Child Protective Services Claims Abuse and Neglect During a Sex Crime Investigation in Michigan
Child Protective Services states that children have a right to be with their parents and that the ultimate objective is to protect children by stabilizing and strengthening families. Unfortunately, these noble aspirations are not always upheld to the fullest extent of logic, reason, and the law. The department may take things too far, make incorrect assertions, or not see a situation for what it is. When Child Protective Services is overzealous, inaccurate, or misinformed, then the department will typically file a petition for removal of the child from home. They can claim abuse and neglect during a sex crime investigation.
Many people try to handle Child Protective Service petitions for removal on their own by going to court and explaining to the judge that they are good parents. A person can be an excellent parent and still lose a petition for the removal hearing. Knowledge of what the judge bases his or her decisions on is essential to address all legal issues adequately, and a knowledgeable sex crimes attorney can advocate on your behalf to ensure the judge is comfortable ruling in your favor.
Child Protective Services is a part of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and is granted their legal authority from the State Child Protection Law in MCL 722.621 and the Public Health Code under MCL 333.1701. Under MCL 722.62, certain law enforcement agencies, the friend of the court, and medical professionals are legally mandated to report any suspected abuse or neglect of a child. Consequently, a sex crime charge will likely result in a complaint to Child Protective Services even if the charge is not related to the person's child. After Child Protective Services receives a complaint, then the department will most likely begin a field investigation to ascertain if a preponderance of the evidence of child abuse or neglect exists.
Mandatory Reporters: Intake
Under MCL 722.623, certain people and organizations are required to report suspected child abuse and neglect. There is a long list of people required to report suspected child abuse including doctors, nurses, teachers, and friends of the court. Therefore, a sex crime investigation will likely result in a Child Protective Services complaint. According to the Child Protective Services intake decision-making tree for minimal priority response criteria, if the alleged victim is under 18 years of age and the alleged perpetrator is a person responsible for the child’s welfare, then the case will be assigned for field investigation. Therefore, once a complaint has reached Child Protective Services, then there is a strong likelihood that it will proceed to a field investigation.
There is also a decision-making process during intake for assigning either a priority one or priority two to the field investigation. If a priority one is assigned, then the law requires that the investigation begins within 12 hours of receiving a complaint. A priority one status will be assigned if there is a complaint about physical abuse and there is evidence of contusions, burns, or bruises on the child. A priority one complaint could come from a doctor, registered nurse, or other medical professionals. If there is no evidence of physical abuse, then the claim will be assigned a priority two. Priority two complaints are legally mandated to begin within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.
Child Protective Services Investigation
A Child Protective Services investigation is a thorough investigation that often begins with a visit to the child’s home and interviews with family members, children, and possibly neighbors or teachers. During the investigation, the caseworker will gather information to decide as to whether there is a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect of the child has occurred. A preponderance of the evidence is a legal standard that means that a fact in dispute is more likely to be true than not true, and is described by courts as being 51% likely to have occurred. Unfortunately, this is the lowest standard of proof, and consequently, the caseworker needs relatively scant evidence to prove abuse or neglect by a preponderance of the evidence. The caseworker will also use their risk assessment score sheet to determine the potential of future risk to the child and will place the family into one of five categories based on the results.
The definition of child abuse is derived from the State Child Protection Law and is used by Child Protective Services for investigations. There are four different types of child abuse defined under the Child Protection Law. The four categories include physical abuse, mental injury, child maltreatment, and sexual abuse.
Physical abuse means a nonaccidental occurrence of any of the following:
- Deprivation or impairment of any bodily function or part of the anatomy
- Permanent disfigurement
- A temporary disfigurement which requires medical intervention or which occurs on a repetitive basis
- Brain damage
- Skull or bone fractures
- Subdural hemorrhage or hematoma
- Internal injuries
- Drug or alcohol-exposed infants
- Open wounds
- Loss of consciousness
- Adult human bites
- Provoked animal attacks
Mental injuries are more subjective than physical injuries because they entail psychological or emotional damage. Consequently, mental abuse is the only one of the four categories of child abuse that a Child Protective Services caseworker cannot make on their own because a doctor or mental health practitioner is required to make a diagnosis.
