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Ultimate Guide to Surviving a CPS Investigation

Feeling powerless as a parent is not the position that you want to find yourself in. Unfortunately, many parents believe that this is the position that they find themselves in when Child Protective Services knocks on their door and attempts to inquire about a report of abuse or neglect of their child. However, if you are the subject of a CPS investigation then you need to know that you do have rights which can be exercised in conjunction with an investigation. The key is having the knowledge and confidence to act upon those rights to protect yourself and your child from CPS overreach.

Once an investigation is opened into your family, a CPS caseworker will come to your home to speak with you and your child (depending upon the age of him or her). These caseworkers work as the investigative arm of CPS and will ask you questions related to the information contained in the CPS report. The caseworker may speak to you directly outside your home and then ask you to come inside to inspect the home. Any people that have a close relationship with your child or are physically close to your child on a normal day may be contacted by CPS. You will probably be asked to provide their contact information to CPS so that the investigator can contact them directly.

From the beginning to the end of an investigation you can expect that CPS will interview your child (or will request to do), will interview any other reported victims of abuse or neglect, will speak to your immediate family, any other reported perpetrators, and will visit your home on at least one occasion. A risk assessment is common at this stage to gauge the possible future risk of harm to your child. A safety plan is a common next step in the process once the initial investigation is complete.

Family-Based Safety Services

Family Based Safety Services act as an alternative to having your child removed from your home. It may result in you placing your child in the home of a family member or friend temporarily until any concerns over the safety and well-being of your child can be resolved. However, keep in mind that these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and we cannot say whether your child will be able to remain in your home or not.

An in-person meeting with you will occur once your case has been transferred to the FBSS department of CPS. A family team meeting should also be scheduled which allows for all parties involved in the case to meet to discuss the concerns of CPS, you, and your family members concerning the health, safety, and well-being of your child. If you can complete the FBSS process, then your CPS case will be closed. However, if you are not successful in completing the FBSS process then your case may be evaluated again, and your child may be removed from your home and placed into temporary CPS care.

From the perspective of an attorney, when you choose to participate in the FBSS process you may be able to help reduce the likelihood that your child is going to be removed from your home. However, the devil is in the details, so you need to be sure that you are working with an experienced family law attorney before agreeing to any portion of a CPS investigator encouraging involvement with FBSS. Remember that anything that you do or say in conjunction with the investigation may be used in a courtroom proceeding in the future. To best equip yourself for this possibility it is a good idea to reach out to speak with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

What does CPS do and what role does it serve in Texas?

From the outset of one of these investigations, one of the toughest parts is that some of you reading this blog post may not know what CPS does or the function that it serves. CPS is a subpart of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Their mission is to protect vulnerable populations in our state- specifically children and the elderly. CPS initiates investigations into possible incidents involving abuse and neglect of children. Their obligation to do so is based on their job descriptions. When a report comes into CPS about abuse or neglect of a child they must investigate. It is not a personal vendetta against you or your family.

Once CPS has made it known to you that your child is the subject of an investigation then you have some options to consider. First, you should think about the safety and health of your child, primarily. Yes, this can be a tumultuous time for you and your family but primarily your child’s well-being is at stake. You should not lose sight of that during this investigation. If CPS determines that there is no merit to the report of abuse or neglect, and it appears that your child is safe then the investigation will be closed. Until then, you need to be vigilant in how you conduct yourself and interact with CPS personnel.

Next, you need to understand that even though CPS has the power to investigate your life and that of your child, you still retain rights that you need to be able to assert in conjunction with an investigation. Examples of these rights include the ability to deny CPS access to your home unless they have a court order or warrant which allows them to access your home without your consent. Additionally, you do not need to speak to CPS and can deny CPS access to your child- at least initially. Remember that what you say to CPS in an interview or interaction can be used against you both in the investigation itself and later in court.

You can and should notify CPS that you are looking to hire an attorney to defend yourself and ensure that the CPS investigation is proceeding according to the law. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are experienced in helping mothers and fathers defend themselves in conjunction with a CPS investigation. We offer free-of-charge consultations where you can learn more about this process and speak to an attorney who can advocate for you and your child in the face of an intimidating CPS investigation.

Interviewing you and your child

The CPS caseworker assigned to investigate your family will likely ask you early on in their investigation whether an interview of you and/or your child will be possible. A visit from a CPS caseworker with your child could take place at their school or in your home. You can tell a CPS caseworker that you do not permit them to interview your child without you being present. At this point, a CPS caseworker can contact their legal department to obtain a court order which allows them to speak to your child without your permission. Interviews are usually recorded.

You do not have to speak to CPS at any point about anything. While you have a right to hire an attorney to represent you before speaking to CPS CPS doesn't need to provide you with an attorney before an interview. What you talk to the investigator about can be used against you, potentially, later in the case if CPS believes that it is in the best interests of your child to have him or her removed from your home. Possible criminal charges which could stem from a CPS investigation are another serious matter for you to consider. Before you speak to a CPS investigator in a situation like this it is a wise choice to speak to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We can provide information and analysis of your situation relating to both the family and criminal law components of your case.

