What CPS Can And Cannot Legally Do During Investigations (2023)

What CPS Can And Cannot Legally Do During Investigations (1)

As a parent, you have rights even during Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations. A lot of parents don’t know about what CPS can and cannot do. Knowing what CPS is legally allowed to do can put your mind at ease during an investigation.

CPS taking children away is a terrifying thought for any parent. If you are under investigation, do not panic. CPS social workers want to know the family’s dynamic and conditions of the home. It’s rare that CPS purposefully seeks to villainize or discriminate against parents. The last thing that CPS wants to do is take kids away from their families.

Parents should still know their rights during a CPS visit. There’s a lot that CPS can and cannot do during a home visit. Parents who know their rights, and know what CPS is legally allowed to do will make CPS visits as stress-free as possible.

Also Read: Conservatorship vs. Guardianship FAQ

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If you need to speak to a family lawyer today, call (844) 934-2387 and press 2 when you hear the voice recording play.

5 Things CPS Can Legally Do

A CPS investigation can last for up to 18 months! During this time, there are some things that CPS might attempt. If you’re unsure about the legality of how CPS is conducting an investigation, you can always call a lawyer to get legal advice on the situation.

CPS must investigate every claim that’s made, even if it’s false

This is frustrating for a lot of parents and caregivers, as the claims could be completely falsified or taken out of context. However, investigating a claim isn’t a suggestion or a policy- it’s the law and every claim must be taken seriously. Almost 5 children die from child abuse everyday, so every claim is taken with the utmost seriousness.

Regardless, parents should still know their rights and know how to conduct themselves during the investigation. Parents have a right to know all the claims made in the investigation. Often, many parents have claims made against them that are true, but the parents aren’t seeking to directly harm their children. Parents are human and make mistakes or have misunderstandings too.

CPS social workers recognize that some claims can be explained through cultural, religious, or economic differences. This is also why, if CPS believes parents do have good intentions for their children, they’ll offer resources for parents. CPS may also demand that parents follow a plan of care and action.

Also Read: How To Report Child Abuse Safely And Anonymously

CPS can talk to your child without your permission

This comes as a shock to a lot of parents, but CPS can legally talk to your child alone. If the abuse allegations are quite serious, CPS may attempt to speak with your child before they talk to you.

Parents may question the legality of this, however, it prevents kids from being coerced into saying something false to protect abusers. Kids can be threatened or worse by abusive parents that may about CPS investigation.

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

CPS social workers are trained to understand the complexities of any family dynamic. If parents are worried about their children saying something that may incriminate them, remember that CPS social workers must look beyond just the surface-level. If your social worker does use something out of context, call a lawyer to know your legal options.

CPS can show up to your home without notice

Unannounced visits are very common in cases with extreme or violent allegations. Even if the claims aren’t too serious, you may not find about an investigation until a CPS social worker arrives. Some parents may expect to have a visit at some point, but may not know when. If you’re not home when the CPS worker arrives, they will leave contact information so you can schedule another time to visit.

CPS can ask you nosy and invasive questions

CPS might ask you questions that seem irrelevant to your case. These questions are not accusations. During the investigation, CPS will want to cover everything. If you do not speak English, you have the right to an interpreter.

Caregivers have the right to talk to their caseworker candidly about the ongoing investigation. However, parents and caregivers should remember that these exchanges are not confidential and can be used in court. Consult with a lawyer before you have an interview with your social worker, so you know exactly what to say.

Parents should also remember that they do not have to answer every question. You have the right to refuse to answer questions and remain silent, or tell the social worker you don’t think the question is relative to the case.

CPS can take your child away and terminate your rights as a parent

If the social worker does deem your household or a member of the family to be a direct threat to a child, they can take your children away. Taking children away isn’t the first solution for CPS. It’s traumatizing for both the family and the children, and is normally the last resort.

If you believe that you may be housing unsafe conditions for your child, speak to a lawyer so see what options you have. Parents are humans and make mistakes like using drugs or being with an abusive partner. While parents are turning their lives around, they should seek to find safer conditions for their kids.

It’s important to take action as soon as possible if this is the case. A poor CPS visit can greatly impact your future, even if your life does turn around.If you need to find a better solution for your kids, call a lawyer and come up with a plan before informing CPS.


