Child Protective Services Investigation Process During a Sex Crime in Michigan

Sex crime investigations pose unique challenges in Michigan because in most instances there will also be a corresponding Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation. The Child Protective Services investigation will progress very differently than a prosecutor's case for a sex crime because Child Protective Services is a regulatory agency to investigate suspected child abuse and neglect cases. A person facing sex crime charges and a Child Protective Services investigation requires competent legal representation to resolve both situations properly and obtain the best outcome for the person involved and their family.

Child Protective Services is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and receives its legal authority from the State Child Protection Law under MCL 722.621 and Public Health code under MCL 333.17001. Child Protective Services claims their purpose is to ensure that children are protected from further physical or emotional harm caused by a parent or other adults responsible for the child’s health and welfare and that families are helped to function responsibly and independently in providing care for the children whom they are responsible. Grabel & Associates holds Child Protective Services accountable to the ideal that responsible parents maintain protection over the health and welfare of their children.

Child Protective Services is required by law to receive and respond to any complaints of child abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment by a person responsible for the child’s health or welfare. Part of the investigation includes a thorough safety assessment that will investigate both present and future risk of imminent danger to a child. If the investigation concludes that there is evidence demonstrating a preponderance of evidence that abuse or neglect of a child exists by someone responsible for the health and welfare of the child, then either service will either be provided to the family until there is no longer a risk, or Child Protective Services will file a petition with the circuit court to have the child removed from the home or the offending adult removed from the child's home.

Grabel & Associates works with you, Child Protective Services, the prosecutor and the courts to have your child kept in your home. If a petition for removal is filed, we will vigorously and protect your freedom and rights.

Child Protective Services has four primary functions that include intake, field investigations, service provisions, and intervention. Our sex crimes lawyers can help aid and guide you no matter which part of the process you are currently involved in with Child Protective Services.

Intake

Intake is the first step that Child Protective Services performs. Intake begins when a complaint is received by the department alleging abuse or neglect. Once a complaint is received, Child Protective Services will determine if the case should be transferred, rejected, or if an investigation should proceed. If the complaint seems credible, then Child Protective Services will dispatch a field investigation unit. An investigation is the most likely outcome during the intake process if the alleged victim is under 18 years of age.

Child Protective Services Field Investigation

Child Protective Services is legally mandated to move swiftly on investigations and must begin an investigation within 24 hours of receiving a complaint. If during intake the case is assigned a priority one, then the investigation will begin within 12 hours of receiving the complaint. The primary purpose of the investigation is for the agent to assess the current safety and future risk of harm to a child. The standard used in the inquiry is a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is the lowest legal standard of proof there is, and consequently, it presents a low threshold for the evidentiary requirements Child Protective Services must show to demonstrate abuse or neglect.

The Standard of Proof: Abuse or Neglect by a Preponderance of the Evidence

The standards of proof are utilized by courts, regulatory agencies, and law enforcement departments to determine the amount of evidence that is necessary to decide. The highest standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt and is used for criminal convictions. Beyond a reasonable doubt requires enough evidence that no reasonable suspicion is left in the minds of a reasonable person as to the existence of a fact in dispute. Clear and convincing evidence is the "middle" standard of proof and requires strong enough evidence to demonstrate that the fact in dispute is substantially more likely to be true than untrue. A preponderance of the evidence requires enough proof to demonstrate that something is more likely to be true than not true. The courts also state a preponderance of the evidence means a fact is 51% likely to be true. Consequently, a Child Protective Services caseworker only needs to have enough evidence to demonstrate that there is a 51% likelihood that abuse or neglect is taking place in a household.

The Child Protective Services caseworker can make this determination unilaterally, but several levels of risk are also assessed with abuse and neglect. Therefore, if the Child Protective Services investigation can find a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect exists but there is a low risk, then Child Protective Services may decide not to move forward with a petition to remove the child from their home. If Child Protective Services does move forward with a request for removal of the child from their home, then Child Protective Services will have to prove to a judge that a preponderance of the evidence of abuse or neglect exists. Therefore, the hearing is an opportunity to have an attorney present your side of the case, and to disprove the Child Protective Services caseworker’s presentation of evidence.

Grabel & Associates have been successfully defending clients against Child Protective Services claims for nearly 20 years. We are here to help you and your family during this challenging time and will work with you to bring about a favorable resolution to the investigation and any subsequent hearing.

Potential Categories Resulting from a Child Protection Services Investigation

Child Protective Services has two different interrelated classification systems for outcomes of investigations. Cases are either “substantiated” or “unsubstantiated” under the Child Protection Law depending on whether there is a preponderance of relevant and accurate information indicating that child abuse or neglect occurred. Additionally, there are five categories based on substantiation of abuse and neglect and the risk assessment of future abuse or neglect.

