When you are under investigation by DCS-CPS, you will need to make decisions at each stage of the process. 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 are confident that there are no concerns within your home that would raise suspicion, you might consider granting them entry, as refusing access could potentially lead the worker to perceive you as uncooperative or resistant.
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: Before responding to any inquiries, it is advisable for someone under investigation to seek clarifications by asking questions. These queries may encompass:
- “What are the specific accusations against me?”
- “What is the exact nature of your investigation?”
- “What are your primary concerns in this matter?”
You have the right to refuse to answer questions, so if you are informed that the allegations relate to domestic violence but they are asking about an unrelated topic, you can assert, “That question is unrelated to our discussion.” It’s essential to avoid trivializing serious matters. Your objective should be to address concerns rather than intensify them.
In cases where there were previous incidents, CPS is obligated to inquire about those prior cases. If you have resolved any issues you were previously struggling with, it is advisable to explain how you have addressed them.
Q: Do parents have the right to refuse to allow CPS to interview the children, or insist on being at the interview?
A: When the investigation takes place in your home, investigators are legally obligated to interview the children. If, for any reason, they are unable to do so in your presence, or they suspect that your children might not be entirely truthful with you there, they may seek court authorization to conduct the interviews at a different location without your presence. Additionally, they can interview your children at school without requiring your consent.
There may also be times when you wish to insist on your presence, for instance, if your child is vulnerable and the interview might cause confusion or fear. In such situations, you can articulate your rationale. You can also propose that the child undergo questioning at a Child Advocacy Center, where a mental health professional will be present alongside 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 express to CPS, “I would like to explore services at a different location,” or “I believe that a different service might be more suitable.” Before you use any services you have identified independently, it’s crucial to ascertain whether those services have been approved by CPS.
- 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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