Do you know what your rights are if Child Protective Services (CPS) comes to your door?
Here’s a story that is, sadly, all too common.
A young mother’s third daughter accidentally rolled and fell off the bed. It wasn’t an emergency. However, it seemed like the baby was injured, so she took the baby into the doctor’s office the next morning.
The doctor seemed more concerned that the baby hadn’t been to every well visit than she was about the fracture.
Although the baby had needed an x-ray, they reassured the mother that her baby would be fine and that the arm would heal on its own without any intervention.
Although she felt terrible for the accident, the mother left feeling relieved.
A few days later, she received a call from CPS informing her that she had been reported for child neglect and that an agent would be visiting her home several days later.
The doctor she had seen was new to the practice and didn’t know the family although they had been coming for six years.
This doctor had called Child Protective Services after leaving a message for the woman’s husband giving instructions that were at odds with what she had said in the office, and without giving either of them time to respond.
She also lied to CPS, claiming that she had tried to call the woman several times when she hadn’t.
Knowing Her Rights
Fortunately for this mother, she had several days to prepare, and she had ways to disprove what the doctor was saying.
She and her husband made the right decision by calling a lawyer to be present with them during the investigation.
They also informed themselves of their rights. She did not have her children taken away, and her case was closed when CPS found nothing to substantiate the doctor’s claims.
However, the fear and anxiety caused by the false allegations were real. Moreover, now she has a file in the system.
This young woman did something crucial the right way.
Do you know what it was?
She didn’t assume that since she wasn’t guilty, bad things couldn’t happen. Therefore, she did not inadvertently give CPS anything they could use against her.
There are several rights you have when under investigation by Child Protective Services, of which no CPS agent is bound by law to inform you.
Parents are not always presumed innocent. Sometimes, CPS workers have already determined you are guilty if there is a report and is looking for things to use against you in court.
5 Crucial Rights You Need to Know if CPS Contacts You
Here are the rights you need to be aware of and protect:
You have the right to know the charges against you in detail.
During the caseworker’s first contact with you, she is required by federal law to tell you, in detail, about the charges against you.
Do not settle for a vague “neglect” or “abuse” charge. However, demand to know the details of your charges: who, what, when, and where.
You have the right not to answer questions.
We see this all the time with innocent people interrogated by police: they are eager to clear up the problem; to show that there was some mistake.
Chances are good, however, that the agent already believes you are guilty if a call was made against you.
Do NOT submit to a CPS investigation without a lawyer present.
Do NOT answer questions. I can’t stress this enough. What you say in an attempt to be reasonable can and will be twisted in court to be used against you.
This goes for your children as well. In Michigan, CPS must have your permission to speak with your child in your presence.
Just say no.
You have the right not to let CPS into your home unless they have a signed warrant or court order.
CPS workers can lie to you. They may tell you they’re there to take your children, and they may even have a police officer with them.
However, if they don’t have a court order to show you, don’t let them in.
Your 4th amendment rights apply to every situation, regardless of what the CPS worker says. If you let them into your home, you have just waived your constitutional rights.
Know that it may not stop them from coming in anyway. In this case, do not fight or you will end up in jail yourself. However, if you make it known that you are protesting, you can use this information in court.
Demand that they do not separate your children from you.
Demand that they not enter your house, but do not physically resist.
You have the right to have everything recorded.
In Michigan, it is perfectly legal to secretly record or videotape any conversation you are a part of.
If you can record your conversation with the CPS agent, whatever words you do say to him that get twisted can be disproved in court.
You have the right to employ an attorney to fight on your behalf.
You need the right attorney. Do not settle for an attorney who wants to make sure you comply with everything CPS asks of you.
This is not fighting for you.
Find an attorney who has experience fighting against CPS as soon as you know that you are being investigated.
Actions to Take
Have your child examined by a doctor who will testify that she found no bruises and that there is no health concerns.
Ask your friends and family to get involved by writing letters on your behalf stating what a good parent you are. If it comes to this, make sure CPS has to place your children with your family or friends rather than a state foster home.
In addition, never under any circumstances admit guilt or partial guilt. Uncertainty, mistakes, and “mommy guilt” are one thing. However, admitting to the abuse or neglect of your children is entirely different.
Contact an Experienced Family Lawyer
If you are being investigated by Child Protective Services, it is crucial that you have an experienced family lawyer who is familiar with CPS cases.
Contact David J. Kramer, Michigan family lawyer today.