If you have recently been contacted by CPS about a report being made to them that your child has possibly been abused or neglected you are probably feeling a bit uneasy at this moment. You don’t know what to expect from working with CPS and you have little knowledge of what CPS actually does and does not do during an investigation. Worse yet, you’ve talked to family members who have told you that they could remove your child from your home- maybe even on a permanent basis. Needless to say, you are concerned.
There are two courses of action you can take. The first is, sadly, the most common route chosen by parents in my experience as a family law attorney. You can choose to be paralyzed by fear and do nothing to research the agency, their goals or to speak to anyone (like an attorney) who may be able to help you. There is so much that you are facing right now, and if you are a single parent you may feel like the world is rising up against you. Doing nothing, needless to say, is not the path you want to wander down.
The other course of action you could take is the one you are taking right now. Learning about CPS, becoming proactive about your CPS case and eventually speaking to an attorney who may be able to assist you with the reunification of your family is the best course to choose. Of course, you'll need to get over your fear of facing this problem head-on. Once you learn more about CPS and what an investigation actually looks like, instead of relying on second-hand stories from friends and family, you will be much better served.
Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to share some insights into what you can actually expect to encounter during an investigation with CPS. While not every experience will be the same, I think the tips and information that we share today will go a long way towards helping you worry less, and take more proactive steps to reunite your family and keep CPS out your life moving forward.
Why is CPS contacting you in the first place?
The reason that CPS would begin an investigation into your family is that someone has made a report to CPS that he or she believes that your child has been abused or neglected. It is unlikely that you will know exactly who made the report. Family members, neighbors, doctors, teachers, and even friends can make reports to CPS and remain anonymous. At this stage, it is not worth your time stewing over the report and trying to figure out who made the call to CPS. Right now there is an active case in which you are a party.
CPS is obligated by law to investigate the allegations made against you or anyone else in your household in order to determine if there is any truth to the claims being made. It is the job of a CPS investigator to gather information that will help the agency determine whether or not your child is safe and if CPS needs to become involved with your family beyond a preliminary investigation.
The investigator will have multiple ways in which she can gather information about your family. Speaking to people in your life who have information about the allegations is the primary method of collecting information. As I mentioned at the outset of today's blog post, teachers, doctors, friends, neighbors, and relatives are all relevant persons as far as your child's life is concerned. You can expect these folks to be interviewed as a part of a CPS investigation.
CPS investigators will usually come out to your home to meet you face to face, provide you with contact information for themselves and to do a walk-through of your home. They will be looking for conditions in the home that may foreseeably lead to harm for your child. Photographs of the rooms in your home will be taken. If your child is in the home photos of your child may be taken if you provide them with permission. They will be looking for evidence of poor health or injuries having been sustained by your child.
CPS also can get copies of your child's school records, police reports, CPS histories, medical records, and other relevant documents. If they are able to get permission from a judge, a psychological exam can even be conducted of your child by CPS personnel.
What can you actually do during a CPS investigation?
Now that you can see that CPS has a lot of authority to act upon any report that it receives, you may be asking yourself what you can possibly do to counteract all this movement that is seemingly against you. The first thing I would do is to keep in mind that CPS is not working for or against you. Their investigation is intended to determine whether or not your child is safe. Ultimately their goal and yours are the same- to ensure that your child is living in a safe environment.
With that said, there are many steps that you can take to help your case during a CPS investigation. The most basic, and the most important, is to take steps to show CPS that you have what it takes to keep your child safe. Speaking to an attorney early on in the case can go a long way towards helping you to present this information in the most appropriate and effective manner possible. An attorney can be appointed for you in later stages in your case if you qualify from a financial perspective.
If hiring an attorney is not something that is in the cards for you early on in your case you can take multiple steps that cost you little to no money at all. For instance, you can offer CPS the names and phone numbers for persons in your life that you know will be able to speak to your ability to keep your child safe. These are folks that have played an active role themselves in your life and see you and your child on a regular basis. If a report made against you is out of character, these folks are the ones that will be able to speak to your true character as a person and parent.
Next, if your child has suffered an injury of some sort that led to the report being called into CPS you should provide information to CPS that will allow them to ascertain the true nature of the cause of those injuries. If your friend or a family member was with you when your child fell down and hit their head you ought to talk to that person about speaking to CPS on your behalf. There having seen the incident in question can clear up any perceived inconsistencies and help you to put an end to an investigation.
Finally, it is almost a sure thing that at some point in the CPS investigation you will become frustrated with the investigator, their supervisor or the process in general. I have never been in a situation where CPS has investigated me or my children, but I can only imagine the wide range of emotions that I would feel if that were the case. If you begin to feel like you are going to lose your cool while you are speaking to a person who works for CPS, I would tell you to literally take a step back and cool down for a minute or two. Remember that the things that you say to a CPS employee can potentially be used against you. The last thing you want is for a CPS employee to be able to tell a judge that you said something nasty during a moment of anger.
Direct knowledge is important when it comes to people who can help your case
If you have told your co-workers what happened during a playground fall involving your child, it is not necessary for you to provide CPS with those people’s information. The reason is that CPS needs to speak to people who actually saw what happened, not people who heard from you what happened from your perspective. Keep in mind, also, that if you allow CPS to speak to a person, that person ought to be respectful and capable of describing the incident in question in a manner that clears up misunderstandings and overall paints you in a favorable light.
What do you have to talk to CPS about in relation to an investigation?
A question that I receive quite a bit from potential clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is whether or not a parent has to talk to CPS at all about allegations made regarding abuse or neglect of a child. The short answer to that question is, no. You do not have to speak to anyone associated with CPS about the allegations contained in a CPS report.
However, you should be aware that if you choose to not speak to CPS about the report that had been made in relation to your child then you run the risk of the CPS personnel thinking that you have something to hide. Speaking to a lawyer about your situation is a great idea.
Keep in mind that you can “plead the fifth” in a criminal court setting if you choose not to answer a question that may incriminate you, potentially. Doing so should result in the judge instructing a jury that the usage of that fifth amendment privilege should not factor into their perception as to your guilt or innocence. That protection is not available in a civil case and does not follow you into conversations with CPS. They are free to believe whatever they would like about you based on your reluctance to speak to them about the case.
In the event that you do determine that it is in your best interests to speak to CPS about your child, the CPS investigator must inform you as to who he or she is and what the report that was made states about you and your child. The allegations of abuse or neglect must be disclosed at this time. You will be allowed to present your side of the story. Remember to be honest but to be brief. If the incident in question did actually occur, you can disclose that. While it may seem counterintuitive to do so, it can show that you are serious about getting whatever help is available to you and your family to ensure this type of event never happens again.
What is a CPS safety plan?
A caseworker with CPS may ask you whether or not you are willing to work out a safety plan with the agency. The caseworker should also ask if you have family or close friends in the immediate area who may be willing to provide your child with a place to live during the investigative process. Any person that you think would be able to fulfill this obligation should be provided to the CPS caseworker.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas CPS defense Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defense Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our CPS defense lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles CPS defense cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.