There is nothing quite as scary as a visit from Child Protective Services (CPS). When CPS visits only come alongside a report of child abuse. CPS officers likely believe the home is unsafe and will do what they must to protect any children present.
These visits create challenging situations for parents. Many believe that cooperating with CPS demands will result in clearing up a false accusation and a quick resolution. Many parents end up inadvertently waiving vital parental rights that could result in losing custody of their children.
10 rules for working with CPS
Following these guidelines when CPS visits can prevent a misunderstanding from turning into a catastrophe:
- Do not be rude. Parents will likely feel defensive and hostile toward people wanting to take their children away. However, CPS workers may use that hostility as evidence of an abusive personality.
- Ask about the charges. Federal law requires caseworkers to provide all the details of the accusation and not generalized categories like “abuse” or “neglect.”
- Treat the matter seriously. No matter how ridiculous the charges may seem, parents must take the accusation seriously. The law requires caseworkers respond to every reported allegation, prioritizing the safety of the children. Take it as seriously as they do.
- Do not speak more than necessary. Parents will find it challenging to keep quiet in the face of false accusations that threaten their family. Caseworkers may see explanations or arguments as admissions of guilt or evidence of abusive behavior.
- Do not apologize or admit guilt. Never admit to any wrongdoing, no matter what the agent says. They are not authorized to make deals.
- Keep them outside. Never let a government agent inside without a court order or warrant. It does not matter if they have a police escort or make threats. Allowing them in may inadvertently waive certain parental rights.
- Record all interactions. Record audio or video of everything. It is legal in Texas for an individual to secretly record any conversation of which they are a part.
- Take the child to a doctor. For charges of physical abuse, take the child to a trusted doctor for an examination and ask if they would write a letter finding no evidence of abuse or neglect.
- Involve the family. The law requires that CPS place children with friends or family before a foster home.
- Hire an attorney familiar with CPS. The best way for a parent to avoid saying something inflammatory to a social worker is by hiring the services of a local attorney familiar with CPS.
Understand parental rights
Most parents who work with CPS end up inadvertently waiving many parental rights in the name of cooperation. Texas parents must understand their rights when dealing with CPS to keep their families together and safe.