Being accused of child abuse or neglect is a heartbreaking experience. If Child Protective Services (CPS) is investigating a claim that was made against you, you’ll want to know how to protect yourself. A CPS investigation is often the first step to a Juvenile Dependency / CPS case being opened against you and your child(ren) being removed from your home.
Take Accusations Seriously
When you feel that the claims made against you are false, frivolous, or even malicious, you should still take the CPS investigation seriously. The social worker can take your child if they find evidence supporting the claim, but you do have rights throughout this process. For example, California Penal Code protects the identity of any person who makes a claim, stating that information must be kept confidential.
Other information may generally be provided on your copy of the SOC 832, which is the Notice of Child Abuse Central Index Listing. Along with this form that details the charges CPS is investigating, the social worker or agency should also furnish copies of the SOC 833 and 834.
A SOC 833 explains your right to a grievance hearing and the procedure involved in that process. Should you decide to request a grievance hearing, you must complete the SOC 834.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Despite how emotionally charged these situations are, you must remain calm when interacting with social workers and police officers. Anything you say will be used in a CPS investigation as evidence. In many circumstances, it is best to say nothing at all. Unfortunately, many social workers approach each new case with the presumption of guilt, and confirmation bias controls any further interactions or conversations they have with you.
Don’t Invite Them Inside
Unless they show up at your door with a search warrant in hand, do not let them in. It is second nature for many people to want to be accommodating and cooperative as the best course of action to prove their innocence, but this is not always the case. CPS claims that their goal is for children to stay in their homes when it is safe to do so, but upon entering your home, they will likely be looking for evidence to support the claims they’re investigating.
Obtain a Physical Exam
If the claim against you is for any kind of physical abuse, you will want your child to obtain a physical examination by their doctor as soon as possible. The pediatrician will evaluate medical history and current findings, paying specific attention to bruising patterns, tenderness, and possibly radiographic tests like x-rays.
Make a List of Caregivers
If CPS removes the child from your home, you should have a list of people who can take them while the investigation is ongoing. This list can include the child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, or any other relatives or close friends of the family who can provide a safe space for them until they are cleared to return home.
CPS investigations can make even the best parents feel scared and helpless. Knowing what rights you and your family have can help you get through this difficult process.
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