When you are investigated by CPS, you need to make choices each step of the way. You need to decide what details to share if you should enroll in services, and, if you end up with a case, whether to go to trial or not.
There is no way to know for sure what may help or hurt your circumstances. The more you know about the investigation you are better able to make wise decisions. Here are explanations of parents’ rights:
Q: Why is it vital for parents to know what their rights are?
A: When you are being interviewed by someone of authority, you may think that you need to do anything they say. Understanding your rights can make you realize that you have power, also.
But how you exercise your rights is also important.
There have been cases that start in court with CPS detailing how the parent responded to the investigation—by screaming, becoming considerably angry or sometimes damaging property. Those reactions usually come from an area of fear and frustration. But they may become part of an impression CPS is establishing of a parent that is inclined to become violent. The way you react to CPS could make a difference concerning your case.
Q: Do parents have a right to decline entry to an investigator?
A: Yes. But declining entry to CPS won’t stop the investigation. If CPS has details that a child could be in danger, they have the jurisdiction to go to court to petition a court order ordering you to give them access. CPS needs to let you know in advance if they plan to do this, and you have the right to attend the hearing. Should there be an emergency, CPS may also come back with the authorities without the order.
If you know that there is nothing to be seen in your home that will raise a red flag, you may want to let them in, because denying them entry could make the worker see you as difficult or stubborn.
If you refuse to let them in, the way you handle it makes a huge difference. You could say, “I would like to discuss this some other time,” or, “I would like to talk about this when my wife is around.” The proposition of a different time helps build a considerate rapport.
Q: Do parents have a right to know why they’re being investigated?
A: Yes. This is one of first questions parents should ask the CPS worker. Additionally, at any time during the investigation, the parents have the right to contact your State Central Registry asking for all recorded information against them.
Q: Do parents have to answer every question they’re asked?
A: Prior to answering any questions, its encouraged that someone being investigated to ask questions. These can include: What are the accusations made against me? What precisely are you investigating? What are your main causes for concern?
You have a right to decline their questions, so if you are told the accusations are about domestic violence, but they are inquiring about something totally different, you could say, “That question has nothing to do with what we’re talking about.” You should stay away from minimizing serious matters. You’ll need to reduce concerns, not create more.
If there were cases before, it is required by CPS is to inquire about those cases. If you’ve tackled any issues you were having problems with in the past, it’s suggested how you have done it.
Q: Do parents have the right to refuse to allow CPS to interview the children, or insist on being at the interview?
A: When it’s in your house, investigators are required by law to interview the children. If they can’t, or think your children aren’t going to honest while you’re there, they’ll go to court to be interviewed without you at a different location. They can also interview your children in school without your consent.
There also may be times when you want to demand that you be there—as an example if your child is debilitated and the interview could make them confused or scared. Under these circumstances, you can point out your reasoning. You may also request that the child be questioned at a Child Advocacy Center, where there will be a mental health professional along with the investigator.
Q: Can CPS order services throughout an investigation?
A: CPS workers may say that services are mandatory, but nothing is actually mandated prior to you going to court and a judge orders it. When you acknowledge the safety issues that CPS is having about you, addressing those issues can help, including happily agreeing to services.
You also have the right to tell CPS, “I think I want to do services at a different place,” or, “I believe a different service is better.” Prior to you engaging in any services you have found by yourself, though, you need inquire if that service is CPS approved.
- Rise. “Your Rights During an Investigation-And How to Use Them.” Rise Magazine, 18 Jan. 2017, http://www.risemagazine.org/2017/01/your-rights-during-an-investigation/.
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