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 anxieties and expectations to how to advocate on behalf of your child even if they are no longer living with you. These are all important topics that I would highly recommend you go back and read more about. I intended 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 of encountering each of these steps, you will likely encounter most of them during your interactions with them.
A report is made to CPS regarding abuse or neglect of a child.
If you find a CPS employee at your doorstep one day, it is because someone has contacted them and reported that they believe 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 child abuse or neglect incidents. 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 regarding your child and your home as to determine if your child is safe or in harm's way. Suppose it is believed that some aspect of your home life presents additional involvement from CPS. In that case, the investigator will continue to gather information from you to learn more about the situation.
CPS typically conducts interviews with you, your family members, and even your child. 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 no limit to the number 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 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 due to 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 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 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 how CPS can do things regarding their investigation. Now we will get into your role 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 regarding their investigation is an excellent way to make sure that CPS looks at you skeptically compared to an engaged and cooperative parent.
To help guide you in this process, I recommend hiring 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 regain custody of their children and 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 about your family, the fact remains that the law in Texas empowers them to do so. You're 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 regularly and can speak about how you parent, then these are the sort of people you should be bringing to the attention of the CPS investigator.
It sometimes happens that people in your life see your child with a severe-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 the assumption that you harmed your child. The innocent explanation deserves a chance to be heard. Ensure 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.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is only to provide the information of persons with specific knowledge of your situation to CPS. If you told a friend what happened but 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 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 will not be a favorable situation for you or your child. Be mindful that just as you need to be respectful, so too do the persons you contact 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 get in touch with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, today. We can clarify anything you've read and discuss 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.