We’ve had many parents ask us, “What questions will CPS ask my child?” This is a common concern, especially because social workers often want to speak with children privately. Even innocent parents are alarmed at the idea of a stranger talking to their children without a parent present.
If you’ve ever wondered “What questions will CPS ask my child?” we have an answer for you!
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.
There is no set script for CPS interviews.
During our research, we were unable to locate an exact script that social workers use when interviewing children. That makes sense, because every CPS case is unique. However, the overall objectives are the same because the CPS caseworker is attempting to evaluate whether or not the alleged claims are true.
We have based all of this information on the 136-page document titled “Child Protective Services: A Guide for Caseworkers.” It is summarized here for your convenience.
The goal of the interview is to uncover the following information:
- What happened? When? Where? Who was involved?
- What is the child’s current condition?
- What is the type, severity and frequency of the maltreatment?
- What were the effects of what happened?
- Does anyone else have information about the incident?
- Is the family at risk? What are the family’s strengths and weaknesses? Is there any other maltreatment that has occurred? Is the family capable of protecting the child?
Caseworkers are trained to use reflective listening, which involves mirroring back statements with the goal of uncovering more information. Because of that, it is impossible to create an exhaustive list of all the questions that might be asked during an interview.
Therefore, in this article, we are going to break down common lines of questioning and some possible questions. The exact questions that are asked to your child may vary depending on the circumstances, caseworker, and exact allegations against you.
CPS will speak to a lot of people.
During an investigation, the CPS caseworker will try to interview the identified child first. Afterward, they will interview any siblings and other children in the home. The alleged perpetrator will be interviewed next, followed by any other adults in the home. All of these interviews will be conducted privately, one-on-one, to ensure accruacy in the answers.
Finally, after all of the individual interviews are concluded, the family will be interviewed as a whole.
Depending on the circumstances, other people may also be interviewed. They may consult with teachers, doctors, daycare providers or others that may have knowledge about the allegations.
What happens when CPS talks to my kid?
If you’re wondering “What questions will CPS ask my child?” you should also ask about what happens during the interview. Caseworkers are taught to make the interview as non-traumatic as possible. They choose neutral settings where children will not feel pressured or intimidated. They may play with toys during the interview to make the child more comfortable.
What questions will CPS ask my child?
The questions that are asked will evaluate whether your child has experienced neglect, physical abuse, mental abuse and/or sexual abuse. Depending on the allegations against you, the questions may vary.
Questions about Neglect
The caseworker will ask questions about neglect. These questions will evaluate whether your child has suffered any maltreatment, hunger, environmental or medical neglect.
The caseworker will assess if there is food available to the child and if that food is nutritious. If your child has a history of specific health problems, the caseworker will want to make sure that you are providing the proper nutrition to that child.
Cleanliness will also be evaluated. How frequently does the child bathe? Are their skin, hair, teeth and clothes clean? Caseworkers will try to identify hygiene patterns to determine if neglect has occurred.
Safety will also be evaluated. Does the child have appropriate clothing for the weather? Does the home have hazardous conditions, like exposed wiring? Are there sanitary concerns?
Medical neglect is another concern that may be addressed. Has the child been seriously injured or ill? Were they given adequate treatment and health care when they needed it?
Abandonment is another serious concern. It is generally considered neglect if a child under the age of 8 is left alone. Children who are older than 12 can spend an hour or two alone every day. However, caseworkers will be very attentive to how often children are left alone, the time of day that they are left alone, and how capable the child is of handling being alone.
Poverty, by itself, is not neglect. However, the caseworker may note if the child has unstable living conditions or lacks necessary supplies because of extreme poverty.
Questions could include things like these:
- Are you hungry? What do you usually eat?
- How do your parents react when you get hurt
- Have your parents ever left you alone?
- When was the last time you had a bath?
- Who stays with you when your parents have to leave?
Questions about Physical Abuse
Depending on the allegations and what the caseworker observes, they may also ask questions about physical abuse. If an injury is observed, the caseworker is responsible for finding out if the injury could have happened in a non-abusive manner and if the explanation matches the findings.
When it comes to physical abuse, caseworkers will examine the nature of the injury and evaluate whether the explanation offered matches the actual injuries. If no explanation is offered, this is often considered an indication of abuse.
The length of time that parents wait to receive medical care may also be evaluated. If you hesitate to seek treatment, it may indicate that you were trying to cover up the abuse or in denial about the extent of the injuries. These are very serious problems that will raise very serious questions.
If you’re wondering “what questions will CPS ask my child about physical abuse?” these are some examples. The details will vary depending on your circumstances.
- How did you get that injury?
- Do your parents ever hurt you on purpose?
- Are you scared of making your parents angry? Why?
- What happens when your parents get upset?
Questions about Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is a common complaint that must be investigated by Child Protective Services. These are very serious allegations, but the topic is also very sensitive. It’s natural for parents to wonder “what questions will CPS ask my child about sexual abuse?’
- Has anyone touched you inappropriately?
- Does (this person) make you uncomfortable?
- Can you tell me what happened?
- When did it happen? Where did it happen?
CPS caseworkers are trained to be aware of suspicious reports, including reports made by divorcing parents against one another. They are also familiar with complaints that arise from innocent situations, like bathing the child. Questions will be asked to discern whether or not the alleged abuse actually occurred.
Questions about Mental Abuse
Mental, or psychological, abuse is another concern that CPS investigates. When investigating these complaints, the caseworker must determine if the abuse occurred and if it is a chronic behavioral pattern.
If you’re wondering “what questions will CPS ask my child about mental or emotional abuse,” here are some examples.
- Are your parents nice?
- You seem sad. Can you tell me why?
- Who is your favorite person in your family? Who do you have a hard time with?
- You don’t seem very interested in sports any more. Can you tell me what changed?
- Do you ever think about hurting yourself? Can you tell me about that?
All of these questions are designed to prompt the child to talk about their feelings and experiences so that the caseworker can better evaluate the situation.
Do not coach your children.
I am somewhat concerned that you may be looking into “What questions will CPS ask my child?” because you want to coach your children to give better answers. I do not condone this whatsoever.
I have only written this article because when I was investigated by CPS, I was concerned about leaving my very young children alone with someone I didn’t know. I was worried about what they might ask or do to my child when they were left unattended. Because of that, I wanted to share what I have learned to help ease the worries of any other anxious parents out there.
If you feel the need to coach your children in preparation for an interview with CPS, it’s a strong indicator that you are aware that something is wrong. The CPS caseworker will probably pick up on this. Also, you may be depriving your family of the opportunity to connect with resources that could genuinely help you correct any problems in your home.
Please, please do not coach your children for any reason.