How to Protect Yourself…And Your Family…From CPS (Child Protective Services)
Posted: 17 Nov 2009 09:58 PM PST
It’s 9:00 in the morning, your older children are at school and the baby is watching Sesame Street so you sit down for that morning cup of coffee and a few minutes of peace. Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door and you wonder who that could be this early in the morning. You go to the door, still in your pajamas and this professional-looking social worker is standing there saying that someone has anonymously reported you for child abuse and/or neglect.
You’re stunned. Who would have done something like that to you? You’re a good mom. You struggle, just like everyone else, to make ends meet, getting a little financial assistance from the state. Yesterday was hectic as it was “family day” and you didn’t get a chance to wash all the dishes, mop the kitchen floor, or do laundry. Church and family on Sundays, that’s the rule and you live by that rule. So who could it be that would call in a complaint? It could be anyone ranging from your neighbor, your best friend, a family member or someone you pissed off in a grocery store. You don’t have to give your name, address, phone number, etc. when you call in an abuse allegation. You don’t have to offer one shred of proof that the person is guilty of abuse or neglect. All it takes is for one person to have a grudge against you and they can get even by reporting you to CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES!
They go by many different names such as DSS, DCF, DSYF, or a myriad of other alphabet soup names but CPS is the universally accepted anagram for Child Protective Services. Once they enter your life, unless you are independently wealthy and can afford to hire your own attorney, the deck is stacked against you. If for some reason…no matter how small…the social worker does not like you, they can and they will substantiate an abuse/neglect allegation against you. The reasons are usually asinine and ridiculous. One family lost their son and only got him back when they promised him he wouldn’t have to go to church more than one time per week. He had been going three. Another mother lost her child because she got sunburned at a park. A friend of mine lost hers because she didn’t have the “appropriate” food in her house for her 2 children. I don’t even know what they mean by that as they would not bother explaining exactly what it was that she did wrong. Now they’re terminating her rights, or are trying to. She had been sexually abused as a child and was somewhat obsessive about no one changing her children’s diapers or bathe her daughter but her and they used that against her as well. They said she was too “anal and obsessive” and therefore was not an effective parent. In my opinion, that’s her right. She is protecting her children from harm so how is that being a bad mom? It certainly doesn’t warrant losing your child forever.
There are many things you can do to protect yourself. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. While CPS tends to target the poor and uneducated, do not assume for one second that if you’re in the middle-class income range that this can’t happen to you because it happens all the time. That’s where all the “marketable” children are coming from. You make too much money to be given a court-appointed attorney but you do not have the resources with which to hire your own. In that regard, you would be better off in the “poor” group. Most privately hired attorneys want a minimum of $5,000 to $10,000 up front and they let you know that that’s just to start. Most cases run up into the $50,000 range as CPS will drag you into court every 3 months. You will have monthly “family” meetings to check on your progress and you’d better have your attorney present at each and every meeting.
I am going to do something a little different here. Each day I’m going to give you a rule of thumb and go into detail on why they are so important. Sometimes it’s not enough to just know WHAT to do, it’s important that you know WHY to do it…or not do it, as the case may be.
First Rule of Thumb
If CPS knocks on your door, do NOT let them in without a warrant. They are not law enforcement officers and there is no law anywhere that states you must let them in. Force them to get a warrant. They will have to go in front of a judge, swear on the Bible that they’re telling the truth, and then offer reasonable proof that you are abusing and/or neglecting your children. For most judges, at least the honorable ones, an anonymous tip doesn’t cut it. The exception might be if a medical professional or a teacher called it in. They carry more weight.
There are some new laws out there for mandatory reporters that if they fail to report any suspicion of child abuse, they can be arrested and put in jail. These days most medical professionals call in allegations over just about anything so that they don’t get in trouble. So if your child falls down the stairs and breaks their arm, you don’t have a choice but to take them to the doctor but just don’t be surprised if CPS shows up at your door. Make absolutely sure that when you do take your child to the doctor, that it’s to a doctor that you trust. Call their pediatrician before going to the ER. He might meet you there. If you’ve built up trust with that doctor, then most likely no reports will be made. Most ER doctors are trained to suspect abuse so do try very hard to get your child’s regular doctor to take care of the problem. However, do NOT wait until he/she can see you. You take them to the ER right away because waiting even a few hours can be considered medical neglect. Your first and only priority is getting your child’s broken bone taken care of. Be sure to keep a copy of all the records and ask for a report before leaving, along with a copy of the x-ray and any reports from the radiologist. Do not ever let fear override common sense. If your child needs medical attention, you don’t delay it, not even for a short period of time as that can be considered medical neglect.
Another reason not to let them in your house is if it’s not exactly clean on the day they come to visit. They won’t care if you’ve been in the bed with the flu for 3 days, if it’s not clean to THEIR STANDARDS, they will substantiate a claim and a messy home will be transformed into a filth-ridden home on their report. You can be the best housekeeper in the world but miss 2 days for any reason and they’ll pounce on it. In fact, that’s one of their number one things that they allege on a parent. One family I know lost their child because there was still crumbs on the table and floor after their snack. Another one lost her child because he was sitting on the floor in front of the television set eating a snack. They claimed she made him “eat off the floor.” It’s always a good idea to take pictures of your home to prove the condition of it in case they make that allegation against you. A good way to prove that it was taken on a specific day is to have a copy of that day’s newspaper in every shot. It’s best to have a digital camera so that you can upload the pictures and then email them to the social worker that day. Make sure the date stamp is correct on all of the pictures. Make sure you send them to your attorney as well.
Tomorrow we will go into more details on why you should never allow a social worker into your home and how to teach your children NOT to answer their questions without you or an attorney present. I will give you step-by-step instructions on how to prevent them from ambushing your children and your lives.