You may not think that you will ever be involved with a CPS/DFS case but you should not let your innocence catch you off guard. If you are involved in any type of child custody action then you should expect this. Don't start to learn about this after it has begun. Read this now.
The stated purpose of child protective services is to protect children, to preserve families whenever possible, and to prevent further abuse and neglect. CPS is charged with investigating abuse and neglect reports, and to provide or arrange protection for children if protection is needed.
When the Department of Family Services receives a report about possible child abuse or neglect the law requires that a CPS worker investigate it. If this report deals with you and your child then you should expect a CPS worker to look into it. The caseworker is to decide whether services are needed, and to provide or arrange protective services if they are needed.
Knowing what is considered child abuse or neglect is helpful in determining what may trigger an investigation. Memorize this list so you can be on guard to ensure that any allegations could not be assumed to be true because of lack of mitigating evidence.
Under the law, an abused or neglected child is any child under 18 whose parent, or any other person responsible for the care of the child causes:
Physical abuse - deliberate physical injuries inflicted by parents, caretaker or baby-sitter or physical injuries resulting from indifference, negligence or improper supervision;
Medical care neglect - refusal or failure to obtain and maintain treatment services necessary for a child’s continued health;
Sexual abuse - any sexual exploitation of a child (molestation, exposure, masturbation, incest, oral-genital contact) by parents, caretakers or other persons living in the home;
Psychological abuse - child rearing procedures or an absence of them which results in the gross impairment of a child’s opportunity for normal psychological development;
Emotional abuse - continual scapegoating and rejection of a child resulting in behavior clearly indicative of pathologically disturbed emotional adjustment or behavior;
Abandonment - the child has been left with no obvious behavioral, verbal or written intentions of reclaiming the child;
Lack of supervision - when young children (generally under the age of 12) are left without an adult or baby-sitter in attendance for significant or unreasonable periods of time;
Negligent treatment - failing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, supervision or guidance to a child.
During the investigation the CPS caseworker should routinely take the following actions:
Checks for other reports of abuse or neglect;
Talks face to face with the child involved;
Observes the child for injuries or signs of abuse or neglect;
Observes the child’s home and where the alleged abuse/neglect took place;
Talks face to face with the child’s parents;
Talks face to face with any other person alleged to have abused or neglected the child.
Sometimes the CPS worker may also:
Talk with other people who know about the child’s care, such as doctors, teachers, other relatives, etc. (you may help identify people who should be talked with);
Interview and observe other children in the home;
Arrange for a medical or psychological examination of the child.
Department of Family Services’ rules require that the CPS investigation be finished within 60 days from the date the report was received, unless there is good cause for extending the time. The subject of an investigation will be informed, in writing, of the results of the investigation. A caseworker will likely tell you that your cooperation means that the investigation will be finished as quickly as possible. It is important that you know and invoke your rights.
Sometimes a CPS caseworker does have the right to interview a child without parental consent. Typically, but not always, parental consent will be obtained before a child is interviewed. Under some circumstances, such as reports made by schools, medical professionals or law enforcement a child will be interviewed without parental consent. That is why it is important that your child know what to expect from a CPS interview and what not to do. If the CPS worker does talk with the child without having told the parent beforehand, the worker is to tell the parent as soon as possible that the discussion took place.
CPS caseworkers will typically observe the child for injuries or signs of abuse or neglect and may examine the child. If someone has reported physical abuse, the CPS caseworker may arrange for pictures or x-rays of the child. Normally parents are also asked to consent to such examinations. If parental consent is not given, the Department of Family Services may request legal assistance in obtaining protective custody or a court order allowing an examination.
In most cases, the family and the CPS worker cooperate during the investigation. But if you refuse to cooperate or to allow the CPS worker to enter your home, the CPS caseworker will continue to investigate. If the CPS worker believes the child is in danger, the worker can seek help from the police or the courts to enter the home and see the child, even if you do not give your permission. You will gain no favor by cooperating with CPS. If the caseworker threatens to call the police then instruct he or she to do so. Ever hear the phrase, "Anything you say can and will be used against you"? There is a reason for that. Make them go through the legal process.
