There are many reasons CPS can take your child from your home. Many parents are terrified of dealing with Child Protective Services because of the all-too-familiar horror stories surrounding this agency.
Unfortunately, I’ve felt that terror firsthand. My children have never been removed from my home, but I have become very familiar with the agency over the years since a few people have reported us for various malicious and non-malicious reasons. However, I know that we have been fortunate and many other families are not so lucky.
One of the first things that many people wonder when they’re approached by CPS is, “What are the reasons CPS can take your child?!”
That’s only natural, because every parent’s first instinct is to keep their family together. Fortunately, we have found answers to this question!
Before we go any further, though, I need to remind you that I am not a doctor or social worker. I am a journalist and a researcher. Although I’ve scoured the internet for reputable sources, I need to remind you to contact a lawyer for advice about your specific situation. We have a free legal aid directory here.
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There are 7 main reasons CPS can take your child.
Officially, CPS can only remove your child if they have a court order or if the child is an emergency situation.
The caseworker must honestly believe that the home is not safe for the child, the child is in imminent danger or an emergency has made it impossible for them to leave the child at home.
Remember that the goal of CPS is to keep families together while keeping children safe. For example, Virginia State Law states that children should be in the custody of their parent or guardian unless there is an “imminent danger to the child’s life or health” to the point that “severe or irremediable injury would be likely to result” or “if the evidence of abuse is perishable or subject to deterioration before a hearing can be held.”
Although the details may vary, most of the removal-worthy situations can be grouped into a few major categories.
The goal of removing a child from the home is to keep the child safe from any immediate harm. If CPS has evidence of physical violence or domestic violence within the home, that’s a clear indicator that the child may be in immediate danger. Thus, physical violence is one of the main reasons CPS can take your child away.
If sexual abuse has occurred between a child and someone else in the home, at least one person will have to be removed. In some cases, both the offender and the victim may be removed from the home.
Children who have been the victim of sex trafficking or other human trafficking can also be taken into custody immediately.
In some circumstances, drug use can also be one of the reasons CPS can take your child. In some states, marijuana does not count. In other states, it has to be proven that the drugs were used in the presence of the child.
Allowing your child to remain on the premises where methamphetamine was manufactured can also result in a removal since that is specifically listed in Texas law.
Abandonment & Extreme Neglect
Many people confuse poverty for abuse, but poverty is not abuse. In order to be abusive, it must be intentional. If a parent is doing everything they can to get by, that’s not abuse.
However, extreme neglect is one of the more common reasons why CPS can take your child. Extreme neglect includes things like:
- There is no food in the house
- The child is visibly malnourished.
- The child has no clothing.
- The child has been denied necessary medical care.
- The child has been locked in a small enclosed space.
- The child has been denied access to the house.
- The child has been abandoned or left alone for an extended period of time.
Extreme environmental danger is another one of the reasons CPS can take your child. This includes things like firearms and illegal drugs being left in the open, where the child can access it. This also includes things like extreme filthiness, pest infestations, lack of sanitary facilities and more.
Mild environmental danger, like computer cables on the floor, will not result in child removal. I’ve been reported for having a messy house before and nothing came of it. It has to be much more severe to warrant removing a child from the home.
If a caregiver is unable to care for a child, CPS will have no choice but to remove that child. There are many reasons that a caregiver may be deemed unable to care for a child, including:
- The parent or guardian cannot be physically present due to hospitalization, incarceration, or another reason.
- The parent has a severe, untreated mental illness that results in unpredictable and dangerous behavior.
- The parent or guardian has a history of violent or cruel behavior.
- The parent or guardian is unwilling to cooperate or accept services.
Medical child abuse is what happens when a child receives unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments at a caretaker’s request. This is also known as Munchhausen by Proxy.
If a hospital healthcare worker suspects a parent may be guilty of medical child abuse, they can refuse to discharge the child into that parent’s care while they contact CPS. Thus, medical abuse is another one of the reasons CPS can take your child.