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Do NOT make these 5 mistakes with CPS!

Do NOT make these 5 mistakes with CPS!

There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush and flood of shame that hits when you open the door to find someone from Child Protective Services (CPS) on your doorstep. It’s horrifying. It’s embarrassing. You immediately start to remember every CPS horror story you’ve ever heard and you begin to worry.

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Of course, you get defensive… but you know you’re a good parent. You want to cooperate because being cooperative has to be seen as a good thing, right?

Hold on. Hold up. Breathe. You’re about to make a whole bunch of rookie mistakes that could come back to haunt you later.

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First of all… you must take every visit from CPS seriously, no matter how ridiculous the allegations are.

Now, more than ever, low income families are being targeted by CPS as people confuse poverty with neglect. No winter coat? That alone could trigger a call to CPS.

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There are many innocent situations that could get you reported to Child Protective Services, including seeking a second opinion on a medical treatment.

Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking this can’t happen to you. No matter how good of a parent you are, a Child Protective Services visit can happen to anyone…

…and if you’re not careful, you could make a serious mistake before you even really know what’s happening.

I know because it’s happened to me!

Need legal advice?

Low Income Relief is staffed by researchers, not lawyers. If you need legal advice, our friends at JustAnswer may be able to help! Contact them today.

Don’t make these 5 mistakes!

#1: Do NOT defend yourself!

Breathe. Be calm… and be quiet!

I know how it feels. You feel that sudden rush of adrenaline. You feel accused, shameful, inadequate, upset and under attack. You may even feel anger – especially if you think you know who made the call!

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Stay calm. Don’t show your anger or anxiety and, no matter how hard it is, DO NOT DEFEND YOURSELF! The more you say, the more they know! Do NOT volunteer information for any reason. I understand the urge to be cooperative but you could just be making things worse for yourself later.

Most CPS referrals are very vague. They only know what was reported to them and usually that information is not very specific. If you jump in and defend yourself, anything you say could be used against you later.

Once a CPS investigation has begun, they will investigate every aspect of your family. Even if the allegations against you are false, they will be paying attention for other items of concern and can begin investigating other allegations based on their findings.

The best defense? A closed mouth.

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#2: Do NOT let them in the house!

It’s true! Unless they have a warrant and/or there is an obvious emergency, they cannot force themselves into your home. Even if a police officer is present, they can only enter your home if you consent, if they have a warrant OR if they hear an emergency situation going on.

Do NOT consent to let CPS in your home! 

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Decide now what you will say if CPS ever shows up and wants to enter your home. Keep it simple, polite and firm. I’m fond of saying “This isn’t a good time for me but I’m happy to schedule a visit on _______.”

Of course, you have the right to refuse and you don’t need to explain why. Remember, NO is a complete sentence!

Whatever you do, do NOT explain why you don’t want them in the house! Avoid saying things like “it’s a mess right now.” Depending on the allegations, you could be strengthening the case against you!

Know your rights!

If you do let them inside, you can ask them to stop or leave at any time. Unless they obtain a warrant, they are just like anyone else visiting your home. You have the right to make them leave at any time.

Even police are not allowed into your home without a court order or the presence of an emergency situation. If either CPS or police try to enter your home, ask what the emergency is and inform them you will be video recording once they enter the home.

If police do force themselves into your home, do not physically resist. Allow them in, state that you object to their violation of your rights and state that you wish to have an attorney present. These statements may assist you in a later court hearing.

#3: Do NOT forget to ask these important questions – and record the answers!

I was still dazed when the CPS investigator left my house. I immediately called an attorney and my mother-in-law… and then I realized just how much I didn’t know. I didn’t know the investigator’s name. I didn’t know what I was accused of. I didn’t know anything, really.

That’s a bad thing.

Here are a few questions you absolutely need to have answered – and be sure to record or write down the answers!

  1. Can I see your ID?
  2. What is the name and phone number of your supervisor?
  3. What are the exact allegations that have been made against me?
  4. Do you have a warrant to search my home or speak to my children?

Federal law gives you the right to know the exact nature of the allegations against you. If they say something vague, like “child abuse” or “environmental neglect,” demand specific answers. Sometimes, they will be very reluctant to tell you exactly what the accusations are but you have the legal right to this information!

