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The Nuts and Bolts of a Child Protective Services Investigation

To this point in our series of blog posts on Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations we have discussed many topics that range from the persons involved in the investigation, to managing your own anxieties and expectations to how to advocate on behalf of your child even if he or she is no longer living with you. These are all important topics that I would highly recommend you go back and read more about. My intent was to touch on as many different subjects as possible and in doing so answer as many questions as you all may have on CPS cases.

With that all said, beyond court appearances and time spent dealing with CPS personnel, a majority of your time spent dealing with a CPS investigation will be allocated to managing your life in the context of that investigation. Unfortunately you will need to become intimately familiar with the policies and practices of CPS if you want to maintain your sanity and have your child returned to your care after an investigation is complete.

Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will seek to provide you with some specific knowledge regarding a CPS investigation. While no two cases or investigations are created equal, there are some commonalities between all incidents and families that CPS investigates. While you cannot be assured to encounter each of these steps it is likely that you will encounter most of them during the course of your interactions with them.

A report is made to CPS regarding abuse or neglect of a child

If one day you find a CPS employee at your doorstep it is because someone has contacted them and reported that it is their belief that your child has been abused or neglected. Throughout the investigation you will likely never learn who did so because it is the goal of CPS to keep the reporter’s identity a secret. The thought behind doing so is that if people believe that their identities will be kept hidden they will be more likely to report incidents of child abuse or neglect. CPS must investigate all reports that it receives to determine if the situation warrants additional time.

A CPS investigator will attempt to work with you and your family to gather up as much information as possible regarding your child and your home in order to determine if your child is safe or is in harm’s way. If it is believed that there is some aspect of your home life that presents additional involvement from CPS, the investigator will continue to gather information from you to learn more about the situation.

CPS typically will conduct interviews of you, your family members and even your child. Basically anyone who has potential information about the abuse or neglect allegations. Physicians that have treated your child, teachers or relatives of yours are all fair game. There is basically no limit to the amount of people that can be interviewed- other than the limited time and resources of the investigator.

Expect that the investigator will have a camera handy and will take photographs of you, your child and your home. These photos will be utilized to provide context and evidence of any dangerous condition in your home or evidence of abuse or neglect of your child. If a report came in that your child has bruising up and down her arm as a result of someone grabbing her, photographic evidence would be able to corroborate that allegation.

Along with photographing your home, the CPS investigator will likely want to inspect your home to see if there is food in the refrigerator, clean clothes available and just general upkeep of the home. You can refuse to allow the CPS investigator to enter your home but be aware that the failure to cooperate with CPS can result in law enforcement becoming involved if the allegations made against you are serious enough.

Finally, CPS can request medical records and school transcripts of your child. These documents can add credence to an allegation made that your child is missing school due to excessive illnesses that are not being treated correctly or sufficiently. Finally, if the situation merits it a CPS investigator can request that physical and mental status exams be conducted on your child.

What is your role in the CPS investigation?

To this point we’ve only discussed the ways that CPS can do things in regard to their investigation. Now we will get into what your role is in the process and how you can improve your chances of a successful and happy resolution to the case.

First and foremost you will want to make sure that you can keep your child safe from harm and that is your overarching goal. Displaying an arrogant or aloof manner in regard to their investigation is a good way to make sure that CPS look at you skeptically compared to an engaged and cooperative parent.

To help guide you in this process I would recommend that you hire a family law attorney with experience handling and defending parents in CPS cases. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC helps clients across our area to regain custody of their children and to help manage their court appearances for them. We work on behalf of families and seek to educate our clients on the issues related to their cases. Ultimately your CPS case will go in the direction you take it in. We seek to help parents like you make good decisions for themselves.

Assisting with an investigation

Even if you believe that CPS has no right to do or say things in relation to your family the fact remains that the law in Texas empowers them to do so. Your protesting their every move will not return your child to you any faster and will only make the investigation seem to go longer and proceed slower than if you cooperate.

Persons with specific knowledge of the situation should be communicated to your investigator

With that spirit in mind you should offer names and contact information of people who may be able to assist the investigation with information about your history and relationship with your child. If you have family members, teachers and neighbors who see you with your child on a regular basis and can speak about how you parent then these are the sort of people that you should be bringing to the attention of the CPS investigator.

It sometimes happens that people in your life see your child with a serious looking injury that has an odd or out of the ordinary explanation. If this is the case you may have had a report made against you or your spouse based on an assumption that you harmed your child. The innocent explanation deserves a chance to be heard. Make sure that you provide the information for any person who witnessed the event in question occur. Otherwise, if you did seek medical treatment provide that doctor’s contact information for the investigator as well.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to only provide the information of persons with specific knowledge of your situation to CPS. If you told a friend what happened but that friend didn’t witness the event himself it is not worth the effort to provide this person’s information to the investigator. You want to make sure that the investigator has persons with firsthand knowledge to rely upon. Their words are more credible and are given more weight by CPS.

Keep in mind that if your contact persons are aggressive or rude to CPS this is not going to be a favorable situation for you or your child. Be mindful that just as you need to be respectful, so too does the persons that you put into contact with CPS.

The investigation itself and more on what to expect inside of one- tomorrow’s blog topic

If you have any questions for us, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. We can clarify anything you’ve read and also discuss with you the services that we provide to our clients. A free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away.

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