Child Protective Services is a state agency that attempts to protect children from neglect and abuse. CPS agents will make unannounced home visits after receiving a tip or complaint of maltreatment or danger in a home. If the CPS agent believes that a home is unsuitable for children, they will seek out a warrant to remove the children from their home and place them with an alternative family member such as a grandparent or aunt and uncle. If no such family member can be easily found, the child will be put into foster care. Unfortunately, a large percentage of children do end up in a foster home.
Teachers, neighbors, family friends, and family members may all complain to Child Protective Services if they believe a child is being abused, neglected, maltreated, or is otherwise in danger at home. However, these accusations are not always accurate. It is easy for a concerned party to overreact or misinterpret information. Nevertheless, CPS must make a home visit in response to any indications of abuse.
Though they are a government agency aimed to protect children, CPS does not always accurately assess the situation. CPS standards of care can be unattainable for some families, despite parents trying to pay bills, provide food and essentials, and keep the house suitable for children. Childcare costs, low income, and limited options can all lead to situations that CPS does not approve of. Unfortunately, CPS does not always take effort or circumstances into account when measuring families to their strict standards.
Do I Need a CPS Attorney?
Child Protective Services may be a government entity, but you still have rights as a parent or guardian. However, to properly utilize your rights and fight for your children, you need to develop a precise and strong argument against the CPS agent’s claims. This can be difficult to do without proper training, which is why an attorney is extremely important.
Because parents often care deeply for their children, CPS hearings can easily become emotional. Though you may be upset or hurt, outbursts of emotion will not help your case. To ensure you preserve your case and maintain your composure, it is to your benefit to allow a CPS lawyer to argue on your behalf.
Even if you are trying diligently to care for your children, CPS can take action to take your children from you. If you do not dispute the action or fight back against CPS, your children may not be returned to you. You can exert your rights through a qualified CPS attorney from My SoCal Lawyers.
Neglect and CPS Claims
Neglect is a major reason that CPS may remove children from their homes. Because of this, it is important to understand how the state defines neglect, regardless of what you believe to be appropriate for your child.
The state defines neglect as one or more of the following:
- Failing to give a child sufficient time and space to properly sleep
- Lapsing on a child’s regular medical and dental care needs
- Not giving a child clothing that is appropriate for the weather
- Failing to regularly feed a child
- Not bathing a child, or failing to provide them with basic hygiene supplies and tools
- Maintaining a home that is unsanitary or unsafe for the child
- Allowing a child to function as an adult without consistent supervision
There are many more examples of neglect that may trigger a CPS investigation. Ultimately, any situation in which a parent does not provide for a child’s basic needs may be considered neglect.
Until a child turns 18 or is emancipated, their parent or guardian is legally obligated to oversee their well-being and meet their needs. This is the case even if a hands-on approach is not appropriate. For example, you are still liable if your 16-year-old son stops taking showers. Though you do not bathe him yourself, it is your responsibility to make sure he bathes regularly. A teenager who fails to meet basic hygiene standards may be a red flag and can trigger a CPS investigation.
Abuse and CPS Claims
Abuse is the other main reason for a CPS investigation. Whereas neglect is the absence of basic care, abuse is the purposeful infliction of harm. This can happen in many ways, and examples of abuse include:
- Sexual assault
- Hitting, kicking, or punching
- Inhumane treatment
- Verbal insults and attacks
- Extreme punishments
- Administering unnecessary medical treatment
- Withholding necessary medical treatment
Unfortunately, it is easy to misinterpret signs of abuse. A concerned third party can easily misread an injury from an accident as purposeful abusive behavior.
The law’s top priority is child safety. Because of this, Child Protective Services will proceed quickly if they believe a child is being actively abused in a home. This fast pace can lead to additional misunderstandings or misinterpretations, and CPS agents may not take the time to learn what really happened before taking a child from their parents.
Having an attorney to represent you can help show your perspective and discredit abuse claims.
Fighting CPS Claims
CPS cases are unique because they are not necessarily about proving that the CPS claims are inaccurate. Rather, they are about contextualizing the information and proving that the interpretation is inaccurate or that it is not indicative of normal behavior.
For example, if a CPS agent claims that your home is not hygienic and unsuitable for your children, they will likely have pictures and descriptions of what they saw. It would be difficult to claim that the conditions in your home do not exist, as the agent has photo proof that the conditions did exist.
However, you can contextualize them and offer a reason for the situation. Perhaps you are recovering from surgery or working overtime. These arguments do not claim that the mess in your home does not exist, but it does show that the mess is not an indication of unfit parenting. Rather, it is an indication of a temporary inability to keep up with housework.
This type of argument may work for some CPS claims, but it is not necessarily possible in all scenarios. Ongoing conditions will likely result in CPS taking your children. However, the state does aim to reunite families, especially if circumstances change. A CPS decision does not need to be permanent.
For example, if you suffer from alcoholism and CPS takes your child as a result, you may be able to gain custody again after attending rehabilitation and maintaining sobriety.
Though the ideal scenario is to keep your children in your home, you can get them back if CPS takes them from you. Having a CPS attorney on your side for the duration of your claim can help you to formulate a plan and build a strong argument for their return.
Contact My SoCal Lawyers
Our team at My SoCal Lawyers is passionate about helping families stay together. If a CPS agent has visited your home, it is important to reach out right away. The sooner we can begin building your claim, the stronger it will be. Hundreds of families have trusted us with their CPS cases, and you can too.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with us, please contact My SoCal Lawyers today.