If the investigator states they have a warrant, ask to see it. Be sure it is actually signed and dated by a judge!

Can I really record the conversation?

Most states require mutual consent to record conversations. As soon as they state who they are, ask for permission to record the conversation.

Most smartphones have built-in apps that can provide audio and video recording. If you want to audio without using the camera, this Smart Voice recorder by SmartMob is one of my favorites.

You most likely will not get consent to record the conversation with either audio or video. However, you can refuse to participate in an interview if you can’t record it… and if they try to force their way inside, inform them that you will absolutely be recording any entry into your home.

Even if they say no to audio/video recording, you can still take notes! Whip out your favorite memo app and start taking notes on the conversation. In a pinch, you can do this in an email or text message draft.

If you need to get your cell phone from your home, leave them at the door and say “I need to get something.” Close the door and hurry back! Don’t give them more time to look around than necessary!

#4: Do NOT assume you can’t get legal help just because you can’t afford it.

During that initial CPS contact, state your intention to get an attorney even if you can’t afford one. I know – this is a website for low income people and attorneys are VERY expensive. I understand that.

However, there are many free legal services available. We have a full list of free legal aid agencies in all 50 states right here!

Also, most lawyers provide a FREE 30 minute consultation on your first visit. When CPS visited us a few weeks ago, we followed up with a local family law attorney and received some very good advice during our free 30 minute visit!

If possible, arrange for any interviews to be held in front of an attorney. This can be costly, especially if you are paying to have the attorney come to your home.

If all else fails, request to audio/video record any interviews. This will most likely be denied but it’s worth trying.

#5 – Do NOT assume they have a court order – or even enough evidence to get one.

As I said before, CPS usually doesn’t have a lot of information in the first place. Don’t assume they have a court order or even enough evidence to get one!

They cannot come in your home without a court order unless they witness an emergency taking place.

They cannot take your children away without a court order except in exigent circumstances. Child Protective Services cannot simply take your children away from your home. Except in exigent circumstances, a court order is required before CPS can legally remove a child from your home without your consent. Exigent means that an emergency is actively taking place and action must be taken immediately.

Law enforcement have their own laws and regulations regarding the removal of children. However, CPS cannot take custody of the child from the police until the court order is complete.

It’s the same situation with hospitals. Without a court order, CPS cannot ask a hospital to detain a child in temporary custody.

Always ask to see the court order! To be valid, the court order must be signed by a judge.

No signature? No court order? No authority!

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Ready for the good news?!

Child Protective Services (CPS) offers many services and programs can help your family.

There are some really beneficial programs offered by CPS. Even if you are investigated – and even if the allegations are deemed unfounded – you may be able to get some valuable help from this agency!

Among other things, CPS can provide your family with food vouchers, free diapers and even help with housing! After our recent investigation, we were given $500 toward our utility bills!

One of the most important things to remember is that Child Protective Services investigators are just people doing their jobs. Sometimes they miss things and sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes, they see some truly horrific things. At the end of the day, they just want to leave their jobs and move on with their lives. They don’t hate you and they aren’t after your children.

That being said, EVERY investigation is a serious matter. Just because CPS can help you doesn’t mean you should let your guard down!

Get more info about what CPS can and cannot do here.

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Have too much month at the end of your money? Me too - and that's how Low Income Relief got started. I have over 20 years of professional research and writing experience. Over the years, I've worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. My work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, eHow.com, Livestrong.com, Legal Beagle, The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), The Chronicle (Centralia, WA) and others. At Low Income Relief, I use my professional research and reporting experience to help low income families save money and make ends meet. It's been my full-time job since 2016, and it's truly an honor to serve you.

Palina Williams

Monday 22nd of November 2021

One more thing if they already spoke to my son can they pull him from school and take him away from me?

If so under what grounds would they say?

Can I informed the school that if this happens I will press charges?

If they could do this I won't send him to school I will homeschool him.

I can't see how they would have this much power this is absurd!

