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Child Protective Services (CPS) Questions

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What is Child Protective Services or CPS?

Child Protective Service (CPS) is a government agency in many states in the United States that responds to child abuse and child neglect issues. Some states may use different names such as “Department of Social Services” (DSS) or “Department of Children & Family Services” (DCFS).

Contrary to common perception, CPS is not set up to take children away from parents. They are simply there to protect the best interest of the child -- help prevent child abuse and neglect -- and to help the child live in a safe environment. Sometimes when CPS caseworkers come into a child’s home, the parents can feel intimidated and confused about the rights CPS has. Fear because they are unaware of their own rights, or even why the caseworkers are there can lead to legal questions. Understand your rights with respect to Child Protective Services. Below are answers provided by Experts on some of the commonly asked questions about CPS.

What are my rights if CPS is trying to enter my home to investigate?

A person has the right to refuse investigation in most cases. However, if a parent refuses, then the Child Protective Services can request that the court remove the children because of lack of cooperation. After that, the CPS would have 72 hours to find evidence on why the children should be removed from the home. If no evidence is found, then they must return the children. If the CPS is called as a result of referral then by law the caseworker is required to investigate all referrals for the protection of the children. If children are removed by the CPS, then the parent has the right to challenge the findings in a trial hearing.

What do CPS caseworkers look for when they visit a child’s home and what are the implications of refusing a drug test asked for by a CPS caseworker?

Normally, Child Protective Services will look around the house to make sure that the house is safe for the children that live there -— no drugs, no signs of abuse or neglect, etc. If parents do not have a history of drugs, appear to be free from drugs, and if the CPS caseworker finds the house safe, then the case may be dropped by the CPS.

However, if the CPS caseworkers ask a parent or parents to take a drug test and they refuse it, then the caseworker may have reason to suspect that the parent is under the influence of drugs and can legally take the children away from the home. If you are not sure what to do when dealing with the CPS, you could ask a Family Lawyer to evaluate your case and provide Expert legal insights.

Does CPS have the right to ask someone to take a hair follicle drug test if the person has already passed the oral and urine test?

Usually CPS can request that the parent take a hair follicle drug test to reassure that they are free from drug abuse. Typically the hair that they use for this kind of test comes from the top of the head. If the parent refuses to take a drug test, the child could be taken away from the home until CPS believes it is safe for the child to return. If the parent has nothing to hide, it’s often best to cooperate with child protective services and cause less stress to the child and the family.

In Texas, can CPS build a case without talking to both parties that are involved?

According to the law in Texas, the CPS caseworker may interview the parents. However, if there is proof of child abuse and/ or neglect, then no home visit or interview is deemed necessary. In such situations, CPS usually has the authority to just remove the children from the home. The CPS caseworker will need to investigate further to prepare a report for the judge. This report is to facilitate a court decision on whether the child needs to become a ‘protected child of the state’, and whether the parents should be charged. During this process the law requires that both the parents be notified by the caseworker, of all of the details about the hearing in their case.

Does CPS have the right to talk to a minor without the parent or legal guardian around?

Although the parent has the right to know what was discussed between the caseworker and the child, Child Protective Services also have the right to talk to a minor about their living situations. That is mainly why CPS often contacts the minor at school. The parent and the child have the right to refuse talking to the child protective services. When the parent or child refuses to talk, it can raise suspicion and make the caseworker raise more questions and investigate further.

Dealing with Child Protective Services can be a difficult and traumatic time. You may not understand what to do, or what your rights are when dealing with CPS. Although you may think you understand your rights, it is best to be absolutely sure about the legal implications of the decisions you take. A quick and easy way to do this is to ask a Family Lawyer.

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