Best Advice for Preparing for a Child Protective Services Investigation During a Sex Crime
If Child Protective Services (CPS) is investigating you, the most prudent thing you can do is hire an experienced and skilled attorney to represent and guide you.
This section is designed as a practical resource to help you successfully navigate a Child Protective Services investigation, and resolve the issues and move on with your life in a positive direction. The objective begins with the end in mind; this means completing the investigation without your child being placed outside of your home or having additional charges, obligations, or requirements and moving on with raising your family and pursuing your goals. After reviewing this resource, please also visit our web pages on How to Handle a Child Protective Services Officer at your Door During a Sex Crime Investigation in Michigan and What to Do If Child Protective Services Is Investigating You.
1. Find the Right Defense Attorney to Handle Your Case
Finding and retaining the correct defense attorney is undoubtedly the most important decision and step toward successfully resolving a Child Protective Services investigation. Knowing how to navigate the obstacles and pitfalls that an investigation is laden with is the difference between success and failure. The right competent attorney offers more than just practical legal knowledge, sound guidance and counsel, and support, but also the ability to execute a win. The instinct to capitalize on advantages and weaknesses that present themselves in novel and irregular ways is not something all attorneys possess and few can learn.
Even if it seems like a simple matter that you believe you can clear up with a short explanation, the less you say is better. Always, be polite and courteous and respect the caseworker’s position and authority, but you do not need to complete the steps of the investigation at their speed. Take the time to contact an attorney and learn everything you can about the investigation process and what the caseworker may be looking for.
2. Never Allow a Child Protective Services Caseworker to Come Into Your Home Without a Warrant or a Court Order
Child Protective Services has no right to enter your home or force you to comply with their orders, even if they believe there is an emergency and demand immediate entry or claim lawful authority which they do not possess. Therefore, it is crucial to remember your rights and steadfastly uphold them even in the face of aggressive demands that your children will be taken away. The only thing the caseworker is trying to obtain is evidence that you have abused or neglected your children, and surprise visits demanding investigations of the premises and interviews with you and the children are disruptive and immediately put you in a defensive position. Conversely, you can stand tall and hold your ground refusing the caseworkers entry into your residence, then call the most reputable attorney you can find to put together an inclusive and comprehensive strategy to win your case and resolve your issues.
3. Take Child Protective Services Accusations Seriously
Under the Child Protection Law, Child Protective Services is required to use “structured-decision making tools” that are identified in the Child Protection Services Handbook as a Risk Assessment and a Safety Assessment. However, the risk assessment is one of the two primary factors that determines which of the five categories a family’s case is assigned. The risk assessment includes two scales. The scales are an abuse scale and a neglect scale and each has eleven factors that are considered. The higher of the two scores is used for determining the final risk of future harm to the child. The potential results are either low, moderate, high, or intensive.
For example, in the abuse scale one of the factors is whether a parent or guardian is viewed as taking the incident less seriously than Child Protective Services. Therefore, if it appears that you are taking the incident, visit, or investigation less seriously than the Child Protective Services caseworker, then it can negatively impact your risk assessment score which may translate to a higher risk of future harm to the child. Additionally, the future risk of harm to the child is one of the two primary factors that are used in determining which of the five categories a family’s case is placed. Thus, an attitude that the incident is not important or worthy of your time can have dramatic consequences on the outcome of the investigation.
4. You Have the Right to Remain Silent
This is an important right that corresponds with not allowing the Child Protective Services caseworker into your home, because you do not need to submit to interrogation or questioning before contacting your attorney. There are circumstances where Child Protective Services can petition the court to order a family, parent, or guardian to cooperate in limited circumstances, but that would not be the case for an initial visit. Consequently, if the caseworker does not have a court order or warrant, then you do not need to answer their questions.
Acknowledge the caseworker’s request and respectfully tell him or her that you must speak to your attorney before answering any more questions.
5. Behave Courteously, Respectfully and Politely to the Child Protective Services Caseworker
Of all the advice, this is a fundamental aspect of achieving a successful interaction with the Child Protective Services caseworker. It is true that you have a right to remain silent and you do not need to allow a caseworker into your house or access to your children, but the way you go about upholding and enforcing your rights is of the utmost importance.
For example, one of the factors in the neglect scale is whether a parent or guardian is able or willing to control their impulses. Consequently, if a parent or guardian is emotional, upset, or loud, then a case worker can impute the observation to an additional point on the neglect scale which could translate into a higher assessment of future harm to the child. Additionally, a higher assessment score could elevate the category the family is assigned which could mean additional requirements such as community-based services, or a petition for the removal of a child or children.
If the caseworker is accusatorial or aggressive, remember to maintain your composure and be pleasant and polite. You can contact your attorney afterwards to take actionable steps toward resolving the entire debacle. You will be in a better position for having observed restraint.
