What Child Protective Services Can & Cannot Do | Schill Law Group (2023)

The end of a marriage can bring about things you didn’t expect. One of the most surprising ones you may experience is dealing with Child Protective Services, otherwise known as the CPS.

Suddenly being greeted by representatives from Child Protective Services is not a pleasant experience. The reason they’ve paid a visit to your home could be to take your child away from you. Obviously, you want nothing to do with that.

The question is: What can you do when Child Protective Services shows up at your front door? That’s one of the many important questions we’ll be answering in this article. You’ll also learn how to respond if you have a dispute with CPS.

Read on to learn more about Child Protective Services and your rights when dealing with them.

The Mission of Child Protective Services

It’s important to understand that Child Protective Services is not your enemy.

The Department of Child Safety, the Arizona equivalent of CPS, states that their guiding core principles are:

  • Ensuring the safety of all Arizona children
  • Ensuring all Arizona children live in safe environments with loving families
  • Ensuring all Arizona children have an opportunity to thrive with the support of their families and communities

Those are all worthy core principles to abide by, and you won’t find any loving parent who disagrees with them. The values espoused by the Department of Child Safety are similarly admirable.

Their values include:

  • Accountability and Transparency
  • Child-Centered Care
  • Cultural Responsiveness
  • Family-Focused Work
  • Professional Excellence
  • Promoting Partnerships within Communities
  • Proper and Attentive Engagement

As a parent and resident of Arizona, knowing that the Department of Child Safety is present to keep a watchful eye over the youngest citizens of the state is a comforting thought. The services they provide are essential in every sense of the word.

What Child Protective Services Can & Cannot Do | Schill Law Group (1)

Why Is Child Protective Services Investigating You?

Child Protective Services is on the side of protecting children and their best interests. Whether you’re a parent or not, you want to be on the same side as them. That’s why suddenly finding yourself on the other end of a CPS investigation can be legitimately frightening.

But why does that happen? Why are they investigating you even when you are doing nothing that comes close to endangering your child? There are some possible explanations.

(Video) Know your rights in a Child Protective Services investigation

A Former Spouse’s Attempt to Gain Custody

Following a divorce that involves children, the court will usually name a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent. If they name you as the custodial parent, that means your children will primarily be in your care.

However, that doesn’t mean that your former spouse will stop trying to gain custody of the children the two of you brought into the world. Your former spouse may file false reports with the Department of Child Safety to gain primary custody of the kids while also trying to paint you in a negative light.

It can be infuriating when that happens. Unfortunately, authorities cannot rule it out, especially in cases where the two sides had an acrimonious parting.

Another Party’s Attempt to Gain Custody

It’s not only your former spouse who may attempt to take custody away from you using Child Protective Services. Your former in-laws and other family members may attempt that same tactic.

Whether the attempt is successful or not, having the eyes of CPS trained on you can be stressful. To be clear, though, you are not supposed to use Child Protective Services in custody battles.

Mistaken Allegations

One other reason why you may suddenly find yourself investigated by Arizona’s Department of Child Safety could be due to a mistaken assumption.

Let’s say, for example, that your child’s teacher saw that he/she has a busted lip. Now, you may already know that the busted lip occurred when your child fell accidentally while running around in your yard. However, the teacher who is unaware of that may mistake it for a potential sign of abuse.

On one hand, you can appreciate the fact that the teacher is keeping a close eye on your child. On the other, you may not appreciate that you get investigated due to an unfortunate misunderstanding.

What Happens After a Report Is Filed with Child Protective Services?

The government takes claims about potential child abuse seriously. That’s reflected in how Child Protective Services operates.

You should know that all reports sent to CPS are investigated. It doesn’t matter whether the claim was made up or inaccurate, they will get involved and attempt to get to the bottom of things.

Upon receiving a report, the officials tasked with investigating child abuse claims will look to either screen in or screen out that report. So, what does that mean?

(Video) If Child Protective Services (CPS) wants to ask you questions, then you need to know your rights.

According to StopItNow.org, a specific report may be screened out when the department determines that there is not enough information to further an investigation. The department may also screen out a report if the claim does not constitute child abuse or neglect.

