Record and Document Everything
Check your state’s recording laws. Be sure to print a couple of copies and have them available for quick access should CPS arrive at your door. Have a digital voice recorder and/or a video recorder at the ready in the home at all times. If a CPS worker shows up at your door, be prepared to require them to permit you to record the interview. Be sure that your digital recording opens with you asking their permission to record the interview and the CPS worker granting it. You can, at that time, show them that you have a copy of the law. Don’t be coerced not to tape — this is your legal right if your state law says so. We recommend video recording versus audio recording, but either are quite acceptable.
Additionally, be sure to document everything that happens in writing. The spoken word. Gestures. Actions. Even document tone-of-voice and facial contortions if necessary! Take excellent notes. We would even go so far as to recommends that you write down every single word and insist that the worker must wait until the words are properly recorded and documented. You have the right.
Be sure to keep a three-ring or spiral-bound notebook on hand and use it to document every contact with CPS or CPS-appointed “service providers.” This is critical and we urge you not to let this effort slip away. Prepare in advance, and stand firm against CPS agents. After each contact, write a letter (some recommend having such a letter notarized) detailing what occurred, and request that the social worker confirm or deny the facts as you understand them within ten days of receipt of your letter. Send it certified mail, return receipt requested. Even include a self-addressed stamped envelope for them to use. If no letter disputing the facts is received, then your statement of facts will be treated as automatically confirmed. This form of documentation can later be used as evidence in your favor in juvenile court.
Don’t Permit the CPS Worker to Enter Your Home
You are under no obligation to let that person into your house. The United States Constitution, 4th-Amendment, details your rights to privacy in your home and rights against unreasonable search and seizure. No government agent of any type is allowed to enter your home without your permission or without a valid search warrant signed by a judge. We are aware of cases where entry was gained through the use of threatening statements such as, “Let us in or we’ll take your children!” Do not give in! Do not give up your Constitutional Rights! Be firm but polite with this issue! If you won’t stand up for your legal rights, well we can assure you, no one else will. If your rights are violated, you can sue the agency (among others) later. Best that you force them to honor your rights from the very beginning.
Now, about the whole search warrant thing. Usually that just doesn’t happen. The CPS agent is there in an effort to obtain incriminating evidence supporting the (usually anonymous) allegation. Typically, there isn’t enough evidence to detain your child right away, therefore there isn’t enough “probable cause” to justify a search warrant. CPS will simply be working with a phone tip from someone who wants to retaliate against you for wrong you’ve done them, real or perceived. Talk too much and your words will be twisted in ways to promote their use against you in court. Allow them into your home and they will find something to take exception to and use it against you in court. For example, a sink with some dirty dishes in it can appear in the report as “a sink full of dirty dishes and a filthy kitchen.” Aside from being a normal situation in any normal household, to a CPS agent, this would serve to make you look bad to a judge. Are the trash-cans full in every bathroom and the kitchen? Expect to see that “trash was overflowing in every room of the house and garbage appeared strewn about.” Litter box not emptied in a timely fashion? In a CPS report “the home reeked of the stale stench of animal urine and excrement.” This is why we suggest that you simply don’t let these people into your home. You can see how even the most normal things can be turned into a horror story to be told before a judge in family court.
Say As Little As Possible
When CPS arrives at your door, the natural inclination is to want them to go away as fast as possible. After all, you’re falsely accused, have “nothing to hide” and you want them gone and the case closed. You’ll want to tell them things to clarify that you are not a danger to your children. Of course, you must be exceedingly careful about what you say. Remember, “anything you say can and will be used against you…”
- Don’t tell them that you’ve had to deal with CPS investigations in the past. They’ll look them up and find evidence to use against you.
- Don’t give them referrals to others who know you and can attest to your parental fitness. If anyone has a blemish on their own background… well, it can be used to discredit you.
- Don’t tell them that you’re “not an abuser” because you “know what abuse is because I was abused as a child.” There is a common misconception that abused children often grow up themselves to be abusers and that is simply not always the case. However, it doesn’t mean that won’t make it their case against you!
- The bottom line – the less you give to the people who are trying to take your children from you, the better.
Get an attorney before agreeing to do any interviews.
NO Interviews with the Children Shall Be Granted
The CPS agents will want to talk to your child alone. Just say “NO!” Tell the agents that your child has the right to have an attorney present, and that if he insists on an interview then you and the attorney will be present and the interview will be recorded, preferably on videotape.
In our case, before learning much of what we now try to share with you, we allowed the CPS agent to interview the children “sort of” alone. We were within earshot in another room. We allowed her into our home only far enough to sit at the closest table. We told her she was not permitted to see any other part of our home. We told her that she would not be granted entry unless she granted permission for all discussions to be recorded. She agreed to all of that. She was polite, respectful, and pleasant. However, we were still on guard for obvious reasons.
Despite all that you have read to this point – it is vitally important that you remain courteous, respectful, and avoid harsh language, yelling, or any abusive language. Always be polite when you engage in any one of the recommendations we discuss. After all, we wouldn’ t want you to be looked upon as a crazed lunatic and you never know when they might be recording you and your words & actions.
Continuing… if your child is attends public school, CPS may circumvent your defenses by going to the school and trying to gain an interview with the children. They can go to the school and, behind your back, gain permission to talk with your children from the school employees. You can tell the school ahead of time, assuming you are aware of the false allegation of abuse before they go to the school, that you don’t permit such interviews, or anything other than basic education activities. Do so in writing, preferrably from your attorney on their firm’s letterhead. However there is no guarantee that school employees to abide by your demands. Keep in mind that the public schools are one of the largest sources of CPS referrals.
Be sure that your children know that they have the right to say, “I don’t want to be interviewed without my parents and an attorney and a recorder present.” Caseworkers will not tell your child that s/he has the right to say that. Once the allegations surface, you need to train your child how to deal with government agents and pray that they can actually follow-through with what you share with them. Government agents can be intimidating enough to adults, imagine what it must be like for children! Particularly after we spend much of our time teaching them to trust people like the police all throughout their childhood. If possible, try to convey to your children in an age-appropriate way that there are consequences that could be bad if they speak to the CPS workers without you and a lawyer present. This is a difficult undertaking because you don’t want to inadvertently traumatize the child. This could actually result in there being an opposite effect when the moment-of-truth comes to pass.
Remember, children are eight to ten times more at risk of abuse in foster and group homes. It is okay to teach the children appropriate self-protective measures in a way that they understand without undermining what you’re trying to accomplish with too much fear-mongering .