Can CPS Photograph Your House and Request Your Child’s Medical Records

When Child Protective Services (CPS) enters your life it is never a welcome visit. CPS is entrusted to help children who are at risk of being abused or neglected. The agency receives reports anonymously through its tip line whenever abuse or neglect of a child is suspected. As a result, you can be reported for abuse or neglect and not even know it. One day you could be minding your own business when you hear a knock at the door. As you open the door, what would you do if you came face to face with a CPS investigator? 

This is a reality that many Texas parents face. If you are one of those parents, then you have come to the right place as far as trying to gain insight into how you can best proceed. An investigation into your child’s well-being is no laughing matter. There are significant consequences to a CPS case if it does show that you engaged in abuse or neglect of your child. Even if you are ultimately found to have not engaged in this behavior, it is still unpleasant to have to participate in a CPS investigation. 

This is where having good legal advice and representation comes into play. You are not going to be assigned an attorney at the initial stages of a CPS investigation. Rather, it is only when your parental rights are in jeopardy of being terminated that an attorney may be provided to you. If you wait until that stage of the case to start thinking about the importance of an attorney, it may be too late. Rather, you should think critically early in the investigation about what you and your child can gain from having an attorney.

In today’s blog post from the experienced CPS defense attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss whether a CPS investigator can take photographs of your home during an investigation. Additionally, we are going to cover whether the state can request copies of your child’s medical records. Hang with us today and we will walk you through various insights that can help you during a CPS case. You do not have to go it alone against CPS. Our attorneys and staff are here to walk alongside you.

If you have any questions or want to find out more about our law office, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our licensed CPS defense attorneys know what it takes to help people in your shoes. We do not sit idly by and allow our clients to be taken advantage of. Rather, we take the fight to CPS. We know what it means to have CPS prying into your life. We will work with you to stop the investigation in its tracks and return your family to normal as quickly as possible.

What should you expect in a CPS home visit?

When a report comes into CPS the caseworker will not tell you the identity of the person who made the report. Rather, you will be contacted within two days of the report coming in. A CPS investigator will come to your house, contact you, and ask to come into your house to speak to you further. This is enough to cause most people to lose their cool. Imagine a situation where you are contacted randomly by CPS. Would your mind immediately start to think about the agency taking possession of your child from you? I think most of us would start to think this way. 

These are known as CPS home visits. You do not need to let CPS into your home during one of these visits. CPS may obtain a court order which allows them to enter your home. In that case, the agency will likely come to your home with a police officer. However, that first visit from CPS will be unannounced but will not come with a court order that requires that you allow them entry into your home. It is completely voluntary if you even answer the door after they knock.

When you are contacted by CPS you should understand a few things. They are not police officers, but they are in your home to look for evidence that will substantiate their case. Remember- CPS does not come into your home with an innocent until proven guilty attitude. This is not a courtroom. CPS has received information that leads them to believe that you may have abused or neglected your child. As a result, they are looking for anything in your home that can be used as evidence to back that assertion up. 

One of the ways that their investigator will attempt to collect evidence is to take photographs of your home. Remember, you can ask them to stop taking photos and you do not have to continue to allow the caseworker to be able to access your home. Rather, you can ask the caseworker to please leave. He or she may return with a court order that allows him or her to continue searching your home. However, for the time being, you do not have to allow him or her continued access to your home. 

CPS will be looking for obvious signs of neglect. Do you have enough food and water in the home? Do the kids each have a bed? How many kids are sleeping per room? What is the cleanliness of the home like? Are there pipes, cigarettes, or drug paraphernalia out in the open and within access of the children? 

The safety of the children is based on the cleanliness of the home in the opinion of CPS. In this case, I do not mean a load of laundry dumped on the couch that you just haven’t had an opportunity to fold yet. I mean things like bugs, dirty diapers, old dishes with food on them, and trash lying around. If you can perform some deep cleaning before CPS gains access to your home that would allow you to present a better image to them. 

What sort of hazards are in your home that need to be fixed? These could be things that can cause your children to fall, slip, or otherwise injure themselves. A loose board on the steps or a handrail that is not connected to the wall are two conditions that immediately come to mind. The last thing I wanted to mention was how your firearms are secured while not using them. You need to have a gun safe for your firearms. Keeping them on top of a bookshelf or under your mattress is dangerous. 

Will CPS give you notice of their intent to visit your home?

CPS does not have to give you any type of notice before visiting your home. They will collect their information from the report made to them and then will visit you. Sometimes these visits come when you least expect them to. At least at the initial visit, your home will probably not be in the sort of condition that you would be proud to show off to the public, so to speak. This is what CPS wants. They do not want your home to be in tip-top shape when they come for the first time. Rather, they would prefer to catch you by surprise so they can see what is available in your home. 

