There’s a knock at your door and on the other side is a CPS Investigator. The investigator says that they’ve received an allegation that you’ve committed child abuse or neglect, and they want to ask you some questions. Do you know how to answer their questions? Do you know what questions you should refuse to answer during your CPS Interview?
Even though we highly recommend that you have an attorney present during any CPS Interview, we understand that not everyone can afford to hire an attorney at a moment’s notice. If you decide to go it alone, then there are a few things that you need to know. Also, you need to know how to defend yourself during the first 30 seconds of your CPS Interview.
The First 30 Seconds of Your CPS Interview
The first 30 seconds of your CPS Interview are the most important. CPS Investigators have repeatedly lied to parents to gather incriminating evidence, and then used that evidence to place children into foster care and initiate criminal charges.
To protect yourself, you need to record everything. Even if the CPS Investigator objects to the recording, you’re still legally allowed to record them using video, audio, or both.
Texas is a one-party consent state when it comes to recordings. As long as one party to the conversation consents to the recording, then the recording is legal. The one party consenting to the conversation can also be you so don’t let the CPS Investigator tell you otherwise.
See Unlawful Interception of Oral Communications – Tex. Pen. Code § 16.02
How to Start Your CPS Interview
Before we get into the questions that the CPS Investigator will ask you, let’s discuss the questions that you need to ask the them.
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. Remember, you’re trying gather information.
Use phrases like, “Just to confirm, you’ve given me a complete list of the allegations against me?”
Ask follow-up questions about the allegations.
For example, if the CPS Investigator says that they’ve received a report that you were using marijuana, then get as much detail as you can about the specifics of the allegation. Ask “did the reporter say when this allegedly happened?” “did the reporter say where this allegedly happened?” “did the reporter say how they learned about this alleged action?” “did the reporter say whether they had personally observed the alleged action?”
Your goal here is to learn everything that CPS knows about what the reporter alleges that you’ve done before they can change their story.
One thing that you will NOT learn though is the identity of the reporter. Legally, CPS is not allowed to disclose this information.
–See Confidentiality and Disclosure of Information – Tex. Fam. Code 262.201
What you CAN ask though is whether the reporter is a professional reporter (teacher, doctor, counselor, etc.).
The reason it is so important to learn about the allegations against you is because the allegations will guide the rest of your CPS Interview.
Protection of Rights, Not Criminals
Our goal in sharing this information is not to protect criminals and child abusers. Our goal is to protect the constitutional rights of parents. If you’re a child abuser, then you should be caught and you should be prosecuted.
Children deserve our protection, and my goal is to educate parents because sometimes CPS attacks innocent parents. But it is terrible when a CPS Interview goes wrong and innocent children get swept into the system.
I have never once fought to put children back into a home that I believed was dangerous for them, and I’m not going to start now.
What Questions Will They Ask?
I can’t tell you every question that they’re going to ask you, but I can tell you the general categories. I’ve sat with countless clients during their CPS Interview, and they’ve taken anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
CPS has a general questionnaire that they tend to follow during the CPS Interview. It is very invasive and has very little to do with the case that they are investigating.
During your CPS Interview, you can expect to be asked your parent’s names, where you grew up, whether you were in foster care as a child, how you were disciplined as a child, and about 50 other questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the allegations against you. The scary part about this is that every answer you give them is then input into a government database. To this day, I still can’t tell you what they do with that information.
You have no obligation to answer any of these questions during your CPS Interview.
You’re now going to understand the importance of learning every detail that you can about the allegations against you. I routinely stop the CPS Interview during these invasive background questions to inform the CPS Investigator that my client will not be answering any questions that are unrelated to the allegations of abuse or neglect.
The CPS Investigator will get upset. They will get annoyed. They will lie to you and tell you that you’re being uncooperative in an attempt to get you to give them information that you don’t have to. Be polite, but firm.
Abuse or Neglect Questions
Eventually, the CPS Investigator will get around to asking questions about the allegations. What you need to remember here is that the CPS Investigator is an agent of the government. They may not be wearing a badge or a gun, but you should answer their questions just like you would any police officer.
I would never recommend anyone answer questions of the police without an attorney present. That is my same recommendation when it comes to your CPS Interview. In both instances, you should invoke your right to remain silent because everything you say can, and will, be used against you to terminate your parental rights as well as in your criminal prosecution.
However, what you want to know about today is how to answer their questions.
What are the 5 Rules for Answering Questions
- Rule #1, do not lie. If you insist on answering questions, then you should be honest. If you are caught lying, then all of your credibility will be lost should you ever need to testify in your defense.
- Rule #2, focus on the allegations. You should have already learned about the allegations against you, so when CPS begins asking questions that aren’t related to those allegations (like the background questions) remind them that you aren’t willing to answer questions unrelated to the allegations.
- Rule #3, stay calm and professional. Remember, there is a high likelihood that you may need to play this recording in Court if the CPS Investigator claims that you confessed to something that you didn’t. The Judge may view you more harshly if you are swearing, being derogatory, or are making threats.
- Rule #4, feel free to stop the interview at any time. Just because you begin to answer questions, doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to continue answering questions. Inform the CPS Investigator that the interview is over and politely ask them to leave so you can hire an attorney. If you’re uncomfortable, or if the questions begin taking an unexpected turn, then trust your gut and get out while you can.
- Rule #5, get what you need, and then stop the interview. If you want my honest thoughts, then here’s what you should do. Ask the CPS Investigator every possible question you can think of about the allegations against you, and then stop the interview at that time. You’ll then be in a much better position to hire an attorney and haven’t answered any questions that could harm you.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Family Law Division
1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3303
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479