I know my blogs are far and few between on here. Let’s face it – I’m a busy lady. Today though, I need to let this out. A coworker happened across an article that has us both fuming. Not because of the initial story, but because of the stereotypical outlook on CPS (Child Protective Services) Workers, the misunderstandings of what social workers do, and the outrageous lies the author of the article spilled for the world to read.
The article gave “10 Things You Must Do if CPS Knocks At Your Door”.
- Take the accusation seriously.
- Ask what the charges are.
- Shut up. Shut up now.
- Find an attorney who has experience fighting CPS.
- Be polite.
- Never let them in your home.
- Record everything.
- Have a doctor examine your child.
- Get family and friends involved in the fight.
- Never admit guilt.
I’m not even sure if I can address the author’s comments on these 10 things with class. I’m not a CPS investigator, but I do work closely with them. Here are my basic thoughts on these:
- Please, please do take the “accusation” seriously. If CPS is showing up on your doorstep, this means that the report was “screened in” (the person taking reports gave said report to a Child Welfare Supervisor, who then reviewed the case and made a decision to have a CPS Worker begin an investigation). This happens less often than one would think. Many times we get petty reports (i.e. parents having custody disagreements and wants to make the other parent look bad by reporting abuse/neglect). Sometimes we get superficial reports (i.e. healthy, responsible 15 year old being left alone at home for an hour). My point is, if CPS shows up at your home, there is a damn good reason.
- By all means, ask what the “charges” are. Really, at the initial stage of an investigation, we don’t “charge” anyone with anything. CPS is investigating serious concerns regarding risk and safety.
- If you don’t talk to the CPS investigator you will be making his/her job very difficult. CPS workers do not want to be involved with your family for any longer than they absolutely have to be. Having a conversation does not mean that you will lose your children. The goal of this whole process is to figure out how social services can help the family unit stay together, and if placing children in foster care/kinship care is necessary, then what can social services do to ensure the children are back home as soon as possible. Social services does not want to rip families apart. Really. (I am saying “social services” because every state has their own version: Dept. of Health and Human Resources, Dept. of Social Services, Dept. of Child and Family Services, etc.)
- You should absolutely find an attorney. Every parent is given the opportunity to have legal counsel. You can either get a public defender (generally, certain public defenders work solely on CPS cases and are very experienced in this area) or hire a lawyer. I don’t like how the author of this article says to find an attorney who “fights” CPS. Social services isn’t about “fighting”. Social services wants to find the family’s strengths and identify the needs so that those needs can be addressed (i.e. drug treatment, parenting classes, therapy, medication management, daily living skills, etc.). So, I’d say find an attorney who can be honest with you about your case.
- Be polite. Yep. I know that being investigated is a terrible ordeal and can heart-wrenching and maddening. Keeping your cool can help all parties move the investigation along so that everyone can get about their lives. If you blow up, social services will understand. If you become physically violent, that will be a problem.
- Well, if you don’t let social services in your home, the CPS Worker (I just spoke with my coworker — who is an investigator) will report a high risk of harm in the home. Because an investigation cannot really be done, the CPS Worker will indicate abuse/neglect and then close the case. If more reports continue to come in and you continue to refuse to work with social services, court action will be taken at which point a judge will do his/her thing (this could include criminal charges, a mandated investigation, etc.). I’m not an expert on the constitution, so I’m not sure about the 4th Amendment. But there’s a link to it.
- Record everything? I mean, you can. The CPS Worker will do his/her job the way they have to regardless of being recorded. Social services has procedures for everything their workers do. And I mean everything. Social workers have multiple checklists for each case and many of those have to be done in a certain order. So, record away.
- CPS will want you to have your child examined as well. And the CPS Worker will not care to whom you take your child so long as you share the results with the worker.
- Social services really, really wants to identify as many strengths as possible. If you have friends and family that wish to become involved, that is good! Again, social services doesn’t want to “fight”. Social services wants to figure out how to resolve any issues that may be identified as quickly as possible. Social services wants to take a team perspective – everyone should be included in the decision-making: social worker, lawyers, parents, children (if they are capable of doing so), doctors, teachers, etc.
- Admitting guilt does not increase your chances of having your child removed or (if a child has been removed already) returned to the home. Everyone does stupid shit. Sometimes that stupid shit gets you into a lot of trouble. Talking about mistakes made or continuous struggles helps the process move along swiftly.
I could keep going and going. I may continue this later in a new post regarding the comments about the article (REALLY PEOPLE?! CPS DOES NOT HAVE A “QUOTA” NOR DO CPS WORKERS GET COMMISSION!). Until then, keep your heads on straight and have a conversation with someone who works in the field.
Welcome to social work (stigmas, stereotypes, and other things that mean ‘bias’).