Written By: Attorney Elliot S. Schlissel
To start with ask the investigator why they are investigating you. The investigators job is to investigate and find instances of child abuse. In a court of law you are innocent until proven guilty. With CPS you are guilty until proven innocent! Case workers are often reluctant to tell you why they are calling upon you. Ask for a specific explanation as to what they are looking into. Do not accept a simple answer, i.e. child abuse or child neglect. These are conclusions not allegations. You are entitled to know the specific allegations that have been brought against you!
Be Careful and Take the Investigation Seriously
Our office’s experience is that the majority of CPS complaints are unfounded. However this does not mean that parents who are accused of child abuse or child neglect should not take these allegations seriously. The CPS investigator takes the allegations against you seriously even if they are absurd, unreasonable and a bunch of lies. Remember, the investigator is going to presume you are guilty until you prove you’re innocent. Be careful because it is your children’s lives you are dealing with.
Do Not Agree To Be Interrogated Without an Attorney Present
It is extremely important you not agree to be interviewed by a CPS worker before consulting with a CPS defense lawyer. You may presume, since you are innocent and you have nothing to hide that reasonable explanations will convince the CPS worker there is actually no problem. Be advised CPS investigators are not always reasonable! CPS assumes if there’s smoke there’s fire, meaning if there’s an accusation there must be a problem. CPS case worker’s visit to your home is to find evidence to support the allegations against you.If you don’t agree to be interrogated by the CPS worker they cannot twist your words. Our office’s experience is that CPS investigators in sometimes inaccurately present their communications with the families they interview. These inaccurate communications are pressures to make the parents appear to be guilty of child abuse of child neglect.
Find an Experienced CPS / ACS Defense Counsel
If you are being investigated by CPS or ACS you should immediately consult with an experienced CPS or ACS defense attorney. Most attorneys are not familiar with the circumstances and methodology of CPS and ACS investigations. The lack of an attorney’s knowledge of these proceedings can be to your detriment. Find the right lawyer who is experienced in handling these types of cases!
Don’t Act In a Hostile Manner
If you act in a hostile manner toward the CPS or ACS investigator they will presume that you are acting this way because you are guilty. A reasonable reaction to being falsely accused that you have harmed or neglected your child will end up being presented by the investigator that you have exhibited abusive personality traits. Don’t be bullied, but be polite.
Keep the Investigator Out of Your Home
When the CPS or ACS investigator knocks on your door they will claim they have the right to come in and look around your home to determine if it’s an appropriate place for the children and/or the necessary part of their investigation. This is not true! You have a constitutional right to not let an investigator in your home. If you feel it is necessary to talk to the investigator, open the door, go outside and talk to them outside your home. If the investigator says he or she has the right to get in to your home ask them for a warrant, court order or other document giving them this right. Don’t be conned when an investigator says – yes, they have a document saying they can search your home, make them show you the document! If the investigator doesn’t have a court order allowing him to come into your home, advise them that you are not giving them access to your home unless they have a court order allowing them into your home. The investigator may at this point claim it’s an emergency situation. If the investigator claims it is an emergency situation, ask them to explain the emergency to you. The reality is, if it was an extreme emergency situation the investigator would be backed up by police.
Fourth Amendment Rights
Be advised that your Fourth Amendment Right under the United States Constitution is to avoid unreasonable search and seizure in your home. Should you allow the investigator in your home, you are waiving your Fourth Amendment Right to unreasonable search and seizure in your home. If the investigator is intent on removing your children from your home, he or she will do everything in their power to find something in your home to be the basis of the removal of your children from your home.
The investigator may threaten you. They may lie to you. They may tell you that you have no Fourth Amendment Right when it comes to CPS and ACS investigations. This is not true! If you are told they don’t need a warrant they are lying to you. They need a warrant or court order to come into your home. The investigator may tell you that they are going to come back with the police. If the investigator comes back with the police you can still take the position unless the police have a court order that they are not allowed into your home. The fact that the police have guns, uniforms and police cars does not change your right to avoid unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. You can tell the police if you have a warrant I’ll let you in and if you don’t have a warrant you are not coming into my house.
Police Officers Force Their Way into Your Home
In the event police officers do force their way into your home do not engage them in a hostile manner, advise them you object to their breaking into your house but do not physically resist them. If you do you will get arrested. Let the police know that you do not wish to be separated from your children. If the police wish to question your children ask that they have an attorney present to represent them. This request may be denied but make still make the request. It may be helpful to testify to her in a subsequent court hearing.
Do Not Admit Doing Anything That Is An Indication You Are Guilty Of Child Abuse Or Child Neglect
Even if you have made a mistake with regard to the treatment, disciplining or watching and maintaining your children do not admit this to the investigator. Admitting it will not be helpful and will be the basis of bringing a case against you and possibly removing your children from your home. Be careful because CPS and ACS investigators sometimes augment their testimony to get their point across in hearings. If you make admission they won’t feel sorry for you. They will simply use this admission against you.
Maintain written records of each of your interactions with CPS. If CPS seeks to interrogate you or your children, advise them you want the discussion recorded. If necessary bring your own tape recorder or record it on your phone. If you speak to CPS workers on the phone tape record the conversations and transcribe the recordings. But do not tell them you are recording those communications. Record them anyways as long as you are present and part of the communications. This will be helpful to you later in court proceedings should the CPS worker lie or misstate things. However, advising them you are taping them is a mistake!
If CPS takes your children by a court order or otherwise have a family member petition the court to get temporary custody of your children. I presume you have family or loved ones and that your children have grandparents. In the event action is taken to remove your children from the home you are much better off having your children placed with loving family members. In these situations you can have the grandparents seek temporary custody or temporary guardianship of your children. If the grandparents are not available, aunts, uncles, friends, relatives, may be available. You do not want your children being raised or maintained by strangers. Have a family member bring a temporary custody proceeding. Have your family members move quickly to bring a court proceeding to get temporary custody or guardianship of your children.