When CPS comes to your front door it will not be in secret. The CPS investigator will tell you their name and that they work for CPS. Remember- you can politely decline their request to enter your home. You can leave him or her at your door and go about your business. As I mentioned earlier, CPS may arrive at your home with a police officer. Unless there is a warrant or a court order from a judge even the presence of a police officer does not give CPS the authority to enter your home without your permission. 

When CPS comes to your home the investigator may ask to speak to you. If you are not available, then CPS may ask another adult or even a child who appears old enough to give consent for permission to enter your home. If that permission is granted then you can expect CPS to enter your home, take photos, and begin their investigation. However, once you find out about this you are free to withdraw your consent at any time. CPS must leave your home immediately at that point. 

Is it smart to permit CPS to enter your home?

This is one of the most important questions that you can ask yourself once it becomes apparent that CPS is trying to speak to you. Should you allow the caseworker access to your home voluntarily? When CPS has a court order, or a law enforcement officer drops by with a warrant then you have no choice but to allow the person access to your home. Otherwise, you have a decision to make- to let the person enter your home, or not.  

To understand your options and whether it makes sense to allow the CPS caseworker to enter your home it is necessary to walk through your circumstances first. Granting permission to CPS to enter your home can potentially be a smart decision to make under specific circumstances. First, if you believe that there is an obvious misunderstanding going on then allowing CPS to speak to you, and your family and investigate the home could lead to an investigation that concludes sooner rather than later.

It is possible that CPS was given bad information about your family or some incident that was misinterpreted. Imagine a situation where a neighbor thought she saw your kids running around in the front yard with no parent. Meanwhile, you were sitting on the front porch just out of eyesight. That would certainly change the circumstances involved with the report. You may be able to point that out to CPS, let CPS speak to your mother or a friend who was with you on that date, and then the CPS investigation could come to an end.

On the other hand, there may not be as easy of an explanation in your case as the hypothetical situation that I just laid out for you. Even if you provide CPS an explanation as to what happened in that situation you may still need to interact with them further. You may have had multiple reports come in about the same incident. In any event, the more you speak and provide information to CPS it may not go in your favor. 

There is nothing wrong with politely declining the request to enter your home and instead calling an experienced CPS defense attorney from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to speak to you about your case. It is not a given that CPS will “go easy on you” just because you voluntarily allow them entry into your home. If you have anything in plain sight that could cause them to think that there may be additional reason to think that abuse or neglect occurred you may be in for an even longer investigation. 

Is it smart to NOT permit CPS to enter your home?

On the other hand, you must ask yourself whether it makes sense to deny CPS an opportunity to enter your home and to speak to you and your child. This is not a situation like in a criminal courtroom where, if you plead the 5th Amendment, the fact finder (jury or judge) cannot use this as a reason to believe that you are hiding something. A CPS investigator is free to make any presumptions he or she would like about why you would not allow him or her to enter your home. Depending upon the allegations made against you, denying entry to your home may cause CPS to immediately seek a court order that grants the agency permission to enter.

This is especially the case if a CPS investigator believes that your child is at serious risk of immediate harm if the agency is not able to enter your home. For instance, if CPS receives any allegation of sexual or physical abuse then the agency may decide to try and reach out to you immediately for permission to enter your home. If not granted that permission the next step would be for the caseworker to contact the attorneys for CPS who could file a motion with the court to obtain an order which permits them to enter under exigent (emergency) circumstances.

From there, it is possible that your child could be removed from your home because of these concerns found in the report made to CPS. These concerns may be substantiated by what is discovered in the CPS investigation or walk-through of your home. The removal may be temporary, or it could result in a longer removal of your child from your home and your care. CPS does not have to take photos of the interior or exterior of your home, but they can as part of their investigation. 

Can CPS request medical records of your child as part of their investigation?

Once CPS gains a foothold in your life, they can take steps towards acquiring information about you and your children. For instance, CPS would not be able to immediately request medical records associated with the care of your children. However,  they would be able to do so if CPS gains temporary conservatorship over your child. At that point, CPS would be acting as a parent in that regard. As a conservator, CPS would be able to access educational and healthcare-related materials about your child. 

What does this mean for you? If your child has gone to see a doctor related to an injury, then you can expect CPS to seek out that provider and request records. If you are considering what to do to prevent this from happening there are some steps you can take. Hiring an experienced family law attorney gives you the best opportunity to avoid a situation where CPS can get their hands on private healthcare information about your child. 

CPS cases are easy for families. Nor are they ever the same for any two families. The information in this blog post should be helpful to your family but to gain a powerful insight into matters specific to you and your child please reach out to the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We work alongside families like yours every day in service to them. There are steps you can take to prepare yourself and help your child We are available to talk to about whatever your particular needs are.

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 to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family may be impacted by the filing of divorce, child custody, or CPS case. 

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