CPS is NOT Your Friend
If you have a child, regularly interact with children, or think you may one day even know a child, then this blog is for you.
CPS is tasked with protecting children, but often this is done by trampling on the rights of uneducated parents and caregivers, all while declaring that the “ends justifies the means.”
Well that’s not how it is supposed to work!
CPS = Police
First, let’s get a couple of things straight. The young caseworker at your door isn’t wearing a uniform, gun, and badge, but he/she is a full-fledged Government Agent.
As with most (all?) Government Agents, they are not there to protect your rights, but are there to perform their public function. Ever heard the phrase “I’m just doing my job”? Well, the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, aka Child Protective Services (CPS), has the job of protecting the safety and welfare of children in the state of Texas.
Because you read our prior blog Right to Remain Silent, you know that you’re not supposed to talk to the police. The same goes for CPS! CPS is on your doorstep and they say that they want to “talk to you,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What they really want is for you to talk to them. Unfortunately, they won’t warn you that everything you say will be used against you as soon as they get enough information to drag you into Court.
You Don’t Have To Talk To CPS
When CPS receives a report of abuse/neglect of a child, it has a duty to investigate. During this investigation, the CPS Caseworker may visit the child’s home, interview the child and other children in the home, interview the child’s parents/caregivers, etc.
However, you do not have to consent to any of their requests. They cannot search your home, drug test you, or interrogate you without your consent, or an Order from a Court.
If you invoke your 5th Amendment right to remain silent, your 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and your 6th Amendment right to an attorney, then you can stop overzealous Caseworkers in their tracks. If you choose to waive these, then please be prepared for them to use every piece of evidence they gather against you.
You Don’t Have To Take Their Drug Tests
During an investigation, CPS absolutely LOVES asking people to submit to drug tests; specifically hair strand tests that will go back 3-6 months. This is a common tactic used even when there are no allegations of drug use. I’ve even seen cases where there were no allegations of abuse or neglect, but CPS asked for this drug test and used it as a basis to attempt to terminate rights.
What Are Your Alternatives?
CPS doesn’t like being told “no” when they ask if you’ll freely waive your Constitutional rights. If you do, then be prepared to fight this battle in Court. Don’t freak out, this isn’t a bad thing.
Think of it this way. If a cop showed up at your doorstep and asked if you would answer some questions and let him search your house, would you let him? Sure you may not have anything to hide, and letting him intrude and violate your rights would be the fastest way to get rid of him, but what kind of Orwellian nightmarish society would that be?
The police, and CPS, should resort to going to Court to get approval to search your home and drug test you because then they have to lay all of their evidence out for review. If you refuse to cooperate, then they must show the Court “good cause” as to why it is necessary.
Emergency vs. Non-Emergency
If there is an immediate danger to the physical health or safety of a child, and there isn’t time to give the parents notice and allow a hearing, then the Court can issue an Emergency Order taking possession of the child into the care of CPS.
If the child is not in immediate danger of suffering physical harm, death, or sexual abuse, then they can request a Non-Emergency removal; which will allow the parent time to prepare for the upcoming hearing. We don’t have time to discuss the Adversary Hearing today and will have to discuss it in a future blog. (UPDATED with link to our Adversary Hearing Blog)
Knowledge is Power
Simply by taking the time to read this article, you have armed yourself with vital information to respond to the CPS Caseworker that shows up on your doorstep. Unfortunately, this is just a drop in the barrel.
CPS has many more resources than you do, has many more people willing to fight to take away your parental rights, and has many more attorneys than you have at your disposal. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t win, it just means that you need to be prepared to fight for your children.
I do NOT recommend taking on CPS by yourself. This is one of those few times that I tell people to get an attorney. Even if you are an attorney, you should get an attorney to fight for you. (You don’t see surgeons operating on themselves do you?) Most importantly, do not go quiet into the night; you have rights, your children have rights, and if you don’t fight for them, then who will?
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Family Law Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479