amount of relevant information that the caseworker will have access to but may help to end the case sooner. Depending upon the circumstances the attorney for CPS may file a motion in court which allows them to conduct a more thorough investigation if you will not talk to them voluntarily. 

If a motion to investigate the matter is granted by the court, then CPS gains the ability to interview your child and their siblings. At this point, you need to speak to CPS about what is happening. Law enforcement may accompany CPS in their next attempt to interview you, your child, or any other family member. The failure of you to comply with interview requests at this point could result in you facing legal penalties. 

How can you protect your rights and those of your child during a CPS case?

In conclusion, navigating a CPS investigation requires a proactive and informed approach. Ensure you attend every hearing concerning your child’s case and instruct your attorney to rigorously question CPS about the necessary steps to reunite with your child. CPS is known for its minimal information sharing, so don’t hesitate to ask thorough questions—this is due diligence, not overstepping.

Communication with your attorney should be frequent and open. You’re not being a nuisance; staying informed is critical when your child is involved in a CPS case concerning allegations of abuse or neglect. A skilled family law attorney should not only defend you but also educate you on the complexities of your case.

Moreover, actively participate in meetings discussing your child’s permanency plan. These sessions are crucial for understanding CPS’s intentions for your child’s long-term care and may reveal insights into the strategies that might be employed against you in court. By being well-prepared and informed, you can more effectively advocate for your child’s best interests during a CPS investigation.

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 what the consequences to your family may be if a CPS case is filed. 

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