Child Protective Services may also decide to screen out a report if they determine it to be inaccurate or false.

If the officials believe that there is potential merit to the report, they will proceed further and screen in the investigation. They may decide to conduct a preliminary investigation to gather additional information.

How Do Child Protective Services Investigate Reports?

Investigating the claims made to Child Protective Services is a multi-stage process. Let’s discuss what those stages are in greater detail in the next section.

Establish Contact with the Reporting Source

The investigation carried out by Arizona’s Department of Child Safety starts with contacting the reporting source. Notably, they usually withhold the identity of the reporting source throughout the investigation.

Examine Old Documents Related to the Case if They Exist

The Department will then start trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the claim. To do so, they will look for any previous reports filed to them involving the child and the alleged perpetrator of abuse.

Interview and/or Observe the Child Involved in the Case

After that, an investigator from the Department may pay a visit to the child and conduct an interview. They may also opt to observe the child at first.

An important thing to note here if you’re the parent is that you cannot stop an investigator from the Department of Child Safety from conducting that interview. Per Arizona law, the investigator does not need to receive any written consent from the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child before the interview can take place.

Furthermore, they can exclude you and anyone else watching over the child from the interview. Again, the investigator can conduct the interview even if you do not approve of it.

Now, you need to remember that you do not need to give the investigator permission to enter your home. If you do not want the visit to occur at that point, you can inform the investigator and request to reschedule. Since you did not give the investigator permission to enter your home, they will need to leave.

The only time an investigator can enter your home without your consent is if they have a court order authorizing them to do so. Usually, those court orders are only handed down when it’s believed that the child is in immediate danger. If there is no merit to the allegations against you, it’s unlikely that the investigator will be carrying a court order.

(Video) How to handle a Child Protective Services Visit in under 4 minutes

Interview the Potential Perpetrator

Once the interview with the child ends, the investigator will likely talk to you. The questions asked during this interview may be personal. You do not need to answer the questions or even provide any response if you don’t want to.

If you do decide to talk, remember they can use the things you say if the case goes to trial. It would be wise to consult with a lawyer first before you speak to the investigator.

Interview the Other People in the Household

The investigator from the Department of Child Safety may also decide to interview the other members of your household. They may even speak to other young kids you have.

It’s worth reiterating that they can use the things said during this interview in court. The other members of your household can also choose not to respond to the questions.

Continue the Investigation

The investigation will continue after the interviews. They may review court orders if they are available, and they may use other investigative tools.

What Child Protective Services Can & Cannot Do | Schill Law Group (2)

What Happens After the Investigation?

With the investigation conducted, the case may now go in one of two directions.

First, on finding there is no merit to the claim, they may decide to close the case. They will tell the parent, guardian, or custodian that the case is closed.

However, if the investigator believes that there is abuse possibly taking place, he/she will move to substantiate the allegation. The findings will then be documented and eventually reviewed by a supervisor at the Department of Child Safety and the Protective Services Review Team.

They will tell the parent, guardian, or custodian about the results of the investigation. From there, they may take further action.

The Department of Child Safety will look into other ways to keep the child protected before resorting to taking him/her away from a family.

(Video) What to Do if Child Protective Services Worker Lies Under Oath NJ CPS | Williams Law Group

The ways they may attempt to secure the safety of the child include:

  • Providing the family with essential supplies if a lack of resources is the reason for the neglect
  • Asking the perpetrator of abuse to leave if the other members of the household can protect the child
  • Helping the protective parent, guardian, or custodian leave the household of the person responsible for the abuse

If those options are not feasible, they may place the child in a voluntary placement agreement.

The child may also go into temporary custody. This temporary custody can last up to 12 hours. During that time, the child may be examined by a doctor and/or a psychologist.

Child Protective Services are allowed under the law to take your children away if their investigation has determined that abuse has taken place. After that, they will likely file a lawsuit against you.

In all likelihood, a hearing will take place. Once that hearing is over, the court will decide if the child should be returned to your custody, entrusted to a different family member, or remain in the custody of Child Protective Services.

Reach out to a lawyer before that hearing takes place so you can make a more compelling case and disprove the allegations of abuse and neglect.

