Child Protective Services is a government department designed to protect children from abuse, neglect, and maltreatment at home. CPS workers respond to complaints and tip-offs and assess homes to see if they are fit for children to live in. They look at the state of the house, the emotional and physical condition of the parents and children and look for any signs of child abuse or maltreatment. Dangers can be anything from drugs and drug paraphernalia in the home to a lack of food or proper hygiene materials to domestic violence.
If a CPS officer determines that a home is not suitable for a child or that any form of abuse is occurring, they will obtain a warrant to remove the child from the home on the basis of child endangerment. The child is then placed with an alternative caregiver. Though they are supposed to place the child with a grandparent or family member when possible, many children end up in the foster system.
Unfortunately, the system isn’t perfect. CPS officers can deem a home unfit for children even when the parents are doing their best to stay on top of bills, home upkeep, and childcare. They do not always take into account differing levels of ability or access to good options for healthcare and food. While some families do the best they can with the options available to them, CPS can still take children from their families.
Fortunately, parents and families do have rights when it comes to CPS and the foster system. You do not have to let your children be taken from you; you do have options to fight for them. The legal system can be complicated, but with qualified CPS lawyers, you can challenge the system and keep your family together.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Fight CPS?
Fighting against CPS for your children is a serious and difficult matter. Because CPS is a facet of the government, the state often sides with its assessment of a situation. This means that arguing the case yourself will not provide sufficient reasoning for the court to reverse the decision. In fact, it may make your case worse.
Though these hearings are emotional, and parents are often hurt and angry, it’s important to maintain composure in court and fight the case with facts instead of emotions. The court must make their decision based on what is best for the child, and they account for facts and evidence. It’s much easier to present a convincing factual case with the help of an attorney.
When it comes to your children, you don’t want to take any chances in court. Representing yourself often does not have the desired effect, or it can even make your situation worse. An attorney is required if you want the best chance of retaining custody of your children in Juvenile Dependency Court.
How the Law Defines Child Abuse
One aspect of a case that you may need to fight is accusations of child abuse. To fight these charges and allegations, it is important to know what child abuse is in the eyes of the law.
The federal government takes child abuse very seriously. It encompasses both abuse and neglect that would harm the child. Any failure to act or action by a parent or caregiver that causes serious harm (both physical and emotional) to the child is considered abusive. This may seem broad, but it applies in many specific ways. Examples include:
- Sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation
- Purposeful infliction of physical injuries
- Unfair or unwarranted punishment
- Cruel or inhumane treatment, including such treatment as a punishment
The government has no tolerance for these acts and will move quickly to remove a child or children from a home where these activities take place. Unfortunately, this means that CPS can rush to conclusions about abuse before understanding the reality. This results in children being removed from their homes when there is no abuse happening.
How the Law Defines Neglect
Neglect is considered a type of abuse but is distinct as well. Neglect encompasses any of the following:
- Failure to bring a child in for regular and necessary dental and medical care
- Not providing proper time and space for a child to get adequate sleep
- Failure to feed a child regularly
- Failure to bathe a child or provide them with the tools needed to engage in good hygiene
- Not giving a child weather-appropriate clothing
- Allowing for unsanitary or unsafe conditions in the home
- Failing to consistently supervise a child and allowing them to function as an independent adult
These all reflect a situation in which a parent fails to do the most basic parts of raising and caring for a child. As their parent or guardian, you are responsible for their care and upkeep. When they turn 18, they officially take on that role themselves, though most take charge of their own hygiene some time before that.
Officially speaking, you must provide your child with the necessary basic resources that they need until they turn 18.
Fighting Charges of Neglect and Abuse
When you are charged with or accused of neglecting or abusing your child, you must understand that it is a serious situation. However, a charge is not final. You can fight the CPS decision and work to retain custody.
Your attorney will work with you to show the court that the incidents or situations detailed in the CPS report are inaccurate or not indicative of a habitual standard. For example, if a CPS officer believes your home is unhygienic, they may have conducted their review after you recently started a second full-time job. We can work to show the court that the condition of your home was temporary while you adjusted to your new schedule. Of course, a CPS officer likely won’t take your children away for one mess, but it is an example of how we can counteract their report with logic and reality.
If the court continues to side with CPS, we can help you to make a plan to regain custody of your children. Their ruling does not need to be permanent, and many times the state aims to reunite children with their families. For example, if your children have been taken from your home because drugs were found on the premises, you could attend rehabilitation and drug use support groups to show the court that you are serious about creating a stable home for your children.
Contact Our Firm
When it comes to the custody of your children, you don’t want to waste any time. As soon as you discover that CPS is investigating your home, you should contact our offices. The sooner we know that something is occurring, the better we can help you fight your case. You do not have to stand idly by while the state decides your family’s fate. There are legal actions you can take now to prevent disaster and separation later.
For more information on our legal services, as well as how we can help you to fight CPS decisions, contact us online today.