When Child Protective Services (CPS) is investigation an allegation of abuse or neglect against your and/or your spouse, it common for case workers to investigate and conduct interviews of your children, you and other family members. These are some of the more stressful aspects of a CPS case in that you may not know what you should and should not say and how to generally approach these interviews.
Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will focus on what CPS looks for in these interviews and why they are conducted in the first place. In the event that alcohol or drug abuse is being alleged within the report of abuse or neglect I will inform you of some knowledge that CPS believes regarding parents who engage in drug and alcohol abuse
The behavior of your child tells CPS a lot
CPS case workers are trained to remember that all behavior of a child has meaning and importance. If you or your spouse abuse drugs or alcohol the case worker will understand and believe that this behavior has traumatized your child. The trauma is a result of you and your child’s relationship becoming frayed due to your substance abuse issues. Your behavior associated with utilizing substances, the people you associate with and any involvement with those people in your home were likely witnessed by your child especially if he or she is young.
A interviewer will allow your child to explain how he or she feels. Basically the interviewer is trained to allow your child to do the work, essentially, for him or her. The responses that a child can give unprovoked are much more credible than those that he or she could get from “pulling” answers or responses from your child. What this also does is allow your child to build a comfort level with the interviewer. Asking questions about possibly traumatic events can cause your child to retreat into an emotionally protective position that makes additional interviews difficult.
A case worker will often times come to your home to observe you and your children. They will be looking for behaviors like irritability and clinginess from your child. This sort of behavior can be indication that there has been a retardation in their development due to trauma like witnessing substance abuse in the home. Being emotionally distressed and reporting difficulty sleeping can also be signs of trauma in the home.
When CPS engages with you and your spouse in an interview
CPS, surprisingly, does not go into these interviews with the assumption that you love your alcohol more than your children, or that you must be a bad parent if a report was made about you. Their training is to avoid oversimplified conclusions like this. Remember- the goal of a CPS caseworker is not to create strife in your family or to remove your children from the home. Ideally a CPS caseworker will identify problems with your help and then assist you with removing those problems and bettering how your family functions as a whole.
If it is true that you are abusing drugs and alcohol know that CPS realizes that people turn to substance abuse for a variety of reasons. It is not as easy as applying one set of criteria from one family and using it on your investigation as well. In fact, your addiction may be the result of trauma that you yourself experienced as a youth or earlier in life. Often times your substance abuse started out as a dependence on a medication prescribed for pain relief.
Improving your skills as a parent may be something that you retract from but know that the CPS caseworker will be working to help you identify your strengths as a parent and to utilize those strengths to improve their home. Your support network- family and close friends- will be tapped to assist you with your recovery. These people may also be utilized as temporary homes for your children if an investigation yields that your home is not safe currently for your child. This does not mean your child will not return- just that you, your spouse and the case worker will need to work together to see to it that any threats of future harm are eliminated.
Honesty is a two way street in a CPS investigation
Despite what you may have heard about CPS, they will work to be honest with you about the purpose of an investigation and about the anticipated future course of your case. This does not mean that every prediction and timetable will be 100% accurate, but it does mean that they will not purposefully mislead you. I recommend that you at all times communicate with CPS and be honest with them as well. Lying or misleading a CPS caseworker is no way to get your child back earlier or to have CPS involvement cease in your life.
Assessments made about your family during a CPS investigation
The process of gathering information and then utilizing the information gathered to make informed decisions and recommendations is the central component to any CPS investigation. These assessments are done not only at the initial stages of an investigation but throughout the case. A common method of assessing a family is to ask questions. We have already discussed interviews that CPS can conduct within your investigation.
When the issue of substance abuse rears its head in an investigation, CPS will shift the responsibility of achieving successful outcomes to your support system rather than from the CPS employee. CPS would prefer that you and your family develop successful methods to handle and deal with your problems than to constantly be the ones infringing upon your family on issues like these. CPS will ask questions of you and your children in order to help this process along.
Asking your children how and when they feel safe is pretty common to encounter. The CPS case worker will want your child to visualize what a safe situation feels like and will help your child to come to view that scenario. Something that you may never have thought to ask your child (and it, in fact, may not be appropriate in your opinion) would be to ask your child how he or she would like you and your spouse to behave in the future. A follow question would be to ask your child if there was a time or place where your child believed that you or your spouse displayed behavior that showed you were ready to change your behaviors.
When addressing you and your spouse the questions will be tailored around your being able to recall times when you were abusing substances in your life. Where were you living? Who was living with you and under what conditions? Helping you to see that a sober life is possible and the conditions that need to present to make that a reality is the motivation behind this line of questioning.
Finally, the CPS case worker will want to assess you and your hopes and dreams for your child and your family. Allowing the caseworker to see that you are serious and adamant of getting better for the sake of your family can help that caseworker better support you and your family during an investigation.
Warning Signs during an Investigation and CPS utilizing teamwork- tomorrow’s blog topics
A CPS investigation can throw you for a loop if you do not know what to expect. Stay tuned to our website this week and we will go over many areas of a CPS investigation to help you and your family if you are facing one currently.
If you feel that your family needs strong representation during a CPS case, look no further than the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our attorneys are experienced with handling family law cases including CPS matters on behalf of southeast Texas families. To speak to an attorney please contact today for a free of charge consultation.