What to Do if You Want to Lodge a Complaint against Child Protective Services

There may be cases where the investigator for the Department of Child Safety overstepped their bounds a bit. Upon finding that out, you will probably and understandably not be thrilled about what happened.

You should know that filing a complaint is an option.

To resolve a complaint, you have with the Department of Child Safety, you must start with contacting the investigator who worked on your case. Call the investigator in question or leave a message. If you receive no response after two days, you can also send an email.

Be sure to record all your attempts to communicate with the investigator.

If there is still no response, you can then elevate your concerns to a supervisor in the Department of Child Safety.

(Video) What is Child Protective Services and How Can It Affect My Case? - Men's Divorce Podcast

Contacting the Department of Child Safety of the Ombudsman is your last resort if both the investigator and supervisor fail to respond to your attempts to communicate.

The prospect of losing your child due to a false or misguided claim of abuse made against you is terrifying and traumatizing. You cannot allow those claims to go unchallenged, considering the damage they may do to your family and your reputation.

Work with us at the Schill Law Group if you’ve been falsely accused of being an abusive parent. Reach out to us today and learn more about the different ways we can help.


What CPS can and Cannot do in Michigan? ›

CPS can only remove children from home if they have permission from a judge. When CPS removes children, it often places them temporarily with the other parent or in foster care. Foster care could be with relatives. The police can remove a child from home without an order from a judge.

What CPS can and Cannot do California? ›

CPS cannot enter your home without your permission

Although CPS can show up at a home at any point in time, they may not enter a home without the explicit permission of a parent or guardian. The only exception to this rule is if they have a court order or believe a child is in immediate danger.

What CPS can and Cannot do in Pennsylvania? ›

CPS can remove children from the home.

They need to have a court order or be able to prove that the child is in imminent danger in order to remove a child. Imminent danger could include things like physical harm, sexual contact, neglect, or firearms left in the open.

What can CPS legally do in Texas? ›

The Texas Family Code states that CPS can investigate reports that a child has been or is being abused or neglected. Anyone can initiate the report (e.g., teachers, grandparents, neighbors, an ex-spouse, etc.), and because this can be done anonymously, you will likely not know who made the claim.

What not to say to CPS? ›

Despite how emotionally charged these situations are, you must remain calm when interacting with social workers and police officers. Anything you say will be used in a CPS investigation as evidence. In many circumstances, it is best to say nothing at all.

Can social services take my child away without evidence? ›

Can social services take my child away without evidence? No, there must be evidence in support of the application from social services when they are asking the court to remove your child/ren from your home.

Can you sue social services for emotional distress? ›

Yes, you can sue social services for distress and potentially other damages too. As well as the figure that's awarded for your psychological distress (which is known as non-material damages), you may also be eligible to receive material damages too.

What rights does the 14th Amendment have CPS? ›

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions as to the companionship, care, custody, and management of their children, which right is a protected liberty interest under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

What can CPS not do in California? ›

Although CPS workers may also show up to your house without notice, they cannot legally force their way into your home. They must have your explicit permission before entering. However, if they have a court order or believe that a child is in imminent danger, the CPS workers do not have to abide by this rule.

What is considered an unfit parent in PA? ›

The legal definition of an unfit parent is when the parent through their conduct fails to provide proper guidance, care, or support. Also, if there is abuse, neglect, or substance abuse issues, that parent will be deemed unfit.

What are my rights with Child Protective Services in PA? ›

You Have the Right to See and Talk With Your Child

These visits may require supervision, such as by the adult providing care for your child or a CPS caseworker. You should also be allowed to speak with your children on the phone on a regular basis while they live somewhere else.

Is it illegal to file a false CPS report in PA? ›

False reports of child abuse. A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if the person intentionally or knowingly makes a false report of child abuse under 23 Pa. C.S.

Can a judge overrule CPS in Texas? ›

Ultimately, the judge has greater authority to control a CPS lawsuit involving an allegation of abuse or neglect to a child. However, the judge's authority is limited to only address requests and evidence that are present to the Court, so many decisions get made by CPS without the judge even knowing about it.

Can CPS terminate parental rights in Texas? ›

CPS may choose to petition the court for legal termination of your parental rights. The judge will rule against you if it can be proven that you have committed one or more violations of § 161.001(1) of the Texas Family Code, and that termination is in the best interests of the children.

