CPS is the state agency called to evaluate cases of alleged child abuse or neglect. “Abuse” and “neglect” are subjective terms, however, and therefore CPS case files sometimes contain unjust accusations. Despite this, CPS will investigate all cases that come across their desk, which may involve home visits and interviews with you and your children. It is important to remember that there are actionable steps that you can take to protect your family when you have been accused of child abuse or neglect.
Preparing For a CPS Caseworker’s Visit
Most CPS investigations begin with a home visit by a CPS caseworker. This caseworker is usually a trained social worker tasked with determining the validity of a report made against your household. CPS caseworkers have the authority to remove children temporarily from your home if they believe the situation warrants it, so these visits and interviews should be approached with great care.
To prepare for a home visit by a CPS caseworker, take the following steps to ensure that your family’s rights are protected throughout the investigation:
- Contact an experienced CPS defense attorney the moment you know that you are under investigation by CPS. CPS will act fast and begin their investigation within 24 hours of an initial report, so you need legal counsel on your side immediately to ensure that your household is represented fairly.
- Prepare your house for the CPS agent’s visit. You should be able to verify that your house has hot and cold water, functional smoke detectors throughout the home, a working furnace, and nutritious food options in your refrigerator and cupboards. Double-check to make sure that your home is as clean and hazard-free as possible. If you are a drinker, marijuana or cigarette smoker, air out your home to eliminate lingering odors and remove the substances from your home.
- Ask for the CPS agent’s business card. This step will ensure that your attorney has a direct line of communication with the agent that conducted your home visit, an important step in building your defense.
- Do not answer any questions without your lawyer’s counsel. Let your lawyer know when your home visit will be so that they can help you navigate the visit. Always refer to your legal counsel before answering questions posed by the CPS agent.
- Ask the CPS caseworker to describe the claims. You have a right to know what you are being investigated for, and they are required to tell you. This information will be crucial in mounting a defense for your case.
- Say as little as possible. Resist the urge to over-explain your perspective on the claims. You may feel compelled to justify your actions, but in this case, less is more. Statements that you believe may exonerate you can get twisted or misinterpreted, and any inconsistencies could be used to indicate guilt.
- Be kind and professional. A CPS’s agent’s impression of you could mean the difference between a return to household normalcy and loss of child custody. The agent’s interpretation of guilt is often subjective, and you don’t want your demeanor to be a point against you. Even though CPS visits are usually unwelcome, take extra care to ensure that you are warm and welcoming to your guest.
- Record conversations with the CPS agent. After the visit, you and your attorney will review these recordings to build your defense. CPS agents may also speak with your child or children alone if they have a court order to do so, so remember to also record these conversations. This practice will ensure that you or your children’s words are not misrepresented in the final report.
When CPS comes knocking, make sure that you are prepared for the initial visit. Your first course of action should be to contact an experienced CPS defense attorney as soon as you become aware of a pending CPS investigation. An experienced attorney can ensure that you and your children’s rights are protected throughout the investigation.