Interviews with family members

As a part of the CPS investigation, a caseworker may reach out to you about speaking to your family members or may request that you provide them with their contact information. The family members that CPS will be most interested in talking to would be anyone who regularly provides care for your child or a relative who lives in your home with you and your child. Criminal background checks are common at this stage of the investigation, as well. Anyone who is asked to be interviewed by CPS does not have to agree to the interview. Participation is voluntary and no one who agrees to an interview is entitled to representation. The important thing to take note of is that what is learned in these interviews can be used by CPS during a possible removal trial in your case.

Providing documentation

You may also be asked to provide the CPS caseworker with information and documents which include things like shot records medical records or documents from your child's school. If you are unable to provide these documents to the CPS investigator, then the investigator may ask you to sign a piece of paper known as a release. This release will allow the caseworker to contact the medical provider or your child's school to obtain the documents directly. You should always ask for a copy of any document that you signed on behalf of your child. Also, you should keep in mind that at any point in time, you can usually request that the authorization or release that you signed be revoked.

What is a home visit like from CPS?

A CPS investigator will ask you permission to conduct a home visit wherever your child lives. The basic purpose of this home visit is to ensure that the environment where your child lives is safe and appropriate for a child of their age. Just like with an interview request, participation in a home visit is optional on your part. You can ask CPS about the extent of their home visit and what you need to do to prepare. That may be because CPS is trying to make sure that there are no dangerous conditions in your home. Or it could be that CPS is interested in determining whether you have clean drinking water and food for your child.

What is CPS trying to determine during their investigation?

At the end of the day, CPS is attempting to determine the risk to your child in your home. After an investigation, CPS will conduct a risk assessment and determine the level of risk in your home by assigning you a risk level. The first risk level is “risk indicated.” Risk indicated means that a CPS caseworker has determined there are risk factors identified in your home and that you and your family are not willing or able to utilize the resources made available to you to ensure that your child has a safe and comfortable living environment.

Next, your home can be termed as a risk-controlled environment. When a risk-controlled environment is assessed then the caseworker will decide that there are risk factors in your home but that you and your family have shown a willingness to participate in community resources which can ensure that your child is safe and stable in the home regardless of those risk factors. Additionally, he will have developed a plan with CPS to eliminate or reduce the occurrence of those risk factors noted in their investigation.

Finally, if there are little to no risk factors apparent in your home no significant factors finding will be made. This occurs when the CPS caseworker looks at the home, listens to interviews, and then determines that your child is not at risk of harm and that there are no circumstances that can create a risk for your child in your home. This is the best-case scenario for you to find yourself in as it pertains to a CPS investigation of you and your child.

Placing your child in another home voluntarily

When CPS becomes involved in your life the CPS caseworker may speak to you after their investigation has begun to see if you are willing to voluntarily place your child with another person. This is typically done in conjunction with a safety plan. If your child has to be placed outside of your home, you may be allowed to select a friend or a family member for your child to stay with. Ideally, this would be your friend or family member that your child is familiar with and is comfortable staying with for as long as it's necessary to reduce the risk of harm to your child in your home.

CPS must approve any person that you would like to be the placement home for your child. A criminal background search and history for the proposed adult with whom your child will be staying must be completed before placement. A home visit will be conducted where CPS will determine whether the home is an appropriate location for your child. It is possible that you cannot provide a suitable friend or family member for your child to stay with. In that event, the CPS caseworker will need to place your child into foster care temporarily while your investigation is ongoing.

Any person that you think will be able to provide your child with a safe and healthy environment while your case is ongoing should be provided to CPS. Think about the people in your life and judge them based on their lack of a prior history with CPS, not having a criminal record, experience caring for children, and having the type of living environment and home that is appropriate for your child. Once you have determined who matches up with these criteria then you should provide that list to the CPS caseworker.

The conclusion of a CPS investigation

When the CPS investigation comes to an end the CPS caseworker would issue a finding regarding the report of abuse or neglect that was made to them previously. A reason to believe the finding is appropriate when the outcome of the investigation is that it is determined that the abuse or neglect reported did occur. If the CPS caseworker believes that the reported abuse or neglect did occur but that there is insufficient evidence to decide, then an unable to determine the outcome will result. If it is determined that the reported abuse or neglect did not occur or if the perpetrator of the abuse and neglect is younger than nine years of age, then a ruled-out finding will result. Finally, if the CPS caseworker is unable to complete their investigation for whatever reason, then this is the finding that will be made in your case.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 2
  2. What can be done if CPS has taken possession of your child in Texas?
  3. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 3
  4. Child Protective Services: Investigation Essentials for Texas Families
  5. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation
  6. Navigating a CPS case as a non-offending parent
  7. How to Prepare for a CPS Interview in Texas: A Comprehensive Step-By-Step Guide
  8. What Happens If You Run From Cps In Texas
  9. How far back does CPS background check go?
  10. What happens if CPS won't help?
  11. How can a mother lose a CPS custody battle?
  12. What Kinds of Questions can CPS ask a Child?
  13. What happens if I ignore CPS?
  14. How does CPS decide whether to open a case?
  15. How you can work effectively with CPS during an investigation into your family
  16. Saying goodbye to your child after a Child Protective Services visitation session

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