Also Read: Filing A Restraining Order Against Your Abuser

What Are Your Rights As A Parent?

Reading this list may put a lot of parents and caregivers in distress. CPS visits are intimidating and make parents feel like they’re at mercy of a stranger. However, as long as parents know what CPS can and cannot do, their children should be protected.

CPS cannot enter your home without your permission.

Although CPS can show up to your home without notice, they cannot enter without your consent. Unless CPS has a court order, or they believe your child is in immediate danger, they can’t enter your home unless you say it’s okay.

If a CPS social worker comes to your home for a visit and you’re unprepared, simply tell them that it’s not the best time. If you turn away a CPS worker because you feel unprepared, ask to schedule for another time. After rescheduling, call your lawyer and ask how best to prepare for your home visit.

CPS cannot force you to take a drug test

Similarly to when entering your home, unless CPS has a court order, they need your consent to take a drug test. If a social worker tries to coerce you into taking a test, tell them that it’s be irrelevant to the case, and they legally need a court order with reasonable suspicion before they can.

You have the right to a court-appointed attorney if CPS files a lawsuit against you

Parents and caregivers can deny any allegations made by the CPS. Throughout the 18-month-long investigation, you have the right to an attorney. A qualified lawyer can help ensure your children are in the right hands, and nothing untrue or out of context is used against you.

Parents also have the right to attend all court hearings regarding your case, even if the children are taken away. Unless parents are deemed dangerous to their own children, parents can know about the legal proceedings regarding their case.

Also Read: How Child Support Affects Your Taxes

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

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Also Read: Defamation of Character Lawsuit FAQ

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


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.

How do you answer CPS questions? ›

You need to ask the CPS Investigator to tell you exactly what the allegations are against you. Take your time during this portion and be thorough. Take very detailed notes and force the CPS Investigator to go slowly and point-by-point. You'll have to resist the urge to defend yourself or explain away the allegations.

What can cause a child to be taken away? ›

Main reasons for removing a child from their birth family home
  • Neglect. This can be best described as the persistent failure to meet the child's basic physical and psychological needs. ...
  • Abandonment. ...
  • Abuse. ...
  • Loss of parent(s) ...
  • Incarceration.

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.

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.

Can a parent refuse a forensic interview? ›

Most of the time, parents have the right to make choices for their child regarding police interviews and testifying or cooperating in a criminal case.

How to prepare for an interview with CPS? ›

General questions
  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. What made you want to work in CPS?
  3. What motivates you?
  4. What are you passionate about?
  5. Where do you see your career in five years?
  6. What are your current career goals?
  7. What is your working style?
  8. What is your communication style?
Sep 29, 2021

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.

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.

What do social workers look for in a home? ›

1. Social workers assess physical aspects of the home environment. 2. This scale may appear judgmental, but workers necessarily make judgements about the safety, order and cleanliness of the place in which the child lives.

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.

How do you prove your child is being coached? ›

There are only three (3) ways you can prove in court your child has been coached, so please take heed: One parent admits in her/his deposition or at hearing/trial, or to CPS, or another mandated reporter, s/he coached the child to exact revenge against the other.

What is parent alienation? ›

Parental alienation is a strategy whereby one parent intentionally displays to the child unjustified negativity aimed at the other parent. The purpose of this strategy is to damage the child's relationship with the other parent and to turn the child's emotions against that other parent.

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.

What legal powers do social services have? ›

Anyone can call Social Services and tell them about children they think are being abused and Social Services have a legal duty to investigate situations where a concern has been expressed about the child's safety and well-being.

Do I have the right to refuse social services? ›

Yes – if you refuse a needs assessment then the local authority is not under a duty to assess you. But there are some exceptions. You can't refuse a needs assessment if: you lack the capacity to refuse, and the local authority believes that it's in your best interests to have an assessment.

What are the 5 civil rights? ›

Our country's Constitution and federal laws contain critical protections that form the foundation of our inclusive society – the right to be free from discrimination, the freedom to worship as we choose, the right to vote for our elected representatives, the protections of due process, the right to privacy.

