CPS Investigations: What To Do When CPS Accuses You?

 In Criminal

What Should You Do When CPS Contacts You?

You may get the call at work. Or while watching the Cowboys on Sunday. Perhaps you were just about to sit down to dinner with your family when there’s a knock on the door.

No matter how or when, it is never a good time to be contacted by CPS. So what do you do when CPS wants to talk? This is a question that rarely, if ever, crosses your mind until the unthinkable happens.

What is CPS and what does it do?

Child Protective Services, or CPS, is a state agency charged with investigating reports of suspected child physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect of children under the age of 17. Generally speaking, a CPS investigation begins in one of two ways: a detective notifies CPS that a police investigation has begun or CPS receives a report or “tip” on a hotline. The primary responsibility of a CPS worker is to determine whether or not abuse has occurred in the home by parents, family members, or other household members. You should know that there is no formal screening process for evaluating the credibility of the individual making the complaint or the motivation behind the allegation. Accusations can also be made anonymously without regard for the potential damage a baseless accusations can cause.

What happens in a CPS Investigation?

CPS workers will attempt to interview all of the individuals involved. The recency and details of the allegation will dictate the speed with which an investigation is initiated and completed. CPS will conduct what can be a lengthy forensic interview of a child on videotape. Depending on the circumstances, it is also not uncommon for CPS to visit and interview a child at his or her school. In cases of sexual abuse allegations, a child will undergo a complete sexual assault exam. When allegations of physical abuse arise, children will oftentimes be sent for a complete physical exam. CPS workers will also speak to other potential witnesses and those closest to the alleged victim. This may include family members, neighbors, teachers, medical professionals and law enforcement. Lastly, a CPS worker will attempt to question the accused.

How do CPS investigations end?

At the conclusion of the investigation, CPS will issue a formal “ruling” concerning the allegations. CPS may find there is “reason to believe” the allegation. If however, CPS is unable to determine the validity of the allegation, they will rule the case “unable to determine.” And finally, if CPS determines the allegation to be false, CPS will rule the investigation “unfounded.”  CPS will prepare a report and a permanent record will be made of the entire investigation.

Eight Things You Should Do if CPS Contacts You:

  • Take any accusation seriously. No matter how difficult it is to comprehend, the CPS worker will treat the matter with the utmost urgency. Every claim, regardless of the absurdity, may result in felony charges being filed. Every felony involving physical or sexual abuse of a child carries the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. 
  • Know that the clock is running. As a general rule, most CPS investigations are completed within 30 days. By the time you learn that you are under investigation, you are behind and every minute counts. Your children may have already been interviewed. You may know of witnesses who can provide invaluable evidence in your favor- alibi witnesses, character witnesses, witnesses as to the motivation behind the initial report, or witnesses who can conclusively establish your innocence.
  • Go into any CPS investigation with your eyes open. CPS will have gathered all of the necessary information to render their decision before they ever contact you. You will be the last one interviewed and in most cases, their minds are made up.
  • Be informed of your rights. CPS will not tell you that you do not have to speak to them. The decision whether to say anything concerning the accusation is entirely yours. You also have the right to stop talking to CPS at any point.
  • Understand the consequences of talking. Anything you say to CPS can be used against you in the CPS investigation, police investigation and ultimately a court of law. CPS works with law enforcement, meets weekly with the detectives responsible for investigating the criminal case and are oftentimes housed in the same building as the police.
  • Do not talk to anyone about the allegations. Seemingly innocuous admissions can be transformed into confessions later in a court of law.
  • Never invite CPS into your home unless they have a warrant or court order to do so. CPS many not enter your home without your authority or the appropriate legal authority to do so.
  • Prepare a list of relatives or friends who are willing to care for your children in the event CPS removes them from your home.

The prospect of defending yourself when you’ve done nothing wrong can be daunting. The moment you learn that you are being investigated, contact an attorney who is experienced in handling and defending physical and sexual abuse cases. Choosing the right attorney to shepherd you through what can be a frightening and intimidating process is critical.

The attorneys at Varghese Summersett have decades of experience handling what matters most in these types of cases — your family, your freedom and your future.

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