Isaac

Monday 13th of December 2021

I’m so sorry that you are going through that. It sounds really difficult. Unfortunately, we cannot give specific legal advice. You can get low-cost legal advice online from our friends at JustAnswer, or you can look for free legal assistance in your area here. https://justanswer.9pctbx.net/c/1390468/1122033/9320 https://lowincomerelief.com/legal-aid

Palina Williams

Monday 22nd of November 2021

CPS visited my son at school gave him a business card to hand to me. I called her and asked her what this was about she said child abuse. I said what did she think after speaking with my son she said she has some concerns. I have no idea what these could be. I asked her what initiated this she said I was found sleeping in my car at the grocery store. I had sent my son into the store to get the soda and I shut my eyes cuz I had a hard day working. This is something I've done several times if I feel my eyes beginning to shut as I drive I will pull over I will rest for a moment. But I was not asleep just merely resting.

She called me back and said she'd like to meet do I have to meet her at my home or can I meet her at a neutral location? We sold our home various reasons. We are currently caring for our grandmother who has been inflicted with Alzheimer's. We do not stay in the house we have an RV in the front and he does have his own room. This does concern me a bit. Hot meals are an absolute showers absolute he's very well taken care of he's happy that's why I don't understand all this.

If I inform her that I am seeking an attorney do I have to continue the conversation?

I know I have more questions just really confusing to me.

Thank you!

Isaac

Monday 13th of December 2021

I’m so sorry that you are going through that. It sounds really difficult. Unfortunately, we cannot give specific legal advice. You can get low-cost legal advice online from our friends at JustAnswer, or you can look for free legal assistance in your area here. https://justanswer.9pctbx.net/c/1390468/1122033/9320 https://lowincomerelief.com/legal-aid

Bethany bielecki

Friday 19th of November 2021

My son was born on January 14th 2021 CPS took him away from his father and I March 3rd of the same year. We just had our court case yesterday being a first-time Mom I don't know if they're going to let me have my son back they use excuse of me having cerebral palsy and my husband do to his car wreck has a bad memory sometimes along with other allegations which are not true as a mother I was heartbroken and furious I want CPS is trying to do to split my family up. One question I have for CPS is what has my husband and I done to have our son taken away from us because obviously the accusations is hearsay and our caseworker turned her back on us at the trial yesterday Southeast Texas is not what it used to be which is why I fear for every mother and hope this doesn't happen to every parent that gives birth to a child is it a you think you have CPS called on you when you are a parent giving birth at a hospital because that's what happened to me all I'm saying is it's not right it will never be right and I will never forgive CPS for damaging my husband's father's family name. 😡

Isaac

Monday 13th of December 2021

I’m so sorry that you are going through that. It sounds really difficult. Unfortunately, we cannot give specific legal advice. You can get low-cost legal advice online from our friends at JustAnswer, or you can look for free legal assistance in your area here. https://justanswer.9pctbx.net/c/1390468/1122033/9320 https://lowincomerelief.com/legal-aid

SadWitness

Monday 15th of February 2021

I know of a case in which the mother leaves her child with his severely mentally ill father while she goes to work. Knowing what I know of this family, he should never be left alone with a small child, but on the other hand, she may not have much of a choice as I don’t think that they can afford a sitter and the mother is the breadwinner. CPS is circling them now, so things are looking super grim. :( The odds are not looking good.

dp

Tuesday 4th of May 2021

There is free childcare available if she will call the local school system and ask for information/contacts. 1. there is headstart and child care with headstart. 2. if the child is school age, there are programs that are related to schools. I was able to get my son into a program when he was 3 years old and I was going to college. I think my part of the cost was $28. It was income based. There are lots of federal programs to help families with children. <3

dont_use_my_name

Tuesday 2nd of February 2021

Help! i was arrested on extremely henoius charges, and the police at the time refused to leave the child with the adult at the scene, saying that the old man must suffer from delirium if he did not see or hear any of the activity i was accused of, and it was very bad.

4 months later the detective notified the prosecutor that not only did i not commit the crime, but the report was completely fabricated, concocted to generate symathy from her ex-boyfriend who just recieved a multi-million dollar inheritance. they declined to charge her, and dropped all charges and let me out.

i lost everything. house, cars, career, etc... broke and homeless.

and CPS refuses to return the child. just keeps asking for more asssesments that they cannot provide, etc.. they have run out the clock and have begun termination proceedings

Hannah Benge

Friday 5th of February 2021

We are so sorry! We recommend getting legal help. Check out our list here https://lowincomerelief.com/legal-aid/. Thanks! -Hannah