Understanding Child Protective Services (CPS)
Most of us can agree that Child Protective Services (CPS) saves children from abuse and neglect, but what happens when your child has not been abused or neglected and you open your front door only to find a CPS investigator in your doorway asking to come inside?
Whatever you say, can and WILL be used against you in your CPS case.
If nothing else, remember this: Whatever you say, can and WILL be used against you in your CPS case. I like to watch COPS on TV, but not for the reason you may think. I want to see if the suspect will remember his Fifth Amendment Right granted to him or her in the United States Constitution. “The Fifth” is the right to not incriminate yourself to the government. Many people do not realize that you have a right to not incriminate yourself to CPS as well as the police. I’m frequently disappointed when the suspect on COPS answers the cop’s questions and then elaborates on the events, which in turn makes things so much worse for the suspect!
CPS and The Best Interest of the Children
I have nothing to hide, so I will talk to CPS.
You may think to yourself, “I have nothing to hide, so I will talk to CPS.” You may have nothing to hide, and you may think that everything is fine, but you have no idea what the allegations are against you, who made the allegations, and what the children have already told CPS. And CPS does not have to tell you what the allegations are before you start talking to them. In a recent case in Houston, CPS was sanctioned $127,000 for falsifying information in a removal affidavit and taking children from their parents when no abuse or neglect occurred. So CPS does not always act in the best interest of children.
Once CPS is inside, they do no have to leave your house.
I have represented parents and children in CPS cases for the past ten years, so I have seen a lot of different types of CPS cases, many of which were awful. In almost every single case, the parents have opened the door to CPS and allowed CPS to come inside. Once CPS is inside, they do not have to leave your house. Unlike vampires, you cannot just rescind the invitation and some magical force drags your unwelcome visitor out of your house.
Know and Exercise Your Rights When Dealing With CPS
You certainly cannot avoid CPS altogether, and eventually, you are going to have to talk to them, but be smart, and take an attorney with you to the interview (interrogation). An attorney can help you respond to the questions and hopefully prevent you from answering irrelevant or incriminating questions. If you cannot afford to take an attorney with you, your next best option is to consult with an attorney before you meet with CPS. A good attorney can spend a useful hour with you to help you prepare for the types of questions you may be asked and how to answer them.
So, remember you have rights, and you should exercise your rights. If you cannot afford to consult with an attorney, there are legal resources out there. Many counties have Legal Lines (free telephone help) and Legal Aid for those who qualify. You have the right to an attorney if Child Protective Services takes your child into custody, and if you qualify as indigent (meaning you cannot afford an attorney because of your income level), the court will appoint an attorney for you, but this does not protect you during the initial investigation.
Be smart, if CPS comes a-knockin’, talk to a lawyer. It can save you a giant headache in the future.
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