Category one is the most severe category resulting from an investigation because it requires Child Protective Services to petition the court either to remove the child from their home or to remove the alleged offender from the child's home. If you or someone you know is facing a petition from Child Protective Services, then it is in your best interest to contact a knowledgeable attorney. Once a petition is filed the remainder of the proceedings will be conducted in the circuit court where the child resides, and therefore, having a competent, knowledgeable, and experienced attorney is imperative to obtaining a favorable outcome.

Category two is also serious because it requires Child Protective Services to register the perpetrator’s name for child abuse or neglect on the central registry. A category two is assigned at the end of an investigation if there is a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect occurred and the risk assessment demonstrates a high or intensive risk of future abuse or neglect.

A family will be assigned a category three after a Child Protective Services investigation if it is determined that there is a preponderance of the evidence that child abuse or neglect is present and the assessment tools indicate a low or moderate risk of future harm to the child. For a category three, the person accused of abuse is not listed on the central registry, unless the person accused of child abuse or neglect is not a family member. However, if the family decides not to participate in the recommended services voluntarily, then Child Protective may reclassify the case as a category two. Therefore, if a family does not comply with the voluntary recommendations while in category three, then there is the possibility of more severe intervention by Child Protective Services and reclassification to category two, which requires being listed on the central registry.

Category four is assigned to a family’s case if the investigation does not produce a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect exists. In category four, the department will typically recommend that community services be provided. In category four, community services are recommended, but if a family decides not to follow the recommendation then the file will not be reclassified and the family will not be placed on the central registry. Therefore, the family may choose to participate or not. However, if the family does decide to proceed with the recommended services, then the department is obligated to assist the family with community services.

Category five is assigned when there is no evidence of abuse or neglect, or Child Protective Services is unable to locate the family. If this category is assigned, then there will be no action taken. However, if this category is assigned because Child Protective Services was unable to locate the family, then the department may petition the court to require the family to cooperate with the investigation. Category five is an ideal outcome for a family because it requires no further involvement with Child Protective Services.

Child Abuse

Under the Child Protection Law defined by MCL 722.621, there are four different types of child abuse. The four different types of child abuse defined by the Child Protection Law include physical abuse, mental injury, child maltreatment, and sexual abuse. Physical injury is defined as any nonaccidental occurrence of sprains, dislocations, burns, bruises, welts, or open wounds. The official definition contains 20 named categories of physical abuse, as varied as drug or alcohol exposure to infants to deliberately provoking animal attacks.

Mental injury is described 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 or impairment to the child. The definition of mental injury is broad and also includes any acts or omissions that places the child at "significant risk" of being psychologically or emotionally impaired. Examples include the risk of depression, anxiety, lack of attachment, or psychosis. However, a mental injury is the only category of child abuse that a Child Protective Services investigator cannot make by themselves, because a mental health practitioner needs to make a diagnosis for a psychological condition or the risk of being psychologically or emotionally injured.

Child maltreatment is defined as treatment of a child that involves cruelty or suffering that a reasonable person would consider excessive. Examples include a parent who locks a child in a closet as punishment or ties the child to a stationary object as a means of controlling or punishing the child.

The definitions for child abuse include two types of sexual abuse, both sexual contact and sexual penetration. The definitions used by Child Protection Services are the same definitions used by the Criminal Sexual Conduct Act for sexual contact and sexual penetration, and therefore, any crime that would qualify as criminal sexual conduct would constitute child sexual abuse for a Child Protective Services investigation.

Child Neglect

The Department of Health and Human Services has defined five different types of child neglect including, physical neglect, medical neglect, failure to protect, improper supervision, and abandonment.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has an expansive definition of physical neglect. Negligent treatment includes failure to provide the child with food, clothing or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child. The definition consists of an exception if the cause of the neglect is solely attributable to poverty.

Medical neglect includes a failure to follow through with medical care for the child when the failure results in an observable and material impairment to the growth or development of the child.

Failing to protect the child occurs when the parent or guardian fails to take the appropriate measures to prevent another person from abusing or neglecting the child. Improper supervision is similar but utilizes a reasonable person standard. If a reasonable person would realize that the child has been placed in a situation that requires judgment or actions beyond the child's maturity level, then improper supervision may be attributed to the parent. Abandonment is defined as placing the child with an agency, person, or other entity without obtaining an agreement that the other person or agency is to assume responsibility for the child.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Child Protective Services is a compelling organization because they have the discretion and authority to impose "recommendations" that a person must follow or risk being placed in the central registry. These actions can be taken without ever consulting the courts or a judge, and Child Protective Services has the authority to petition the court at the close of their investigation to have a child removed from their home. Therefore, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney who understands how the Child Protective Services investigation can impact potential court proceedings.

Grabel & Associates has been specializing in child abuse and neglect cases for nearly 20 years. We have the experience, knowledge, and expertise to help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are here to help you build your case and answer any questions you may have. Contact us online or call us at 1-800-883-2138 today to set up your free consultation.

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