CAUTION: CRIMINAL CHARGES CAN BE FILED BASED UPON INFORMATION YOU PROVIDE.
Someone making a report does not have to give his or her name. The name of the person making the report will be made known only if a court orders it, or if court testimony is involved. This is why it is important to make the CPS caseworker go through the legal process. This also helps to burden the courts and can potentially save another child from being abused by the court system. Every effort that each of us can take to help overburden the courts will help to ensure that only real cases of abuse are prosecuted.
Children have some basic rights that are nearly uniform throughout all jurisdictions. These are;
The right to physical care, with food, clothing, shelter, and education to meet basic needs;
The right to emotional security, the sense that he or she will not be abandoned or neglected;
The right to be with his or her parents and brothers and sisters, unless there are legal grounds for moving the child;
The right to diagnosis and treatment for medical and emotional problems;
The right to protection and freedom from harm, danger, injury, and neglect;
The right to be represented by his or her own court-appointed guardian during any court proceedings.
Removing children from the home should only take place in extreme cases. Unless your child is at risk of serious harm, the CPS caseworker should work with your family and provide or arrange for services to your family to keep your child at home. If the child must be temporarily removed for safety reasons, generally the goal is to return the child to the home if at all possible. It is very important to know that as a parent you have the right to come to the court hearing and ask a lawyer to represent you in explaining your situation to the judge.
If the child does need to be removed for a longer time, a CPS worker meets with the family to develop a plan that includes treatment for the child and family, visitation, and returning the child to the family when it is safe. You should demand that a caseplan be done as soon as possible if you are in this situation.
Within 60 days (unless extended with good cause) after the report is received, the CPS caseworker will make a finding of unsubstantiated or substantiated. If there is credible evidence that abuse or neglect occurred, the report is substantiated. Substantiated cases are classified as either low risk, moderate risk or high risk. Generally, a caseworker will issue a finding of substantiated based upon that credible standard. A written notice detailing the findings and specific rights should be issued.
If the investigation did not reveal that child abuse or neglect occurred the report is unsubstantiated. Unless you request services, the Department of Family Services will no longer be involved with the family. A record of the investigation will be kept for 5 years. If you believe the investigation had anything to do with an investigation then you will want a copy of this report.
THESE ARE YOUR RIGHTS
The right to be notified in writing of the nature of the report;
At your own expense, to talk with a lawyer and to have a lawyer with you at any time during the Investigation or during any court actions;
The right to have answered questions about the process of investigation and its results;
The right to fully understand the services the CPS caseworker thinks necessary for your family, and what you can expect the agency to provide or to arrange;
The right to an administrative appeal if you disagree with a finding of substantiated.
A request for an administrative hearing must be made in writing within 20 days of receiving notice of the findings.
When a written request is made, the Department will request that a hearing be scheduled. Agency rules require that the Department offer you an informal hearing, with the CPS Supervisor or Manager prior to a formal hearing. You have the right to refuse the informal meeting. If you are dissatisfied with the hearing officer’s decision, you may petition the Superior or Circuit Court for a judicial review.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE FAMILY SERVICES THAT CAN BE PROVIDED
If there is a need for services, the CPS worker will work out a plan with you, which will include:
Steps you can take to meet your child’s needs, such as making and keeping medical appointments for your child, making sure your child gets to school, learning new ways to discipline your child, etc.;
The services your family and child need;
How the services will be given and who will give them;
Your responsibilities, family services’ responsibilities, and the responsibilities of any others involved in the plan;
The date by which the needed steps are to be taken, and the length of time that services may be offered.
Some of the services that may be offered by the local department of family services and/or community agencies are:
Counseling for the child and family to improve their relationship;
Instruction on parenting methods and discipline;
Information about and referral to other helping agencies;
Family supervision provided by the CPS worker through home visits.
Portions of this document were provided by the Wyoming Department of Family Services
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