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What CPS looks for when investigating your family

To have the privacy of your home disrupted can be jarring. We are used to the four walls of our home being a place where we can be ourselves, spend time with our families, and not be part of a public record. When CPS comes into your life it can feel like they are doing so uninvited and without warning. Who are they to question how you parent your child? What could you have possibly done wrong to incur their prying eyes into your family? Who could have possibly guessed that your life will be normal one day and then turned upside down the next?

When we talk about investigations conducted by CPS there is quite a bit that you need to know. The first is that a typical CPS investigation follows a certain process. CPS receives anonymous reports from people in the community all the time regarding the abuse and neglect of children. Those reports are always looking to and substantiated to determine whether a full-fledged investigation should commence. If someone the report regarding, you or your family then this will be followed.

This may involve someone from CPS contacting you turn to learn more about the report. You could decide to speak to CPS or choose not to speak to them. Many times, the CPS caseworker will come into your home to speak to you. Unless he or she has a warrant and a law enforcement officer with them you do not have to allow entry into the home. Nor do you have to allow CPS permission to speak to your child. However, CPS can interview your child without your knowledge or permission if it does so at your child's school.

You should expect that CPS will talk to you as many people as possible regarding the report of abuse and neglect of your children. This is done to collect information and verify whether the information included in the report made to CPS initially was accurate. Any person who might have been involved in the abuse or neglect may also be investigated. This includes adult members of your household and even those adults who are not related to your child. again, no one must speak with CPS regarding anything that they ask you all about. However, doing so may be in your best interest under certain circumstances.

CPS may also attempt to contact any physicians, counselors, or other professionals to your child received treatment with because of the incident in question. Doctors must report perceived abuse or neglect of children. Seeing CPS caseworkers at doctors’ offices or clinics is not uncommon if a doctor or nurse believes that use is more neglected. In that case, we would need to have witnesses be available to testify as to how an injury, bruise, or other mark occurred on the body of your child.

CPS may even attempt to contact friends or family members of yours that do not live with you. Most likely, PCs will be attempting to establish whether you have shown a propensity for violence, neglectful parenting, or behavior that is otherwise inconsistent with parenting in the best interest of your child. this is one of the more awkward aspects of a CPS case. Namely, having the agency reach out to people close to you about a circumstance that you would probably rather than know nothing about. You may even want to contact people who knew about the circumstance in question to give them a notice that CPS attempted to reach them. 

Are you forced to speak to CPS? 

This is one of the more common questions that I am asked regarding CPS investigations in general. It is a lot like the question that many people ask about whether they have to speak to a police officer or allow a law enforcement officer entry into their home. You can be made to feel like you do have to Speak to a CPS caseworker if he or she calls you on the phone or even comes to your house. I think it is just human nature to answer someone in the affirmative if they were to ask you a question about your family. We see this happen all the time with people who are approached on the street. For example, try going to a farmers’ market or another setting where people are selling things on the street. If someone is polite and pleasant enough to approach you about something you are likely to reciprocate., that involves allowing CPS to potentially learn information about your family that you otherwise might not have divulged.

Otherwise, you have no obligation to speak to a CPS caseworker even if they are insistent and persistent that you do so. Your interactions with the CPS caseworker are completely voluntary just like they would be where I to come up to your house and start asking you questions about your family and your children period of course; you could choose to answer my questions, but you would also be well within your rights to tell me to take a hike. It is completely up to you whether you choose to engage with a caseworker if he or she were to approach you. You can also choose to end the conversation at any time you wish based on your impression of how the conversation is going.

On the other hand, you may want to consider the impact of not speaking to CPS, as well. An example that I like to give is that of a person invoking their 5th amendment right to not testifying in a criminal matter. That right stems from the founding fathers' desire to prevent people from leaving forced testimony that is incriminatory for themselves. when a person invokes this right, the judges are supposed to instruct the jury that no presumption of guilt may be inferred based on their unwillingness to testify. Whether or not jurors can follow through with that instruction from the judge is a different matter altogether. However, there is a standard edit trial or hearing for your criminal matter that does not carry with it a presumption of guilt. 

On the other hand, the same cannot be said for matters dealing with CPS. Why are you do have the right to choose not to speak with GPS when they reach out to you the CPS caseworker and likely will make inferences based on your unwillingness to speak to him or her. For example, an unwillingness to speak to CPS may be seen as concern over any role that you might have played in the incident that brought about the report to CPS. This may be used against you as the caseworker ultimately determines whether the agency should pursue a case or further investigate the matter. 

Ultimately, you should consult with a family law attorney proceeding one way or the other. If yours is a complex matter, then it may pay for you to hire an attorney before proceeding to speak with anyone from CPS. However, if you believe that a simple explanation can end the investigation of CPS then it may be in your best interest to do this as well. Before you misjudge the situation or otherwise harm yourself try speaking to CPS you should take the opportunity to speak with an attorney if possible.

