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What to know about your child being interviewed by Child Protective Services

If during the course of an investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS) an investigator seeks to interview your child, you should know that this is normal and not an indication of any specific direction that your case is expected to go. By this I mean do not assume that because your child will be interviewed that the result with be either good or bad for you and your family. This is just a necessary step that your investigation must take in order to reach its eventual conclusion.

The question remains- how can you handle yourself when CPS speaks to your child without you being in the room or within earshot? What’s more- what can you do to prepare your child for speaking to CPS about topics that he or she may know nothing about?

Today’s blog topic will touch on these subjects and more in relation to being interviewed by a CPS employee. These are not easy times for your family, but the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like you to be aware of this information in order so that you will be able to make better decisions regarding your own situation and circumstances.

Do not coach your child prior to being interviewed by CPS

Children are not good liars and display obvious signs of “coaching” when being questioned by an experienced interviewer. With this in mind do not attempt to coach your child to answer questions in a certain way, withhold information or lie. Your child will wear their worry and concern over what you have told him or her all over their face and this will impact their responses.

CPS will not look favorably on your actions if and when they find out- and you can rest assured that they will find out that you attempted to manipulate your child into giving certain answers to questions asked during an interview. The bottom line is that the CPS case is not your CPS case- it is your child’s. He or she will already be on edge due to the nature of investigation and will likely be uncomfortable when having to speak to a stranger about private matters. You attempts at coaching will only add to those feelings of unease and will not assist an investigator in getting to the bottom of any situation.

Interviewing your child at school

It happens sometimes that rather than interviewing your child in your home that CPS would prefer to interview your child at their school. The situation changes a bit if this is the chosen course by CPS. On the day of the interview if you are present at the school, CPS must still get your permission to speak to your child. On the other hand, if you are not present that day CPS does not need your permission and can speak to your child without your consent. Logic would dictate that if you have previously refused to allow CPS contact with your child that the investigator will want to get around your lack of consent by meeting with your child at their school.

Consent for the purposes of interviewing your child for a CPS investigation means that you have to affirmatively give that consent. The lack of saying “no” or other wishy washy responses will not suffice. You have to give an affirmation- verbal or non verbal- indicating that you are giving permission for CPS to interview your child. If your child is interviewed CPS has to let you know that the interview was conducted within 24 hours of having done so.

How CPS will conduct an examination of your child

To this point we have discussed the interview process where questions are asked by an investigator to your child either inside or outside your home. Now we would like to get into what can occur when CPS conducts an examination of your child. Depending on the type of allegations being made against you in the initial report to CPS, the type of examination done will vary accordingly.

As with an interview, CPS must first ask your permission to examine your child in any way. Again, this rule applies if you are available at the time of the attempted examination or the examination is to occur in your home. If the exam is to occur in a place other than your home and you are not available at the time of the attempted examination your permission is not needed in order to have the exam occur.

Your child has the ability to provide their own consent as to whether or not he or she will allow the exam to occur. A court ordered exam will occur if a judge has ordered that CPS be allowed to conduct the exam. At that point no lack of consent by you or your child can stop it from happening. This typically happens after the stage that a judge has ordered that CPS can remove your child from your home and place him or her into the temporary custody of a relative or CPS group home facility.

CPS can request a court order to allow an examination or interview

If you refuse to provide the consent that we have already discussed is necessary in many settings to allow for an interview or examination of your child to occur, this does not end the process as far as CPS is concerned. They are able to have one of their attorneys file a request with a judge to have the interview or examination occur as we touched on previously in this blog post.

If a judge decides that it is in your child’s best interests to order the interview or examination to occur then he or she will make a ruling in accordance with that belief. Obviously the CPS attorney will need to show that there is a likelihood of harm that could or has already occurred to your child in the form of abuse or neglect. If you violate a court order you are subject to penalties that are fairly severe.

What a physical exam looks like in the context of a CPS case

A visual exam of your child is pretty typical in all CPS investigations. This is true even if there have been no allegations of any physical harm to your child. It is standard to have the investigator attempt to examine the child who is involved in the investigation as well as any other child that is living in your home with you.

Obvious signs of physical injury or neglect will be looked for such as bruising, cuts, poor hygiene or diaper rash for instance. The exam does not necessarily mean that your child will have to disrobe for the investigator but often times the investigator will need to ask your child to do so. A female investigator will examine a girl and a male investigator will examine a boy.

What a sexual exam looks like in the context of a CPS case

If the allegations made against you to CPS are in regard to sexual abuse then a special examination will be conducted in a CPS facility. An interview and examination will be commenced in which photos will be taken of your child and tests will be run in order to determine the extent of the harm that has befallen your child.

These exams are not typical, however. Only if you have given your permission for it to occur, a judge has approved of the exam in the form of an order or CPS has already been given conservatorship rights to your child will an examination of this magnitude happen. An exam will be done by a physician or nurse and never by a CPS caseworker or investigator.

An inspection of your home in the context of a CPS investigation- tomorrow’s blog post topic

If you are interested in learning more about what an investigation of your home will look like in a CPS case please come back tomorrow to find out more. In the meantime if you have questions about CPS cases or any other subject in the field of family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. We can arrange to speak with you in a free of charge consultation where your questions can be answered by one of our licensed family law attorneys.

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