The Child Protection Law defines mental injury as a pattern of physical or verbal acts or omissions on the part of the parent or person responsible for the health and welfare of the child that results in psychological or emotional injury to the child. The definition also includes a broad definition for what would constitute a “significant risk” of being psychologically or emotionally injured or impaired such as, depression, anxiety, lack of attachment, psychosis, fear of abandonment or feeling threatened. Consequently, it may be necessary to obtain a second opinion from a different mental health professional in preparation for a hearing for a Child Protective Services petition for removal.
The State Child Protection Law defines child maltreatment as the treatment of a child that involves cruelty or suffering that a reasonable person would recognize as excessive. Examples of child maltreatment include instances of locking a child in a closet for punishment or tying a child to a stationary object like a radiator to help control them.
The definition of sexual abuse used by Child Protective Services is the same definition that is used in the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act. Either sexual contact or sexual penetration constitutes child abuse under these definitions. Sexual contact is the intentional touching of a child's intimate parts or the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate, intimate areas of the child. Sexual penetration is defined as sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any other intrusion into the child’s body.
Child neglect is defined by the State Child Protection Law and includes four different categories of child neglect. Child Protective Services must find child neglect by a preponderance of the evidence, and the five types of child neglect are physical neglect, medical neglect, failure to protect, improper supervision, and abandonment.
Physical neglect includes negligent treatment including failure to provide the child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child. Situations developing solely as a result of poverty do not constitute physical neglect of a child.
Medical neglect occurs when the parent or guardian fails to follow through with medical care for the child, and the failure results in a risk of death, disfigurement, or bodily harm when the failure results in an observable and material impairment to the growth, development, or functioning of the child.
Failure to Protect
Child neglect by failing to protect the child is when the parent knowingly allows another person to abuse or neglect a child without taking appropriate measures to stop the abuse or neglect.
Child neglect by improper supervision is when a parent places a child in a situation where a reasonable person would realize it is not appropriate for the child’s maturity level, physical condition, or mental abilities and this situation also results in harm to the child.
Child neglect through abandonment is when a parent or guardian leaves a child with another person or agency without obtaining an agreement from that person or organization to assume responsibility for the child.
Outcomes of Child Protective Services Investigations
There are five potential categories that a Child Protective Services caseworker can assign to a family after an investigation. Category one is the most serious and requires the department to file a petition with the circuit court for removal of the child from the home or removal of the alleged offender from the child's home. Category two is when the caseworker determines there is a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect exists, and the risk assessment determines there is a high or intensive risk of future harm to the child. If a family decides not to follow the recommended service options, then the file may be reclassified as category one, and a petition to the court may be filed. A category two designation will result in a registration of the alleged offender with the central registry.
Category three is when the caseworker finds a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect exists, and the risk assessment indicates that there is a low or moderate risk of future harm to the child. A family assigned to a category three designation is not initially listed on the central registry. However, the department will recommend community services, and if the family does not participate in the services, then the file may be reclassified to a different category and the alleged offender may be listed with the central registry.
Categories four and five are considered "unsubstantiated" cases because the caseworker does not find a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect has occurred. However, a category four risk assessment indicates that there is a low risk of future harm to the child, and consequently, the department will recommend participating in community services. Unlike category three recommended services, if a family in category four chooses not to participate in the recommended community services, then there will not be ramifications such as a reclassification to a different category or the department listing the alleged offender in the central registry.
Our Defense to Child Protective Services Investigations During Sex Crimes
A sex crimes investigation is a stressful, arduous, and tumultuous process in Michigan, and the additional burden of defending against Child Protective Services only heightens the level of stress and difficulty on a person keeping a family together. Grabel & Associates has been protecting people's rights in criminal sexual conduct and related sex crime cases for nearly 20 years and also specializes in defending families against Child Protective Services. We understand that it takes an aggressive and comprehensive approach to protect against both sex crime charges and abuse and neglect charges from Child Protective Services. We will work with you, Child Protective Services, the prosecutor, and the court to defend your rights and prevent a conviction while keeping your family together. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-883-2138. Contact us online to schedule your free consultation and begin formulating a path to a favorable outcome.