Parents with disabilities continue to be the only community that often has to both fight to retain and gain custody of their children – an unfortunate bias that continues to prevail in the U.S. legal system. So, what should you do if find yourself being investigated by Child Protective Services (CPS)?
Understand the Process
Before giving tips as to how to deal with the situation, it is important that you know the process. Every state has some form of governmental agency responsible for providing child protection. If a social worker with the CPS shows up at your door, they are responding to a report of suspected child abuse or neglect.
While you have the right not to let the social worker inside, it is best to cooperate, as they will very likely return with a court order. The social worker will speak with your child, and may have already done so at school or daycare to allow your child to speak freely, as well as other children, family members, and those with some form of relationship or contact with you. Following the investigation, you will receive some sort of communication detailing the findings and if any further action will be taken.
What Can You Do?
As a parent, it is your right to know why you are being investigated. While CPS cannot reveal who made the report since their identity must remain confidential, you can and should ask questions such as:
· What were the allegations made against me?
· What information are you looking for?
· What are your concerns?
While having a social worker in your home might create a feeling of panic, don’t let that hinder your ability to answer questions thoroughly and honestly in order to reduce concerns rather than raise them. You know better than anyone else your ability to successfully parent regardless of your disability, so demonstrate this to the social worker by keeping a cool head. Should the investigation result in legal action, you have a right to an attorney as well as a court hearing should your child be removed from your home. Keep in mind that while all states must comply with federal and state requirements for child welfare, they may differ in the operation and delivery of their services. Contact your local or county child services administration for info specific to your area.
As a parent, you do everything you can to make sure your child is safe, healthy, and happy. Any sort of investigation is scary, but when it involves your child it can be terrifying. Cooperate and stay calm as best you can. Remember, CPS isn’t there to be the bad guy – they are simply ensuring all children, including yours, are not subject to abuse or neglect.