Many people that I have spoken to as an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC have asked me how exactly their child may be removed from their home as a result of a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation. The first thing that I will typically tell that person is that it is very possible that their child will not be removed by CPS. It is not a rule that CPS has to remove every child that an investigation concerns. There are options that involve taking steps to fix any problems in the home or remove unsafe persons that can allow for your child to actually reside with you throughout an investigation.
For those cases that necessitate the removal of your child it is best to always think a few steps ahead before doing or saying anything to CPS. It is understandable that you will not be happy that your child is being removed from your home. However, this does not give you the right to act with violence towards either CPS or any law enforcement officer who is assisting CPS in doing their job. Remember that you will have to account for your actions- both in relation to your child and to the removal of your child- in courtroom appearances. Your situation is serious enough without adding to it the need to defend your actions relating to the removal of your child.
Keep in mind that CPS will not be acting forcefully or with aggression towards you or your child when and if it comes time to remove your child from your home. As I touched on a moment ago, however, law enforcement may be called in to back-up the CPS employee during the removal. If you act with aggression towards CPS or law enforcement there is no guarantee that the aggression will not be reciprocated by law enforcement in order to protect the CPS employee, the law enforcement officer and most importantly your child.
This is obviously a worst case scenario when you refused to physically release your child to CPS and law enforcement needs to pry the child out of your arms and into the possession of CPS. I have not encountered this situation on behalf of a client but have heard of it occurring for other folks in CPS court. Use your best judgment. Allowing CPS to do its job and the investigation to run its natural course does not mean that you are giving up on your child. Rather, it means that you understand that you will need to prepare yourself for court and getting your child back the legal way.
If given the opportunity it is best to prepare your child for removal
Obviously it is a very difficult set of circumstances when it comes to having your child removed from your home. It goes without saying that what may work best for your family may not work well for your neighbor’s, for instance. However, I can say that from my experience if CPS gives you even half a day’s advance warning that your child is going to be removed from your home it is best to prepare your child as much as possible.
If your child is of an age where she understands what this will mean for her, speak to her honestly about what is going to happen and how hard you are going to work to get her back into your home. Answer questions as straightforward as possible but not to the extent that you frighten or intimidate your child. Remember that she is going to be more nervous and on edge than you will, believe it or not. Children are not able to understand every issue that you do so keep that in mind when speaking to your child.
Packing their clothes, favorite games and toys and any keepsake that you think will help her get through this period of time can be very helpful. My advice would be to couch the conversation in terms of reassuring your child that she did nothing wrong and that the time spent apart is going to be used by you to make sure that her house is the happiest and safest place it can be.
What should you pack up for your child before she leaves the home?
If you know that a removal of your child is going to occur it is worth packing up warm clothes like a jacket and long pants. Even in the summertime it can be cool inside buildings that pump A/C constantly. If nothing else your child will have an extra few sets of clothes if he or she gets dirty during the day if it is too warm to use the cold weather clothes. The basic necessities like toothpaste, toothbrush and small toys can go a long way towards reassuring your child that everything is going to be ok.
It does not always happen that CPS will give you advance warning of the removal of your child and instead will surprise you by either coming to your home unannounced or by calling you after the removal altogether. In situations like this where you have not been given the opportunity to pack up your child’s belongings CPS should provide all the basic necessities that you would have otherwise taken care of.
Where will your child be taken once removed from your home?
The options are fairly wide as far as where CPS will take your child once removed from your home. The biggest thing for the CPS worker to have in mind is that your child needs to be safe and in a place where you are not able to swoop in and remove your child from their new, temporary home.
It’s even possible that when your child is removed from your home CPS may not even know then where your child is going to remain. A foster home, a group foster home, a temporary shelter or the home of a relative of yours or your spouse’s are all possible places where your child could take up temporary residence during the CPS investigation.
If you have multiple children that have been removed CPS will do its best to make sure that all of the children are kept together. Space ends up being a big issue in CPS situations where group homes and foster families are sometimes full to capacity. In those situations your children may need to be divided up between multiple homes but the children will be given an opportunity to see each other as often as possible.
Provide the contact information for family members to CPS when you are asked
CPS will ask you for contact information for family members of yours who may be willing to house your child during the investigation. This will be the ideal scenario once it is determined that your child cannot remain in your home. The caseworker from CPS will contact the persons you listed on your paperwork and determine if the person is willing to house your child and whether or not the safety of your child would be maintained by housing them with that particular relative.
A judge will make the ultimate determination as to where your child will be living during the investigation. CPS may determine that you have no appropriate relatives with which your child can stay but you may disagree. If you feel strongly about this make sure to speak to your attorney so that she may make an argument to the judge as to why a particular relative is an appropriate caregiver despite the reservations held by CPS.
Questions on foster care? Come back tomorrow to read more on this subject
We hear the terms “foster care” and “foster homes” with frequency but what these things actually are not always well known. In tomorrow’s blog post we will discuss foster care, foster homes and their potential impact on your CPS case.
If you have any questions about the subject matter that we covered today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to answer your questions regarding this and any other subject in the field of family law. Consultations are free of charge and can go a long way towards answer questions that you and your family may have.