6. Do Not Concede Material Facts That Are Indicative of the Allegations in The Complaint
The primary objective of a Child Protective Services investigation is to prove that you abused or neglected your children by a preponderance of the evidence, so it is important to not admit to anything that might be construed as abusing or neglecting children.
7. Obtain a Business Card
Before the Child Protection Services caseworker departs, be sure to get their business card. You will want to know who is the caseworker assigned to your file, and be able to share the information with your attorney.
8. Learn the Specific Nature of the Allegations Contained in the Complaint That Prompted the Investigation
Aside from obtaining the caseworker’s business card, the only other information you must obtain while the case worker is present is a specific account of the facts alleged in the complaint related to the investigation. However, there is a deceptive answer that you should be aware of when asking why you are under investigation. Occasionally, a Child Protective Services caseworker will respond that you are being investigated because they received a complaint that you had abused or neglected your children. This can sound sharp and official, but is utterly meaningless, because every complaint received is for abuse or neglect.
If you receive this response, then you will have to ask again. If you ask for the specific details related to your case, the caseworker is required to give it to you. Be firm and assertive but maintain your polite composure. Getting the details of why you are being investigated is a great success, because you can share the details with your attorney and formulate a more comprehensive case strategy. Therefore, it is important to obtain the precise circumstances being alleged against you.
9. Have a Reputable Physician Examine Your Child or Children
You should have your child or children examined by a reputable doctor who is willing to write a letter stating that there is no medical evidence demonstrating any signs of abuse or neglect perpetrated by you. A medical testimonial letter can serve as a powerful piece of evidence demonstrating your innocence.
10. Ensure that Any Interviews Between Your Children and Child Protective Services are Recorded
If you agree to have Child Protective Services interrogate your child, then you should request that Child Protective Services record the interrogation so you have a copy to examine if a petition goes to hearing or trial. However, you should also bring your own recorder in the event that Child Protective Services does not bring a recorder. These recordings can be instrumental in preparing a defense, because oftentimes Child Protective Services will resort to forceful and aggressive manipulation through repeatedly reiterating the same or similar questions until they get the answer they are looking for.
11. Create a List of Individuals That are Willing to Care for Your Children.
This is only a precautionary measure in the event that the investigation results in placing the child in a category one and Child Protective Services petitions the Family Division of the Circuit Court for removal and placement of a child or children. If a petition is filed, then a judge or referee will decide where to place the child or children at a preliminary hearing. A judge or referee authorizes a petition when there is probable cause that at least one of the allegations contained in the petition are true. If the petition is not authorized, then the child or children will be released to the care and custody of the parent or guardian. However, if the petition is authorized, then the judge or referee is required to determine temporary placement of the child until the adjudicative hearing. An adjudicative hearing is a trial.
The judge or referee could choose to place the child or children with the parent or guardian pending the trial, or he or she could place the child or children with either a relative or in temporary foster care. The child or children will be released back into the care and custody of the parents or guardian pending trial if the statutory requirements of MCL 712A.13a(5) are satisfied. The requirements are that release to the parents must not be contrary to the welfare of the child. Additionally, if the petition includes allegations that the parent or guardian abused a child or children, then it must not release the child or children back into the care of the parent or guardian unless the court finds adequate safeguards to prevent risk of harm to the child’s life, physical health or mental wellbeing.
Therefore, having a list of people including relatives that may be able and willing to temporarily care for the child or children is a proactively constructive method for forestalling temporary foster care. The court is required by MCL 722.954a(5) to provide special consideration and preference to the child’s relatives who are fit and willing to care for the child or children. Additionally, MCL 712A.13a(10), requires placement of the child by the court in the most family-like setting available consistent with the child’s needs.
It is worth noting that under MCR.3.963(B)(3), the court is legally mandated to require that both a background check and a central registry clearance was performed of the relative the child was ordered to be placed with. The law requires the supervising placement agency to perform both checks, and either a private placement organization or The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is considered the supervising placement agency. However, the law specifies that checks must be completed within seven days of the placement. Therefore, a child may be immediately placed with a relative, but if the relative is not cleared on both a criminal background check and a central registry clearance then the child may be removed for placement with the supervising agency for temporary placement in foster care. Therefore, choosing relatives that are likely to pass both a criminal background check and a central registry clearance are important considerations when formulating a list of potential relatives. This means you should only include relatives who do not have a serious criminal history and do not have prior incidences of child abuse or neglect.
Grabel & Associates is the Premier Child Protective Services Law Firm in Michigan
Grabel & Associates understands how difficult facing a Child Protective Services investigation can be, and that is why we will meticulously defend you and your family’s rig hts. Grabel & Associates has been defending client’s against Child Protective Services for more than 19 years, and has appeared before caseworkers, judges, and prosecutors across all of Michigan’s 83 counties. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-883-2138. Call today for a free case evaluation and consultation to begin the process of formulating your individualized, aggressive, and comprehensive legal defense strategy to help you obtain a favorable outcome.