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What are my rights when CPS comes to my House?

One of the most intimidating sites as a parent must be seeing Child Protective Services show up to your door unannounced one morning. CPS caseworker who arrives at your doorstep likely would not do so to be intimidating or to frighten you but rather to Explorer report made to the agency about potential instances of abuse or neglect of your child. It may be that you or your spouse are the centers of the investigation. Or, it may be that another adult is suspected of having abused or neglected your child. In another way, it is not easy to go through this type of investigation. 

Your job as a parent is to keep your child safe. Sometimes that is more easily said than done for a variety of reasons. A child, once he or she reaches a certain age, can only be with you so much during the day. Older children go to school, have activities, see friends, and are generally out of the house more often younger children. Your younger children also 10/2 be exposed to fewer adults and circumstances in which they could be abused. What the CPS caseworker would be interested in is learning more about the circumstances involved in the allegation made to them regarding abuse and direct. In their mind, there is no better place to be picked for their investigation than by coming to your home. 

However, it would be silly to think that you would have the time or opportunity to ponder all of these thoughts in the time leading up to the CPS caseworker knocking on your front door. Quite the contrary will likely have several thoughts racing through your mind but it's unlikely that any of them revolve around the subject matter that I have discussed with you already today. What I would like to do is share with you the purpose of Child Protective Services as well as how to guide your family through a circumstance involving a CPS case investigation. You may have heard rumors or stories about CPS cases and how they can negatively impact families I'm not here to tell you that there are no potential negative impacts of a CPS case I can assure you that every family circumstance is created differently. You should not go into the CPS case assuming that the outcome will be one way or another. 

Rather, you should do as best you can to take into consideration specific circumstances for your family and then plan accordingly from there. As you will see, there are many downsides to a CPS case for your family but you do not have to assume that you know the ability to play a positive role within the case once it begins. My recommendation would be for you to consider where your case is then made decisions that are in the best interests of your family. 

Above all else, I want to encourage you to get much knowledge as possible about the process. CPS cases are fairly formulated in that follow a certain path and formula set forth by the Department of Family Protective Services. He has certain deadlines that must be met both internally and externally with the court system your child is removed from your home. There is no guarantee that your child will be removed from your home but this is a result of CPS initial investigations. From there, a job is to do whatever you can to see that your child can return to your house quickly and safely. 

Do you have to let the CPS caseworker into your home? 

This is probably the most basic question that a person can ask themselves when confronted with a CPS caseworker on their doorstep. After all, it's a simple question that we ask ourselves all the time when we see anyone approaching our door: do I need to let this person in or even answer the door? Initially, an obligation for you to speak to or even answer the door when CPS comes knocking. Although the agency has a right under the law to conduct an investigation you have no such obligation to participate in the investigation at any point. 

Some gray area begins to exist, however, when and if Child Protective Services obtains a court order do either enter your home, remove your child from the home, or some combination thereof. It is at this point where you will need to consider whether or not violating a court order or attempting to interfere with a court order is in anyone's best interests. For today's blog post, I will be operating under the assumption that at an initial stage of the case no court order is in place and CPS is merely investigating a report may regarding abuse or neglect of your children. 

Choosing not to participate in a CPS case or their attempts to investigate a potential incident of abuse or neglect regarding your child may end up hurting you in the long run, however. For one, it may be that the report of abuse and neglect is unfounded for days error. CPS caseworker relies upon the information provided by an anonymous Reporter made online or via phone regarding abuse of your neglect. He or she probably has very little primary evidence to go off of it is attempting to perform some degree of due diligence by coming to your home. This means that limited at best.

As a result, their investigation into your memory may be fairly short-lived if you can provide that person with credible information just your home just shows that abuse is not occurring. Defense of Child Protective Services, agency workers are usually very much overworked and stretched in terms of their time. If there is little evidence to go off of in terms of determining whether abuse or neglect has a curd in your home that it is very unlikely that the investigation will persist. Simply put, there are more than enough actual cases of abuse from neglected children to go around that these people will not want to remain in your life any longer than they feel like the evidence demands they must. 

So, by denying a CPS caseworker access to your home or even by refusing to speak with the people involved you may be alone getting their presence in your life. Now, that doesn't mean that you have to open up your home and your entire life to CPS the first time that they ask. For instance, it may be in your best interest to accept the person's business card, identify yourself correctly and voice that you have a willingness to participate in the investigation. From that point on, you could direct the caseworker accordingly.

Understand that the CPS caseworker will be in an information-gathering stage of the case. As a result, he or she will likely be wanting to ask you many questions regarding the reports made to CPS as well as information about your family in general. However, you do not have to answer any questions that this person asks. On the other hand, you can spend as much time as you would like attempting to gather information yourself. Part of what Child Protective Services does is take advantage of the fact that, at least initially, you have less access to information than they do. 