Many family law attorneys, such as those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, are willing to work with families with limited scope arrangements. A limited scope arrangement with our office could mean that you are not hiring us for the duration of your case but rather to simply get some advice on how to proceed with a certain conversation or matter regarding the CPS case. Or, you may even choose to hire an attorney only to represent you in court. The choice would be yours. You can speak with an experienced attorney at our office to learn what your options are and how best to proceed.

What are some of the consequences of talking with CPS?

If you do decide to speak with a CPS caseworker about their investigation the person from CPS must identify themselves before speaking with you. The person can't simply approach you at the house, not introduce themselves fully or provide information about their employment with CPS. Rather, the person will make clear to you who he or she is and why he or she is reaching out to you. From there, you can decide whether you would like to answer any questions or have a conversation with the person about what happened.

While CPS cannot disclose to you who made the report of abuse or neglect regarding your child, they must disclose to you what the report said. You will then have an opportunity to tell the caseworker your position on what happened. You should, of course, be honest with the person about any knowledge you have of the events in question. While you will not be under oath like you would be in a courtroom a judge can certainly notice discrepancies in your testimony if you say one thing to a CPS caseworker at your home and another thing while under oath.

To keep your child safe there is a possibility that he or she may be removed from your home. a removal can be made on an emergency basis if CPS believes that your child is at immediate risk of harm. An emergency removal order could be obtained from a judge without your knowledge. You would not have an opportunity to attend the hearing CPS sets up with the court to obtain the order. However, after removal, a hearing must be held within two weeks to allow you to present your side of the story as to why it was inappropriate for your child to be removed from the home and why staying in the house does not represent any risk of harm to him or her.

However, if you can be honest with the CPS caseworker about any struggles or difficulties that you were having in parenting that may benefit you, as well. The reason being is that CPS can help you identify specific areas where you may need assistance and can help you learn more about family-based social services or other programs that can help you develop your parenting skills. This may also be part of your CPS case under a safety plan. Working with an experienced family law attorney can also help you learn about resources that could benefit you and your children a great deal.

Will CPS speak to your child as part of their investigation?

Yes, it is almost certainly true that CPS will speak to your child as a part of their investigation into your family. CPS can interview any child who is the reported victim of abuse or neglect. The CPS caseworker can choose any reasonable time or place including your home, your child's school, or daycare to conduct the investigation. Here is some of the subject matter that the investigator will want to talk to your child about during one of these investigations. Simply put, the investigator will want to find out whether your child believes that he or she was abused or neglected. It is not as if the caseworker will ask legal questions or use legal terminology. The caseworker will simply ask your child about the incident in question and whether there is any truth to what they were told.

The answers of a child to CPS turn up always the most accurate. For one, it can be a nerve-wracking experience for your child to have to talk to a stranger about strange topics. this alone can cause their answers to be off or at the very least not accurate. Very few children are comfortable speaking to strangers especially in strange settings and about strange topics. Therefore, the CPS caseworker cannot always take the challenge word for it. The CPS caseworker will also try to be the least suggestive as he or she can be in terms of suggesting answers or responses.

The other thing to keep in mind is that as a CPS caseworker we will not ask your 4-year-old the same questions as he or she would ask your 14-year-old period the type of questions asked will be different depending upon their age in maturity level. If your child is nonverbal or otherwise unable to answer questions, then no interview will be conducted at all. One of the most important questions that your child may have to answer is whether he or she feels safe. Your child not feeling safe is a good sign that he or she may be removed from your home rather quickly. 

As we mentioned earlier, however, if the CPS caseworker wants to interview your child in your home, he or she must first get your permission. This means that you must specifically say that he or she can speak to your child at your house. You cannot be coerced into giving permission and the CPS caseworker cannot speak to your child without your permission at home. Bear in mind that if your child is living with someone else that he or she can grant permission for CPS to speak to your child. If you do not want your child to speak to CPS regarding the investigation, then you should ask that any adult who is with your child not allow that to occur.

Most of the time you will not be able to listen to the conversation between the caseworker and your child. The motivation for not allowing this to occur is to allow your child to be as unencumbered and honest with the caseworker in their answers as possible. In most cases, it is very easy to tell if a child has been coached to give certain answers or responses to questions. CPS caseworkers are trained to identify signs of coaching and responses that may or may not be true. It can make you look less than favorable if you have told your child to be untruthful or to hide certain information. Even if you don't care how you look to the CPS caseworker, we probably should be concerned about how a judge will view the situation.

If CPS would like to interview your child at school, then he or she may do so without your consent. However, if you are present at the school then the caseworker must obtain your permission as if the two of you were in your home. The bottom line is if CPS first attempted to visit your child at your home to interview him and you said no then CPS cannot go behind your back and attempt to interview your child while at school.

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 consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way 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 a divorce or child custody case.

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