CPS Investigations: Understanding Your Rights

knock at the door

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) routinely investigates reports of child abuse, neglect, and sexual misconduct with the sole mission of helping at-risk children escape dangerous household environments. Child Protective Services (CPS), a division of the DFPS, is responsible for investigating cases, educating families, and determining if a child should be placed in foster care.

Depending on the severity of the case, CPS may provide in-home services and parenting classes to stabilize families, strengthen bonds, and ultimately reduce the risk of future neglect and abuse. However, until a child’s safety can be reasonably assured, CPS may have the child temporarily live with a relative or close family friend (Parental Child Safety Placement). In more serious cases, especially in child sexual assault cases, CPS completes an investigation before filing criminal charges and permanently removing the child.

A CPS Investigation

Texas, rightfully, takes child abuse allegations very seriously. Anyone can report a case of suspected child abuse or neglect to DFPS by calling their toll-free Abuse Hotline. In fact, some individuals, like teachers and doctors, have a legal obligation to immediately report any suspected cases of child abuse to the property authorities. However, sometimes passersby can mishear conversations or misinterpret events, leading to false allegations that jeopardize a family’s future. For example, in 2013, CPS’s statewide intake system received approximately 730,000 reports, out of which only 45% met the requirements for an investigation.

CPS divides cases by priority level:

  • Priority 1: A case requires investigation within 24 hours because a child is at immediate risk
  • Priority 2: A cases will be investigated within 72 hours
  • No Priority: No further action is taken unless additional claims are reported

For priority cases, a CPS worker is assigned to investigate the family and the circumstances surrounding the alleged mistreatment. This investigation takes 30 days and is intended to determine if the child is safe with their family.

A caseworker will interview the following sources:

  • The child
  • The child’s siblings
  • The alleged perpetrator
  • Any other adults living in the homestead
  • Relatives
  • Neighbors
  • Teachers
  • Law enforcement officials
  • Caretakers
  • Physicians

CPS caretakers need to have a comprehensive understanding of agency policies, local guidelines, and the laws defining child maltreatment in Texas. In most cases, caseworkers are aware of the sensitive nature of this process and are required to investigate each case with a clear and open mind. However, this doesn’t mean that the CPS investigator won’t violate parents and children’s rights.

Your Rights

Most parents don’t expect a CPS investigation – especially when they’ve been wrongfully accused. In fact, caseworkers utilize the element of surprise to gather information and collect evidence. If you’ve had a CPS invtigator knock on your door, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced CPS parent defense attorney as soon as possible.

Assuming CPS is not accompanied with law enforcement and a warrant, you have the following rights in a CPS investigation:

  • You can tell a CPS investigator they cannot come into your home
  • A caseworker can talk to you and your child at the door without you letting the investigator inside your home
  • You can call the police if a CPS investigator enters your home without your permission
  • If you let a CPS investigator into your home, they need to leave whenever you say it’s time
  • A CPS investigator cannot search your home without your permission
  • You can file paperwork with the child’s school to ensure that a CPS investigator doesn’t interview your child at their school without your consent
  • A CPS investigator can’t speak to your child alone without your consent unless they go to the child’s school and you haven’t filed an objection with the school
  • You can refuse to let your child be interviewed, but the caseworker may come back with a court order
  • CPS can’t test you for drugs without your consent
  • If a caseworker knocks on your door, you have the power to say “I’d like a few days to hire a lawyer and review my legal rights.” (CPS may provide you with a booklet outlining your rights)
  • You can, and should, contact and consult with an attorney

Unfortunately, if an accused parent talks to a CPS investigator without an attorney to guide the parent, the parent may make an awkward comment that is misinterpreted by the CPS investigator. Even just admitting you drink or occasionally snap at your children can be used against you in the final report. A qualified attorney can guide you through each phase of the investigation and represent your interests when dealing with CPS.

A CPS investigation should be taken just as seriously as a police investigation. If you disagree with the results of a report, you or your lawyer can request an administrative review of the investigation and work with your attorney to pursue a different case outcome.

Schedule a Consultation Today

Contact a McKinney CPS parent defense attorney at Camille Borg Law, PLLC if you’re in the midst of a CPS investigation. Our lawyer, Camille R. Borg, is a former social worker who has a comprehensive understanding of applicable state laws and the CPS process.

Contact our family law firm at (469) 646-7763 to schedule a consultation.

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