What is an example of someone's rights being violated? ›

A civil rights violation is any offense that occurs as a result or threat of force against a victim by the offender on the basis of being a member of a protected category. For example, a victim who is assaulted due to their race or sexual orientation. Violations can include injuries or even death.

What are the 3 basic civil rights? ›

Examples of civil rights include the right to vote, the right to a fair trial, the right to government services, the right to a public education, and the right to use public facilities.

How do you prove social services wrong? ›

Challenging a decision
  1. Complain to the local authority by writing a letter.
  2. Complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
  3. Ask a solicitor for help.
  4. Contact your MP to alert them to the problem you are having.

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

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.

Can a parent watch a forensic interview? ›

May I watch the forensic interview? No, only those people who are directly involved in the investigation are allowed to observe the interview. This is done for two reasons; first is to create a neutral setting to reduce the possible stress that can be placed on a child.

Is parental permission required for CPS interview? ›

The CSW does not need parental consent or a court order. The interview can be as long as necessary to protect the child.

Can a parent be present during a forensic interview? ›

In general, parents (or other relatives and caregivers) should not be present during the interview.

What are 5 codes of conduct to be followed to crack an interview? ›

Be very particular about your appearance.

Follow the professional dress code for an everlasting first impression. Wear something which looks good on you. Coordinate a light colour shirt with a dark colour well fitted trouser. Make sure your shoes are polished and do not make noise.

What does a CPS interview consist of? ›

The main subject areas that are focused on during a child-interview are: what actually happened during the alleged incident (or incidents) of abuse or neglect? whether the child feels safe in their home right now. whether the child believes that future abuse or neglect will occur.

How do you pass a case interview? ›

Case interview tips
  1. Understand the issue; ask clarifying questions as needed.
  2. Identify the underlying assumptions.
  3. Summarize specific issues and findings.
  4. State your recommendations.
  5. Outline next steps and expected results/impacts.

Can social services look around my house? ›

Only the police can do this, and even they have to have a search warrant from a judge. You have every right to refuse any social service people admission to your home.

Why would a child see a social worker? ›

A social worker can help if you or your child has a mental health condition, disability or serious illness. Other reasons to see a social worker might include: current or past experience of abuse or family violence. problems with a relationship in your life – for example, a divorce or separation.

What does CPS feel like? ›

People who are being investigated can feel like CPS is there to harm them, tear their family apart, pry into their lives, and embarrass them. Parents feel harassed and invaded. I get it, and most CPS workers understand that you feel this way.

How much evidence does CPS need? ›

The evidence they gather includes documentary, physical, photographic and other forensic evidence and not just witness testimony. The police arrest and interview suspects. All of this produces a file which when complete the police send to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for review and a decision on prosecuting.

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.”

How long do social services take to investigate? ›

Investigations usually take about six months.

What is a must have for social workers? ›

Communication – both verbal and non-verbal – is a vital skill for social workers. The ability to communicate clearly with a wide range of people is essential. It is the duty of social workers to advocate for their clients – in order to do this, social workers must understand the client's needs.

Is a messy house child neglect? ›

Is having a dirty house child neglect? Unmade beds, dirty dishes and stacks of laundry are expected in a busy household but when the home becomes a health hazard it becomes a crime scene of child abuse and neglect.

What are 3 things social workers do? ›

Social workers typically do the following:
  • Identify people and communities in need of help.
  • Assess clients' needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals.
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment.
Sep 8, 2022

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.

Can you get your child back from social services? ›

A: As a parent of children in care, if you believe that your situation has changed significantly and you have made improvements to your ability to parent your children, then you can apply to the court to discharge the care order and have your children returned to your care.

What age do social services stop getting involved? ›

You will have this plan until you are 21, or 24 if you are in further education or training. Your social worker will keep working with you until you are 18, and will help you plan for the future, continue to make sure that you are safe and that all of your needs are met.

What is considered mental abuse from a coach? ›

Researchers suggest emotional abuse by coaches can include belittling, humiliating, shouting, scapegoating, rejecting, isolating, threatening and ignoring. These forms of abuse can be subtle and hidden in accepted coaching practice.

