Two years ago my, then 14 year old daughter, became a troubled teen. One of the worst things she has ever done was to report our family to CPS with false claims of abuse. Of course we were visited by a social worker from Child Protective Services and it was one of the most frightening things I have ever experienced. Under immense stress I behaved in a way that wasn’t conducive to sympathy and I learned quite a bit in the process. Here are some things I learned about when dealing with CPS with false claims of abuse.
Do not be unprepared; know your rights!
I wish I had known this. I can’t say this enough times to parents. Don’t wait until you have problems with a child before learning your rights as a parent. Find out what your local laws are regarding CPS visits. Obtain a copy of your rights, print them out and keep them someplace you can get to them in a hurry if need be. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it won’t happen to you because it can and it might.
Keep a folder with printouts of state and federal laws regarding child welfare services. Be ready to present these things to a social worker. If they are threatening to remove your kids from your home, ask them about the “reasonable efforts” requirement to keep families together and “pre-placement preventative services.” Let them know that you know the laws!
When CPS knocked on our door and demanded to enter our home without a warrant, we did not know that our Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had signed a bill that granted us the right to request an inspection appointment. This bill gave us the right to tell social workers that we would not allow them inside our house at the exact moment they popped up on us. We were under the impression that we had to succumb to Gestapo like tactics and let them in our home.
Unless there is reason to believe there is immediate danger to people inside the house CPS and the police have no right to enter your home without a search warrant and if you give in to their demands you are waiving your rights. You must know, however, that if you deny them access they will immediately believe you have something to hide and call the police. Call their bluff and demand to see a search warrant. In my case, I was the only one home when they showed up and when the police arrived I thought I had no other choice but to let them in. I was wrong because they had no search warrant.
Do NOT get angry.
I know this is difficult but getting angry can muck things up. I was already devastated by my daughter’s actions and when CPS showed up it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I became outraged and even called the social worker a bitch at which point she called the police to assist her. When she wrote her report she stated that I threatened her.
CPS workers don’t care about the stress you are under. They don’t care if your heart has just been ripped out and they don’t care if you are scared witless. In their eyes you are a perpetrator that has caused harm to a child.
Even if the social worker that visits you has a twenty year old reputation as a baby snatcher, never call names, argue or get upset. Simply present them with your printed out parental rights handbook, copies of the laws and inform them that unless they have a search warrant they aren’t coming inside. Smile, be polite, leave them a contact number and close the door.
Work with CPS.
It may sound like I’m contradicting myself but I’m not. When the social worker reported that I threatened her by calling her a bitch the first thing I did was contact her supervisor and set up an appointment to meet in person. My husband and I sat down and discussed the event with the social worker in question and her supervisor.
I filed a complaint, that day, that moment, with her supervisor for violating my privacy rights and using Gestapo tactics to do so. When the social worker brought up my threatening her I asked her how I did that. She told everyone in the room I called her a bitch. She had no proof that I threatened her and had to finally admit that calling her a bad name did not constitute a threat. In the end I received a written apology from her and our local CPS department.
If I had not been willing to work with CPS and meet with them in person they would have used whatever information they wanted in the report. Instead they learned through investigating us and interviewing us, our other children, family members and the school administrators that our daughter had made false claims and we were innocent. Don’t try to hide from CPS or avoid them because even though they’re difficult to deal with, avoidance leads to assumptions on the part of CPS.
Use a Video Recorder and Tape Recorder During the Visit.
As long as you tell them they are being recorded you are within your rights to record the event for your own records. This is imperative because there are social workers that believe they have super powers and do not have to adhere to the law.
For your own protection record every move the social worker makes. In addition take notes and write down every word the social worker says to you and your response. You have the right to demand that the social worker wait and be patient while you record the session. Don’t give in to efforts to distract you from record keeping and do not settle for receiving a copy of the investigation report because most likely it will be inaccurate.
Don’t Trust the CPS Social Worker.
Social workers do not come to investigate because they believe there are two sides to every story. They are there to prove that you have harmed your child in one way or another. Social workers are doing their job to pay their bills and that means they are LOOKING specifically to unearth your family’s dirty laundry. They are building a case against you, not for you. Keep in mind they are working on the behalf of your child who may or may not be telling the truth. Force them to prove their case against you but don’t help them do it, as they say, that’s their job.
Don’t Talk Too Much.
Social workers have a tendency to twist your words to fit their cause. If you openly talk too much, be sure that what you say will be turned against you. Say as little as possible yet still answer their questions. You do not have to go into detail about anything.
For example, if you tell a social worker that you were abused as a child they will automatically assume that as someone abused you have thus turned into an abuser. Also, if you provide references to other family or friends phone numbers they will be asked about your character and in many cases told by the social worker that if they make a statement against you that they may stand to gain something and if they don’t they could be included in the investigation. It is common for CPS to use close family and friends against you.
Inform Your Other Children.
Chances are a CPS worker will show up at your other children’s schools to interview them. Don’t leave the other kids in the dark because they will be frightened when they are confronted by a social worker. Inform your children that they have the right to tell the social worker that they won’t answer to interview questions without a parent or attorney present. Your other children have rights too. Don’t trust the schools to do this for you because they are under the thumb of CPS as well and they will not call you to tell you that CPS is there to interview your children. If your child says something the wrong way they could be taken into custody on the spot and be traumatized for the rest of their lives.
Find Somewhere For Your Child to Stay in the Meantime.
It will be hard to deal with the fact that your child has turned you in to CPS. You may feel anger or betrayed by your child. If CPS does not immediately remove the child from the premises they will be on the lookout for any reason whatsoever to do so. The easiest way to deal with this is to find somewhere for your child to stay during the investigation and inform CPS that you have placed the child elsewhere until the investigation is complete. You do not have to go into details as to why you chose to do this but know that they will ask. If you do decide to explain this move on your part inform them that this allows all of you time to deal with the stress of the investigation and go no further.
In the meantime, while your child is staying elsewhere do a strip search of the child’s room. Collect any letters, diaries, journals or items that will prove that your child has had some problems and collect proof from therapists, doctors, pastors and clergy proving how you handled those problems. Keep these items along with the rest of your documentation but do not hand them over to CPS. If you feel you must provide them with this information, make copies and send only the copies, not the originals, to the social worker’s supervisor through registered mail that requires a signature.
Keep Tabs on The Investigation and The Outcome
When CPS concludes its investigation they aren’t going to send you a letter and inform you of the results. You may or may not ever hear from them again. When CPS investigates you, your name and case will be entered into a database registry. This database will include the results of the investigation. If you have been found innocent CPS is supposed to remove your name from the database, however, they don’t always do this. Write a letter to CPS and request that they remove you from this database and ask that they send you a confirmation letter stating that they have done so.
If you are unfortunate enough to have to go through an ordeal like this please keep in mind that even though there is a tremendously large number of social workers snatching babies and tearing apart families for a wide variety of reasons; their organization does still save children’s lives. It is a sad thing to have an organization such as this, that causes more harm than good however there is still a small pool of help for truly abused children through child protection services.