Having Child Protective Services (CPS) open an investigation is stressful and confusing, especially for parents and caretakers who are surprised to learn about allegations of abuse, neglect, or endangerment.
Doctors, teachers, and other professionals are legally required to report suspected incidents of child abuse, neglect or endangerment, even when they don’t have proof that the child has been abused, neglected, or endangered.
When reports are made, CPS caseworkers may be knocking on your door to question your parenting and investigate the allegations. These allegations can be extremely serious and with grave consequences for parents and children. While you should cooperate with CPS investigations, CPS cases are not criminal matters. They are civil matters. This means that you are not entitled to certain constitutional protections that criminal suspects or defendants may have.
If CPS has removed your child from your home, you should seek legal advice immediately. If you are low-income or indigent, you may qualify for a court-appointed attorney at no cost to you. If your income is too high to qualify for a court-appointed attorney, you should consider hiring a private attorney who is experienced in child welfare law, not just family law. Family law and child welfare law are different legal practices with very different rules.
Often, a court-appointed attorney won’t be appointed until after the first hearing, typically the “262 Hearing,” which also is known as a “14-day hearing” because it must be held within 14 days of the child being removed. If you want to contest this hearing, and fight against CPS, you should retain an attorney who can represent you at this hearing, even if you may qualify for a court-appointed attorney later.
How long does a CPS case take to be resolved?
By law, most CPS cases last 12 months, but can be extended under certain circumstances. If there has been significant positive change in a parent’s situation, CPS can ask the court to dismiss the case at any time.
CPS cases are not like traditional criminal or civil cases. There are several statutory requirements that must met before a case can be closed. These requirements can be complicated, but an experienced child welfare attorney can help you navigate the process.
Not all cases will follow this path, namely a “Court Ordered Services” (COS) case. A COS case is where the child remains in the family home (and is not removed) and the parent(s) attends certain court-ordered like individual and family therapy, psychological/psychiatric examination, drug testing and drug therapy. If these services are not completed, a COS case can turn into a termination case where the child is removed from the home and the CPS seeks to terminate parental rights. It’s very important that COS parents take their services obligations seriously, because CPS will not hesitate to remove the child if they don’t.
If you have become involved in a CPS case, please contact us as soon as possible! The earlier we start on your case, the sooner we can put together a strategy to reunify your family and get CPS out of your life.