Many parents feel far more concerned and worried when talking with a Child Protective Services (CPS) officer than when talking to a police officer. They know that CPS has the power to remove children from homes where they believe that a threat exists. When the officer knocks on the door, they think that family life as they know it is about to come to an end.
It’s a nightmare scenario for many parents. It feels wrong on many levels for the state to have the power to break apart your family. You may feel panicked and overwhelmed.
Let’s start by making one thing very clear: The arrival of the CPS officer does not guarantee that they will remove your child from your home. It’s not automatic. There are many cases where nothing changes. This is just the first step in the process.
As such, you don’t want to panic. Stay calm, remember that you — and your child — do have rights, and consider how the process will play out. What happens next is crucial for your family’s future.
CPS gets tips from many sources
First and foremost, remember that CPS gets tips and reports from all kinds of sources. Teachers. Doctors. Neighbors. Family members. These tips come in from everywhere, and they have to look at every one and decide if it’s worth investigating or not. In many cases, it’s not.
Even in cases where they do decide to investigate, it’s just that: an investigation. They have not decided anything beforehand. They’re just following up the tip to see if it was warranted. They don’t want to take your child. They’re just trying to look into it to see if they need to.
The process takes time
The investigative process can take time and may grow complex. It often beings with interviews. These could focus on you, your child, the alleged perpetrator or anyone else involved. CPS wants to talk to everyone and get their sides of the story.
After that, they may do further examinations. For instance, if your child has an injury that a teacher thought you caused — prompting the call — but that you say has a perfectly acceptable reason, they may have a doctor examine the child to see how it may have occurred.
After that, the CPS worker will talk to you and tell you what the outcome of the investigation was. Sometimes, this only takes 24 hours. They won’t keep you in the dark.
You have rights
Even so, it’s natural for you to fear for the loss of your child and your family life. This is very hard on parents, and you need to make sure you understand all of the rights you have.