1) Take the accusation seriously. I don’ t care how absurd or unbelievable the caseworker sounds. Understand that SHE is serious, and likely presumes – no, likely KNOWS that you are guilty as accused. Even if she doesn’ t flat out say that she’ s there to take the children, she is quite possibly intent on doing just that.
In testimony to Congress, Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, stated that a case worker with 30 years’ experience once confided in him that “When I started working, we tried to prove the family was innocent. Now we assume they are guilty until they prove they are not.”
2) Ask what the charges are. Most of the time, the caseworker wants to keep you in the dark as to what you have been accused of, but she is now required by federal and state law to tell you the nature of the accusation at her first contact with you.
And don’t settle for the answer of “abuse” or “neglect.” Those are categories, not accusations. You are entitled to know what specific actions you are accused of committing.
3) Shut up. Shut up now. It is imperative that you not talk to anyone but your attorney. It is natural that innocent parents who have nothing to hide want to explain everything so that a reasonable person can see there’s no problem here. But CPS agents are not reasonable. You are presumed guilty. That caseworker is there to find evidence to support what she already believes to be true – that you abused your child.
If you say nothing to them, you have taken away their greatest weapon, which is their ability to twist your words. Let me give you some examples of what was done to parents who did talk to them:
The husband of a client of mine had been accused of sexually molesting their autistic, non- verbal daughter. The CPS investigator asked the mother if her daughter had exhibited any unusual behavior lately. The only thing she could think of was that a couple of times the month before, the girl had wanted her mother to come lay down with her for a few minutes. Usually, she would just go in and go right to sleep. The investigator stated to the court that the mother admitted her child had become afraid of her own bedroom.
One father I defended told the caseworker that he had disciplined his daughter over a 20 minute period, where he would talk to her about what she had done wrong, swat her a few times, and then talk some more. The investigator stated to the court that the father admitted to beating his child non-stop for 20 minutes.
4) You must find an attorney who has experience in fighting CPS, as soon as you realize your family is being investigated. Notice I said experience in fighting CPS. Many attorneys- if not most – believe their role is to find out what CPS wants and make sure their clients do it. That way often leads to disaster – and the loss of your children.
5) Be polite. Hostility toward the investigator is considered evidence of guilt. Your perfectly natural angry reaction to being accused of harming your child will be used as evidence of an abusive personality.
6) Under no circumstances should you let any government agent in your home unless he or she has a warrant or order issued by a court. Ask to see the warrant or order, because the CPS worker may lie and say she has one when she doesn’t. When she doesn’t have one, politely but firmly tell her that she will have to stay outside until she gets one. If she claims it’s an emergency, make her tell you what it is. Call her bluff – if it were a true emergency, she would be there with armed police officers, forcing her way in. Do not even open the door to let her look at the children.
There is no compromise on this. There is no exception. If you invite a caseworker into your home, you have waived your fourth amendment protection. And if the caseworker is intent on taking your children, SHE WILL FIND SOMETHING IN YOUR HOME TO JUSTIFY IT. THAT IS A GUARANTEE.
Understand that you may be threatened. You may be lied to. She may tell you that the 4 th amendment doesn’ t apply to caseworkers. That is a lie. She may tell you that she doesn’ t need a warrant. That is a lie. She may tell you that she’ll return with armed police officers. And she will. But that changes nothing. Even a man with a gun on your porch doesn’t change the fact that she still has no right to enter your home.
Listen to the words of an ex-CPS investigator:
I wish I could shout from the highest mountain to parents to vigilantly learn their rights! If they knew what their legal rights were there would be significantly lower numbers of child removals. Social workers, unlike policemen making an arrest, are not required to inform the parents of their legal rights. All we had to do to remove a child was to show up at the home and tell the parents we came to remove the kids. Often times we would take a police officer with us (never telling the parents he was there for MY protection, not to enforce an order or warrant). 99% of the time we never had to get a warrant or court order to remove kids because the parents would be so intimidated by the officer that they would just hand their kids over and show up for court the next day. But if they had legally known their parental rights, they could simply have told me that I could not take the children unless I had a court order signed by the judge or had a warrant to remove the kids. … the majority of times parents were just intimidated and gave consent for the whole process to begin; completely unknowing of what rights they just waived.”
If officers do force their way in, do not physically resist. Make your objections clear, but stand aside. There’s no point in getting arrested, or risking injury or death. Your children need you. Demand that you not be separated from your children, and that your children be interrogated only with your attorney present. (This demand will likely be ignored, but demand it anyway. The fact that you did may become important in later court proceedings.)
7) Demand that CPS tape any interrogation of your child. They are required by Texas law to do so. Bring your own recorder in case the CPS agent “loses” her tape.
8) If the accusation is one of physical abuse, have your doctor give your child a thorough physical exam. Ask him to write a letter stating that no bruises, marks, or health concerns were found on the child that would create suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Go to a doctor you trust. Never never never go to a doctor recommended by CPS.
9) Gather names of friends and relatives who are willing and able to care for your children if CPS takes them. If your children must spend time away from you, it’s far better that they do so with people you know and trust than in an abusive foster facility.
10) Never admit guilt, even if CPS has taken your children and offers to give them back if you do. It would be immoral to do so if you truly haven’t done anything, and it may be a quick way to jail and to lose your kids forever. CPS agents are not above lying to you to prove your guilt.
By Chris Branson, Attorney at Law, Houston, Texas