Can you sue CPS in Texas? ›

I don't want to take up a great deal of time discussing the legalities of using the state of Texas, but legally speaking, it is possible to file a lawsuit against Child Protective Services.

Can CPS charge you without evidence? ›

Before charging, the CPS must be satisfied that there is enough evidence. This means there must be a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to each accused and for each and every charge.

What does it mean when CPS red flags you? ›

Red flags are warning signs to look out for that potential child abuse and neglect are occurring within a client's home.

Should you be honest with CPS? ›

For that reason, it's essential to be honest with the family. Terry advises, “Remind the family that you are mandated by law to call this in. Alleviate the fears of parents (having contact with CPS). Honesty helps build relationship and trust.”

What are social services not allowed to do? ›

What Social Services Cannot Do. Social services cannot remove your child from your home without an order by the court, your consent, or a Police Protection Order. Additionally, social services cannot decide what will happen to your child or place your child in permanent foster care without a court's decision.

Can I tell social services to go away? ›

Some have asked ” can I tell social services to go away ” – If you tell them to go away, they won't and you will end up in Court and there is then the risk that your children really will be removed. Be Honest. This might sometimes seem like a bad idea.

Can you sue child social services? ›

You may be able to claim against social services if you were under the organisation's care when the abuse happened, or if neglect on the part of a social worker put you in a situation where you were abused.

Do judges always agree with social services? ›

The judge is likely unless he or she considers that the evidence before the court suggests otherwise to take full account of the recommendations made by children's services and the guardian.

What are the 5 signs of emotional suffering? ›

Common warning signs of emotional distress include:
  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Pulling away from people and things.
  • Having low or no energy.
  • Having unexplained aches and pains, such as constant stomachaches or headaches.
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless.
May 16, 2022

Can I sue social services for negligence? ›

It's possible to make a claim against social services if you were under the organisation's care when the abuse took place, or if you were put in a position where you could be abused due to neglect on the part of a social worker.

How does CPS violate the 4th Amendment? ›

They use police presences to squelch and put down any citizen who asserts their 4th Amendment rights by not allowing an unlawful investigation to take place in their private home when no imminent danger is present.

What are some civil rights violations? ›

The most common complaint involves allegations of color of law violations. Another common complaint involves racial violence, such as physical assaults, homicides, verbal or written threats, or desecration of property.

What are the 5th Amendment rights? ›

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be ...

What authority does CPS have California? ›

CPS has the right to legally remove your kids from your home under particular circumstances. They must have a court order or be able to prove that your child is in imminent danger in order to take your child from you. Imminent danger includes things like: Physical harm.

What happens if someone makes a false CPS report in California? ›

Under California law (California Penal Code § 11172(a)), a person who knowingly or with reckless disregard makes a false report of child abuse or neglect can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

How long does a CPS case stay on your record in California? ›

Information from an inconclusive or unsubstantiated report shall be deleted from the index after 10 years if no subsequent report concerning the same suspected child abuser is received within that time.

How do you lose parental rights in PA? ›

Biological parents can also petition the court to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights either to an adoption agency or the adult(s) intending to adopt the child. The biological parents must attend a voluntary relinquishment hearing, which will generally be held 35-40 days after the consent form has been filed.

Can a parent lose custody for being a narcissist? ›

Yes. A parent can lose custody of their child if their narcissistic traits or NPD is not managed and begins to negatively affect their children's physical or emotional well-being.

At what age can a child in Pa choose which parent to live with? ›

There is no minimum age which prompts a Pennsylvania judge to say that a child's wishes will or won't be considered. Rather, PA custody law clearly specifies that a child's custodial preference must be well-reasoned and based on maturity and judgment.

What are the 2 main laws for child protection? ›

The Equality Act 2010. The Children and Families Act 2014. The Human Rights Act 1998.

How do I file a complaint against child Protective Services in PA? ›

Call 1-800-932-0313.

How do I get a CPS case dismissed in Pennsylvania? ›

Remember: CPS can dismiss your case at any time they feel the child is in no real danger or if all agreements, services and requested tasks have been completed. A judge can also dismiss a case if CPS fails to provide sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect.

