One issue that I would like to touch on at the outset of this blog post is that if CPS becomes aware of potential abuse or neglect of your child during the course of your investigation it can use that as a reason to continue an investigation or even remove your child from your home. The reason does not have to be detailed in their initial investigation report. Their investigation is able to uncover all sorts of information that can either be used to your advantage or disadvantage. Keep this in mind as you ready yourself and your home for CPS involvement.
CPS is going to talk to people- a lot of them
CPS has the ability to speak to a number of different persons associated with your family and you should expect them to seek information from you in order to reach out them either in person or on the phone. Their questions for these folks will center around what they know in relation to any event or series of events that could have resulted in the neglect or abuse or your child. These collateral contacts will make up a big part of the CPS case that involves your family.
You, your spouse or any other person (including a child) that may have something to do with the abuse or neglect of your child will be questioned in all likelihood. For instance, if you have any persons living with you that are not related to you or your child CPS will want to speak to these people. Roommates, significant others, other children in the home and people like this are what I have in mind.
If you took your child to the doctor as a result of bug bites from an infestation in your home or for a broken bone suffered from an incident with your spouse the doctor will be questioned as well. If a teacher discovered the situation and made a report to CPS you will not know about their identity but he or she will be questioned by CPS just the same.
Do you actually have to talk to CPS?
This is a fair question to ask. Nobody in your day to day life can force you to speak to them if they ask you a question. The same rule applies in a CPS investigation. If CPS seeks to interview you or come into your home you do not have to grant him or her permission to do so. They can attempt to ask you questions until the investigator is blue in the face but you can issue no response.
The risk that you run by doing so is that the CPS caseworker may believe that you are hiding something or are not willing to speak because your responses will lead to a finding that you abused or neglected your child. There is no fifth amendment protections in a situation like this- you are likely not being accused of a crime. On top of that you are in not in a courtroom. The caseworker is legally able to use your silence against you.
If you have any questions about what you should or should not say to a CPS case investigator I would recommend that you seek the advice of an experience family law attorney. An attorney can provide you with some guidance as far as how to act and what to say to a CPS caseworker. Seemingly innocent comments can come back to haunt you later and you would have no way of anticipating this without the assistance of an attorney.
Consequences of speaking to CPS
On the other hand, if you do talk to CPS the CPS investigator has to identify herself to you and state their purpose of their coming to your home. A report will have been made to CPS and the investigator must state the nature of the allegations being made against you in that report. You will then have an opportunity to discuss with the investigator your side of the story as far as those allegations are concerned.
Obviously if you admit to abusing or neglecting your child this can and will be used against you as a reason to remove your child from the home. If CPS determines that there is an immediate risk of harm to your child (and why wouldn’t they if you tell them that you did abuse or neglect your child) they can remove your child without a court order. Keep in mind that if you did something you shouldn’t have in regard to your child telling the truth and being forthcoming with information can allow you to receive assistance that you need to get better and hopefully have your child returned to you. The bottom line is that you should be completely honest with the CPS caseworker if you are willing to speak to her.
A CPS Safety Plan
CPS will want to immediately institute a plan of action that is designed to prevent any further harm to your child. One way to do so is to work with parents like you on creating a Safety Plan that you and CPS can agree to. This plan will outline any steps that both you and CPS will take in order to best ensure the safety of your child.
This will typically result in your child being removed from your home for a period of time while you work on the steps agreed to as far as improving the safety of your home. If you have relatives in the area that would be able to care for your child during this period it would be a good move to provide those names to CPS at this time. It does not matter if you are not sure if they would be able to help. Provide the names to CPS and let the investigator work that out.
Can CPS interview your child in connection with an investigation?
The short answer to this question is, “Yes”. An investigator will want to interview any child (including yours) that is a reported victim of abuse or neglect. Your home, your child’s school or their daycare can be the venue for an interview.
Obvious topics for discussion include whether or not your child has been abused or neglected and the circumstances behind those incidents of abuse or neglect. The CPS worker will attempt to gauge whether or not your child feels safe and if he or she believes that the abuse or neglect will reoccur. These can be difficult questions for a child to ask and the CPS investigator will at least attempt to ask age appropriate questions to your child. Questions that are appropriate for a 15 year old are obviously not appropriate for a 5 year old and vice versa.
You have to consent to your child being interviewed in your home
If the CPS investigator wishes to interview your child in your home he must first seek your approval or consent to do so. Any adult that your child is staying with at a certain moment in time is able to give consent to the child being interviewed. That means if the CPS worker comes to your home while you are at work, a relative or babysitter for your child can not only give permission for CPS to enter your home but can also give permission for the investigator to speak to your child.
An adult will usually not be allowed to participate in the interview with your child. This is important because CPS will want your child to be able to speak freely and candidly about the situation that is being investigated. Your presence in the room could affect the way in which your child answers questions in a pretty dramatic way.
Advice on how to handle your child speaking to CPS- tomorrow’s blog topic
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like to thank you for your time and attention in reading today’s blog post. We believe that CPS cases are among the most difficult for families to manage and want you to know that we are here to help you in this difficult time.
To learn more about our office and the services that we provide to our clients please do not hesitate to contact us today. We can schedule a time for you to meet with one of our licensed family law attorneys in which we can answer your questions.