As a parent who wants to protect their child, being reported to Orange County Child Protective Services (CPS) can come as a shock, which can lead to anger and frustration. This is a situation that needs to be taken very seriously, as the potential consequences can be life-changing. Read on for what you need to know.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Reported to CPS?
There are two immediate things that need to happen when you’ve been reported to CPS: Stay calm, as angry outbursts could be used as evidence against you; and take this seriously. Treating it as a joke or ignoring the CPS employee working on your case could be tempting. But that employee will take the report seriously, and if you don’t, that too could work against you. Similarly, don’t lash out at the CPS worker. No matter how hard it is, stay calm and be polite.
Here are other things you should do.
- As soon as you learn you’ve been reported, it’s time to bring in an experienced family law attorney. These reports can lead to criminal charges with severe consequences if convicted. These are highly complex cases, and it’s best not to handle them on your own.
- Find out what the exact charges are (which your attorney can help you do). Sometimes CPS employees (usually social workers) will try to be vague and just refer to neglect or abuse. But the person being reported has the legal right to know exactly what those charges are. Neglect and abuse can include a wide range of charges.
- Say nothing to CPS workers without your attorney present. Even though you’re confident you’ve done nothing wrong and the charges won’t happen, it’s all too easy for someone to say something they believe to be innocent, only to have CPS interpret it differently. Your lawyer will know what kinds of questions will be used and what kinds of answers could cause you problems.
- Don’t let anyone from CPS or the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) into your home unless they have a court order or warrant. Legally they can’t enter without an order or warrant, and you have the right to (politely but still firmly) say no. If they’re persistent, involve your attorney.
- If CPS or DCFS legally sets up a session to interrogate you, bring your attorney and insist that the interrogation be recorded.
- Refuse to have your child examined by a CPS-affiliated physician. CPS may offer this at no cost to you, but their physicians are working for CPS, not for you.
- Never admit to guilt. CPS may try to convince you to plead guilty by saying they’ll cut you some slack or return your child. But that guilty statement will be used against you.
What Happens if CPS Investigates Me and Says I’m Guilty?
Obviously, the best-case scenario resulting from a CPS investigation is that they find no grounds to support the report and drop the investigation. However, if they say they’ve found evidence that the report is accurate, they’ll take the child from your home and place them in foster care before opening an official case.
If applicable, CPS will then work with the family to develop a case plan. These plans are designed to ensure the child’s safety and care. They’ll specify what type of neglect or endangerment has been documented and what must be done to mitigate it. For example, suppose a child is in a home where one parent has a drug addiction and can’t properly care for the child or endangers them by having dangerous drugs on-site. In that case, the case plan may involve the parent with the addiction going through treatment to address the addiction. Once the parent is deemed safe, they might be able to return to the home with their child.
Will I Have to Go to Court if CPS Says I’m Guilty?
Courts are most likely to be involved when:
- The parent wants the court to overturn the decision to place the child in foster care. If the parent believes their child has been wrongly removed from the home, they can ask the courts to return the child.
- CPS draws up a case plan for the family, but the family won’t comply with it. In the example above, that could be the parent with the addiction refusing to enter treatment, or they go to treatment but relapse on returning home.
What Constitutes Neglect?
California recognizes four types of neglect.
- Physical. This is the most common. It involves the child not having their basic physical needs met (food, clothing, shelter, or parental oversight).
- Medical. The child isn’t getting preventive care or being treated when ill or injured.
- Educational. The child isn’t getting the required education, whether from school or by home-schooling.
- Emotional. The child lives in a home where they’re ignored, threatened, rejected, or isolated. Often the child lives in fear and is kept away from other family members or friends who could support them.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Reported to Orange County CPS for Child Endangerment or Neglect?
Call the Sarieh Law Offices at 949-542-6209 (Newport Beach) or 714-542-6200 (Santa Ana) for a free 30-minute in-depth case evaluation. We will work with you to protect your rights and guide you through the often complicated CPS investigation process. If charges are filed, we can represent you and strive to get you the best outcomes possible.