How To Get a CPS Case Closed
Cooperation is essential
on May 4, 2022
If someone files a report about you to Child Protective Services (CPS), you can expect that CPS will investigate you and your family. Going through a CPS investigation is a stressful time. You may wonder who reported you and what you can do to end the case. The reporting individual’s identity will be confidential unless they choose to tell you. However, there are steps you can take to help your CPS caseworker close your case fast. The bottom line is to cooperate with CPS and show that you have nothing to hide.
What Is CPS?
Child Protective Services (CPS) is a local governmental entity. Depending on your local governmental structure, the state, county, or the local law enforcement may oversee CPS. CPS sometimes goes by other names, such as the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) or the Department of Social Services (DSS). No matter what the agency is called, its goal is to work toward child protection and welfare. They try to keep families together if at all possible.
CPS has an obligation to investigate any reports of alleged abuse it receives. It will investigate these claims even if they are false allegations. If you believe someone has falsely accused you of child abuse or neglect, you should still be cooperative with CPS agents and demonstrate that you have nothing to hide. However, hiring a family law attorney might be necessary if your case goes to court.
What Constitutes Abuse or Neglect?
State laws vary on what rises to the level of child abuse or neglect. It would be wise to learn about your state’s laws on this issue. In general, child abuse includes:
- Hitting a child: The exception to this would be if this qualifies as reasonable parental discipline. A court will usually not view actions that leave visible physical injuries as appropriate discipline.
- Isolating or excessively restraining a child
- Allowing a child to witness drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence
- Sexual abuse or exposing a child to sexual content such as pornography
Most CPS cases involve reports of child neglect rather than abuse. A parent may be guilty of neglect if they are unable or unwilling to provide their child with basic care. Examples of child neglect include:
- Not providing adequate shelter, food, and water to the child.
- Preventing the child from going to school.
- Leaving young children unsupervised.
- Failing to seek appropriate health care or preventing a child from receiving medical care.
- Not providing adequate treatment for a child with special needs.
- Exposing the child to dangerous conditions in the home. This includes unsafe living situations due to temperature extremes, hazardous objects, drugs, or other environmental conditions.
The above list covers what is generally considered child abuse or neglect. However, these laws vary widely by state. To learn more about your state’s laws, you can visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) child welfare law database.
A judge may be willing to dismiss your case if the allegations made against you do not rise to the level of abuse or neglect. An experienced family law attorney can help you if you believe that your case is frivolous and should be dismissed.
If your living situation is unsafe because of financial problems, you might be able to receive financial assistance. You can ask the social worker assigned to your case whether you might be eligible for assistance. Families with special needs children might qualify for additional services such as child care and daily living skills training.
What Should I Expect During a CPS Investigation?
A caseworker will usually contact you within 2 or 3 days of the report’s filing. It may be faster or slower depending on whether the case involves immediate danger to children. You are not legally required to cooperate with CPS unless they bring a court order. However, it’s in your best interest to work with them to resolve any issues in the home.
To determine how to proceed with your case, a CPS caseworker often starts with a few simple conversations. They will probably interview parents, stepparents, siblings, and your child.
Further, they might decide to physically examine your child if the report alleged physical abuse. Next, it might be relevant to your case to review your mental health and substance abuse records. These reviews can help the investigator determine whether mental health or drug abuse prevention measures are necessary.
After the CPS caseworker has completed the investigation, they will go back to CPS to advise them whether they need to take further measures to prevent abuse or neglect. The caseworker might report a situation to the police for prosecution in some cases.
If your case involves neglect but does not involve immediate danger to children, the caseworker will probably send a social worker to your home. This social worker can help you to create a child safety plan to ensure that your children are well taken care of and safe. This plan could take many shapes and forms. Social workers often advise the following in their safety plans:
- Family therapy
- Substance abuse treatment and drug tests
- Parenting classes
- Respite care plans
- In-home services for improving daily living skills
Before signing a safety plan, it’s a good idea to consult a local family law attorney. You will want to make sure that you understand all aspects of the plan and feel capable of complying with them. After all, your cooperation with the plan will be essential to getting your CPS case closed.
What Can I Do To Get My CPS Case Closed Fast?
The most important thing to keep in mind during your investigation is to cooperate with CPS. The purpose of CPS is to work toward the well-being of children and families. Their motivation is not to remove children from the home unless absolutely necessary.
To facilitate CPS’s investigation, it would be best if you:
- Let the investigator into your home: A caseworker might want to make sure that your child’s home environment is safe. A home visit can also help them understand your family dynamics. However, it might not be a good time for you to receive a home visit when the CPS caseworker first arrives. You do not legally have to allow the CPS worker in. However, it would be best if you calmly ask them to return at a better time for you. You might also need this time to hire a family law attorney.
- Provide requested documents: The caseworker might want to see certain documents such as proof of employment, medical records, or your children’s school records. These documents help them understand whether you can provide a stable environment for your children.
- Answer questions: The questions your caseworker asks will vary depending on the nature of the report CPS received. If the report had to do with physical abuse, the investigator might ask if you or a loved one has experienced physical threats in the home. They might also ask who else lives with you and how long you have known them. If the report involved neglect, the caseworker might ask about your work hours, time away from home, and financial situation. You should answer all these questions truthfully. However, it would be best to be careful not to misstate your situation. Further, you should not feel that you have to answer any questions that you do not know the answers to.
- Comply with your plan: If you signed a safety plan or other agreement with CPS, you must comply with it. Failure to comply might raise suspicions and could cause CPS to take further legal action. If you have concerns about signing any CPS documents, it would be wise to seek legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.
What Happens After CPS Closes My Case?
After CPS closes your case, the investigation will conclude, and you will not be under further surveillance.
If nobody filed criminal charges against you, you can rest assured that the investigation will not end up on your criminal record or background checks.
However, just because your case is closed does not mean the CPS records will be gone forever. If somebody files another CPS case against you, the authorities might reopen the old case.
Why Would My Case Go to Court?
A CPS worker might escalate your case in the legal system if they feel that your child is in immediate danger. After an attorney files a petition with the court, a judge will decide whether the child needs to be removed from the home. If you disagree with the outcome, you will need to take your case to court.
It’s a good idea to seek the help of a family law attorney to guide you through the court hearing. The stakes are high when you get to this point. Depending on your state’s laws, the judge can:
- Order abusive family members out of the household
- Appoint a guardian
- Order child support
- Dismiss the case if there is not enough evidence of abuse or neglect
- Remove children from the home if necessary. Children may be placed with familiar caregivers or into foster care.
- Terminate parental rights, but only if there is clear and convincing evidence that this is necessary.
- Take any other actions they believe to be in the children’s best interests.
If you face a complicated case or false allegations of abuse, you should contact a skilled family law attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you avoid the emotional upheaval of a drawn-out CPS case. They can also help protect your parental rights and argue in your children’s best interests.