How do you prove child manipulation? ›

6 Ways To Prove Parental Alienation With Evidence Before You Lose Your Child Forever
  1. Document Disparaging Remarks. ...
  2. Preserve Social Media Evidence. ...
  3. Request an Attorney Ad Litem or Guardian Ad Litem. ...
  4. Depose Your Ex.

What is coaching abuse? ›

The abusive coach is a pro at playing head games and manipulating others. He/she is able to convince his/her players that his/her frustration, yelling, anger and bad behavior are all their fault.

What are the signs of guilty parent syndrome? ›

Signs Of Guilty Parent Syndrome

You worry that people are judging you based on your child's actions. You stress out about every little thing that could go wrong in your child's life. You feel guilty for not spending enough time with your child. You find yourself constantly comparing your parenting skills to others.

What is malicious parent syndrome? ›

What is Malicious Parent Syndrome? Malicious Parent Syndrome (MPS) is a type of vengeful behavior exhibited by some divorcing or separated parents. It occurs when a parent deliberately tries to place the other bad parent in a bad light and harm their child's relationship with them.

What is narcissistic parental alienation? ›

Narcissistic parental alienation syndrome, or parental alienation syndrome (PAS), occurs when one parent coercively tries to alienate their child from an otherwise loving parent. This manipulation then results in the child's dislike or rejection of the alienated parent.

Does the 14th Amendment protect children? ›

More recently, this Court declared in Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702 (1997), that the Constitution, and specifically the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, protects the fundamental right of parents to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children.

What does the 14th Amendment say for kids? ›

It says that anyone born in the United States is a citizen and has the rights of a citizen. This was important because it ensured that the freed slaves were officially U.S. citizens and were awarded the rights given to U.S. citizens by the Constitution.

What is the 14th Amendment in simple terms for kids? ›

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to anyone born in the United States or who became a citizen of the country. This included African Americans and slaves who had been freed after the American Civil War.

How does the 14th Amendment apply to law enforcement? ›

The Constitution gives states inherent "police power" to protect public health and safety. It is a broad power; however, the 14th Amendment prevents states from infringing on "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" without due process of law.

What are the 10 rights of a child? ›

Particular human rights of children include, among other rights, the right to life, the right to a name, the right to express his views in matters concerning the child, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to health care, the right to protection from economic and sexual exploitation, and ...

What does the 10th Amendment protect for kids? ›

The Tenth Amendment prevents the federal government from trying to expand its powers beyond the powers granted by the Constitution. If a power is not granted, it belongs to the states or the people.

What civil rights do children have? ›

Each child has a right to be raised in a nurturing, loving family, with basic needs like food, primary health care, and formal education. In addition, each child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, and maltreatment. Children should be protected from kidnapping and trafficking.

What is the 11th Amendment? ›

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

What is the 9th Amendment in simple terms? ›

The Ninth Amendment was part of the Bill of Rights that was added to the Constitution on December 15, 1791. It says that all the rights not listed in the Constitution belong to the people, not the government. In other words, the rights of the people are not limited to just the rights listed in the Constitution.

What is the 10th Amendment in simple terms? ›

The Tenth Amendment says that the Federal Government only has those powers delegated in the Constitution. If it isn't listed, it belongs to the states or to the people.

What is the 17th Amendment in simple terms? ›

Passed by Congress on May 13, 1912, and ratified on April 8, 1913, the 17th Amendment modified Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution by allowing voters to cast direct votes for U.S. senators. Prior to its passage, senators were chosen by state legislatures.

What is the 24th Amendment say? ›

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or ...

What is Amendment 15 in simple terms? ›

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869, and ratified February 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment granted African American men the right to vote.

How do you prove a violation of due process? ›

In order to successfully establish a prima facie case for a procedural due process violation, a plaintiff must show that: (1) there has been a deprivation of the plaintiff's liberty or property, and (2) the procedures used by the government to remedy the deprivation were constitutionally inadequate.

What are examples of violations of due process? ›

A violation of due process is anything that includes depriving a person of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." An example of such a violation would be law enforcement searching an individual's property without a warrant.

What are examples of equal protection violations? ›

A violation would occur, for example, if a state prohibited an individual from entering into an employment contract because he or she was a member of a particular race. The clause is not intended to provide equality among individuals or classes but only equal application of the law.


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