What is the child bedroom law in Pennsylvania? ›

(a) Each single bedroom shall have at least 70 square feet of floor space per child measured wall to wall, including space occupied by furniture. (b) Each shared bedroom shall have at least 60 square feet of floor space per child measured wall to wall, including space occupied by furniture.

Can you go to jail for false accusations in Pennsylvania? ›

Your Accuser Could Face Criminal Charges

Falsely reporting an offense or deliberately making false statements to law enforcement is in itself a misdemeanor crime in Pennsylvania, punishable with prison time and fines.

What is the PA law for child bedroom? ›

(f) Each child shall have the following in the bedroom: (1) A bed with solid foundation and fire retardant mattress in good repair. (2) A pillow and bedding appropriate for the temperature in the facility. (3) A storage area for clothing.

What does CPS look for in a home visit Michigan? ›

Viewing the family's home. Reviewing any necessary documents, such as police reports, criminal history, medical reports, school reports, CPS case file, etc. Interviewing neighbors, friends, relatives or professionals that have had contact with the family. An assessment of the child's safety.

Do I have to let CPS in my house Michigan? ›

A CPS officer may try to convince you to let him or her into your home. It's important to remember that you are in no way obligated to let the social worker enter unless he or she has a warrant. Even if you know you are completely innocent, it's best to keep the CPS agent at a distance.

Do you have to let social services in your house? ›

You have every right to refuse any social service people admission to your home. They would have to go away and get police assistance + court order (they would have to provide enough evidence to a judge it was an emergency, that your kids were at risk).

How do I fight CPS in Michigan? ›

One of the most effective ways to battle CPS harassment is to file for a state administrative hearing. Your attorney will document the caseworker violating state regulations and put together the necessary documents to obtain justice.

What can social workers not do? ›

4. Check that you understand the things we cannot do
  • change a court's decision, or interfere with a court process.
  • make a local authority (or any other organisation) assign a different social worker.
  • change a local authority's funding decision.
  • change a decision about registering or deregistering foster carers.
Dec 20, 2022

How long do social services take to investigate? ›

Investigations usually take about six months.

What happens when a parent is reported to social services? ›

A social worker will go and talk to the parent or carer to find out if the information you gave them is true, and whether the family needs any help or support. They will also want to see the child and talk to the child alone (if they are old enough to understand).

What powers do social services have? ›

Social services have a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children and adults and can provide a wide range of services to children and their parents, usually within the own home environment and co-ordinated by a social worker.

Can social services go through your phone? ›

If a social worker is worried about a child, by law, they have to find out as much as they can about a child's situation. However, they do not have the legal power to tap phones. They could check the open part of social media accounts, such as Facebook.

How do I file a complaint against a CPS worker in Michigan? ›

Call 1-855-444-3911 if you are making a complaint regarding abuse, neglect or exploitation: In a child-caring institution.
The Division of Child Welfare Licensing receives and processes complaints for:
  1. Child caring institutions.
  2. Child placing agencies.
  3. Juvenile court operated facilities.

How do I get CPS to drop charges? ›

How will the CPS drop charges?
  1. Formal acquittal. ...
  2. Discontinuance. ...
  3. Lack of evidence. ...
  4. Evidence against you was illegally obtained. ...
  5. The prosecution is not in the public interest. ...
  6. To buy time to prepare for a later trial.
Jul 20, 2021

Who is in charge of CPS in Michigan? ›

Colin Parks - State Manager CPS (Children's Protective Services) and Family Preservation - State of Michigan | LinkedIn.


1. How to get free CPS Lawyer during Child Protective Services Case. What is a CPS Appointed Attorney?
(Matthew Harris Law, PLLC)
2. What to Do if Child Protective Services Worker Lies Under Oath NJ CPS
(Williams Law Group, LLC)
3. How to Fight Child Protective Services (w/ Vince Davis)
(Beyond My Crisis)
4. The disturbing, heartbreaking reality of Child Protective Services caseworkers
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5. When Should A Parent Call Child Protective Services Mid-Divorce?
(Williams Law Group, LLC)
6. Child Protective Service Process - Part 1
(Clarity Child Guidance Center)
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