As a parent, you have rights even during Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations. A lot of parents don’t know about what CPS can and cannot do. Knowing what CPS is legally allowed to do can put your mind at ease during an investigation.
CPS taking children away is a terrifying thought for any parent. If you are under investigation, do not panic. CPS social workers want to know the family’s dynamic and conditions of the home. It’s rare that CPS purposefully seeks to villainize or discriminate against parents. The last thing that CPS wants to do is take kids away from their families.
Parents should still know their rights during a CPS visit. There’s a lot that CPS can and cannot do during a home visit. Parents who know their rights, and know what CPS is legally allowed to do will make CPS visits as stress-free as possible.
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5 Things CPS Can Legally Do
A CPS investigation can last for up to 18 months! During this time, there are some things that CPS might attempt. If you’re unsure about the legality of how CPS is conducting an investigation, you can always call a lawyer to get legal advice on the situation.
CPS must investigate every claim that’s made, even if it’s false
This is frustrating for a lot of parents and caregivers, as the claims could be completely falsified or taken out of context. However, investigating a claim isn’t a suggestion or a policy- it’s the law and every claim must be taken seriously. Almost 5 children die from child abuse everyday, so every claim is taken with the utmost seriousness.
Regardless, parents should still know their rights and know how to conduct themselves during the investigation. Parents have a right to know all the claims made in the investigation. Often, many parents have claims made against them that are true, but the parents aren’t seeking to directly harm their children. Parents are human and make mistakes or have misunderstandings too.
CPS social workers recognize that some claims can be explained through cultural, religious, or economic differences. This is also why, if CPS believes parents do have good intentions for their children, they’ll offer resources for parents. CPS may also demand that parents follow a plan of care and action.
CPS can talk to your child without your permission
This comes as a shock to a lot of parents, but CPS can legally talk to your child alone. If the abuse allegations are quite serious, CPS may attempt to speak with your child before they talk to you.
Parents may question the legality of this, however, it prevents kids from being coerced into saying something false to protect abusers. Kids can be threatened or worse by abusive parents that may about CPS investigation.
CPS social workers are trained to understand the complexities of any family dynamic. If parents are worried about their children saying something that may incriminate them, remember that CPS social workers must look beyond just the surface-level. If your social worker does use something out of context, call a lawyer to know your legal options.
CPS can show up to your home without notice
Unannounced visits are very common in cases with extreme or violent allegations. Even if the claims aren’t too serious, you may not find about an investigation until a CPS social worker arrives. Some parents may expect to have a visit at some point, but may not know when. If you’re not home when the CPS worker arrives, they will leave contact information so you can schedule another time to visit.
CPS can ask you nosy and invasive questions
CPS might ask you questions that seem irrelevant to your case. These questions are not accusations. During the investigation, CPS will want to cover everything. If you do not speak English, you have the right to an interpreter.
Caregivers have the right to talk to their caseworker candidly about the ongoing investigation. However, parents and caregivers should remember that these exchanges are not confidential and can be used in court. Consult with a lawyer before you have an interview with your social worker, so you know exactly what to say.
Parents should also remember that they do not have to answer every question. You have the right to refuse to answer questions and remain silent, or tell the social worker you don’t think the question is relative to the case.
CPS can take your child away and terminate your rights as a parent
If the social worker does deem your household or a member of the family to be a direct threat to a child, they can take your children away. Taking children away isn’t the first solution for CPS. It’s traumatizing for both the family and the children, and is normally the last resort.
If you believe that you may be housing unsafe conditions for your child, speak to a lawyer so see what options you have. Parents are humans and make mistakes like using drugs or being with an abusive partner. While parents are turning their lives around, they should seek to find safer conditions for their kids.
It’s important to take action as soon as possible if this is the case. A poor CPS visit can greatly impact your future, even if your life does turn around. If you need to find a better solution for your kids, call a lawyer and come up with a plan before informing CPS.
What Are Your Rights As A Parent?
Reading this list may put a lot of parents and caregivers in distress. CPS visits are intimidating and make parents feel like they’re at mercy of a stranger. However, as long as parents know what CPS can and cannot do, their children should be protected.
CPS cannot enter your home without your permission.
Although CPS can show up to your home without notice, they cannot enter without your consent. Unless CPS has a court order, or they believe your child is in immediate danger, they can’t enter your home unless you say it’s okay.
If a CPS social worker comes to your home for a visit and you’re unprepared, simply tell them that it’s not the best time. If you turn away a CPS worker because you feel unprepared, ask to schedule for another time. After rescheduling, call your lawyer and ask how best to prepare for your home visit.
CPS cannot force you to take a drug test
Similarly to when entering your home, unless CPS has a court order, they need your consent to take a drug test. If a social worker tries to coerce you into taking a test, tell them that it’s be irrelevant to the case, and they legally need a court order with reasonable suspicion before they can.
You have the right to a court-appointed attorney if CPS files a lawsuit against you
Parents and caregivers can deny any allegations made by the CPS. Throughout the 18-month-long investigation, you have the right to an attorney. A qualified lawyer can help ensure your children are in the right hands, and nothing untrue or out of context is used against you.
Parents also have the right to attend all court hearings regarding your case, even if the children are taken away. Unless parents are deemed dangerous to their own children, parents can know about the legal proceedings regarding their case.
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