When Child Protective Services feels like they hold all the cards as far as information is concerned they may feel like you need to provide more information to them than you do. As a result, many parents end up making statements or giving information that can be misconstrued or can cause an investigation to take longer to complete. Rather than do this, I would recommend getting as many of your questions answered as possible, learning whatever next steps in the process the CPS caseworker has planned, and then providing as little information as possible. This does not mean you have to be rude or discourteous. All it means is that I would recommend speaking with an attorney before you give any statements to CPS. 

Beneath this advice, isn't understanding that what you say to a CPS caseworker is similar to what you say to a police officer. It can and will be used against you potentially in court if the circumstances are right. For that reason, speaking to CPS when you are under-prepared and underinformed is not a good idea. You can even explain this to the caseworker if you would like. From there, you should take a few steps to better prepare yourself for the next interaction you have with the agency. 

Consider speaking with an attorney experienced in family law 

One of the major advantages that you can provide yourself within a Child Protective Services case is to hire an experienced family law attorney. Family law attorneys handle a wide range of matters not simply limited to divorce or child custody matters. Child Protective Services cases are among the most delicate of family law-related issues and are certainly cases that I would not recommend you going without an attorney for. One of the most important stages of the case in a CPS matter relates to the information you provide at the beginning of your case. Understanding the basic rights you have and then not allowing CPS to confuse, bully or pressure you into saying things that you do not mean is an important consideration that you need to be aware of. 

Many people, as I noted at the beginning of today's blog post, feel pressured into making statements or giving access to CPS when they need not do so. You're right to do so once a court order is in place becomes more limited period however, you need only participate in the process as much as you are able and as much as he believes it will benefit your family at the beginning of a case. For that reason, I would recommend speaking with an experienced family law attorney before your case becomes 2 developed. The more developed your case becomes the more you have to abide by court orders and CPS processes. However, when the case is beginning you are more able to dictate the pace of a case and therefore dictate how much information you provide to CPS. 

An experienced CPS attorney is also able to provide you with context and knowledge when it comes to understanding how CPS chooses to communicate with parents during a case. Some of the more frustrating parts of a CPS case involved how you as a parent are not able to simply knock on the door of your CPS caseworker and find him or her standing there ready to give information. CPS caseworker does not work in an environment where you can access them daily for information. 

Please folks working government buildings and as a result, we do not have access to them. Any information you would like to get daily from your caseworker is usually going to be provided over the phone or via email. Bearing in mind the schedule of these folks it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to engage in meaningful conversation with your caseworker daily. This is also problematic because any problems you have with scheduling or issues to that extent can and will be held against you by a court later on. As a result, you need to be able to make sure that you have an understanding of the different deadlines and processes involved in a CPS case. 

Not only can an attorney help you manage the stages of your CPS case but the attorney can also make sure to help you with communication issues that come up during a case. Your attorney's job is to help you stay on top of any deadlines, meetings, requirements, and other types of procedural steps that need to be completed before the end of a CPS case. Very little guidance is provided by CPS to the people involved in a case. If you do not have an attorney none will be provided to you and Phil your case proceeds to a point where your parental rights may be terminated. Until then, you may be on your own. 

Closing thoughts on your rights in a Child Protective Services case

The bottom line is that you are not without rights and recourse during a CPS case. It can seem intimidating to take on the government especially when the government is investigating potentially serious allegations regarding abuse or neglect of your child. However, do not assume the worst and rather, be proactive about protecting yourself and your family during the case. There is no better way for you to be able to do this than to understand what rights you have on little the law and to exercise them fully. 

No matter what role you have to play in the CPS case you should remember that until a court becomes involved in the case but you have likely little or no obligation to participate in the proceedings. The process involved will not be familiar to you like you can and should ask questions to learn as much as possible about the case as quickly as you can. It is not as if the government will go easier on you or stop a case prematurely just because you were unaware of something or didn't ask enough questions initially in the case. On the contrary, you will be held to the same standard regardless of how much information do you have learned during your time inside the CPS case.

Finally, you should remember that you are under no obligation to provide information to a CPS caseworker on the efforts to approach your home. Attached to this right is the right not to provide access to your home or even to your child. CPS can only enter your home, without a court order, when it has your permission to do so. Technically, any person over the age of 16 who answers the door to your home can grant permission to CPS to enter. This may be something that you need to keep in mind if you have teenagers or young adults in the home. Providing them with information about whether or not to allow access to the home is important. 

Finally, you have the right to hire an attorney to represent you in the case. While there is no guarantee when it comes to hiring a lawyer when you decide a commitment to hiring an experienced CPS defense attorney you can position yourself better than if you chose not to be represented. Again, you have no obligation to hire an attorney at the beginning of a case. However, you may determine that the investment is worthwhile for you and your family to avoid mistakes at the beginning of the process. 

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of divorce or a child custody case. 

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