911 has responded to many a call in the past about individuals posing as child protective services representative trying to kidnap children. Many times, CPS workers have also admitted that they go into a house with the decision about the child already made in their mind. Hence, parents are not given a fair chance to defend themselves. Parents and guardians need to be aware of their rights with CPS so they can avoid such crimes and not be unfairly charged
What Are My Rights With Child Protective Services In Kentucky?
Child protective services were established with a noble agenda – to protect our children from any and all kind of abuse they face. To that end, CPS has worked tirelessly over the years. However, like with all organizations, CPS also suffers from mismanagement and being used by criminals. To stay protected, parents and guardians should know their rights so that they may not be exploited in any way.
- You may not allow CPS to enter your home. If CPS comes to your door, you have the right to answer all their questions without letting them in. CPS also does not have the authority to get a search warrant. If CPS enters your home without permission or tries to go through your belongings, you have the right to call the police. Even if you do allow CPS inside, they do not have the right to go through your cabinets without your permission. They are also bound to leave as soon as you ask them to.
- CPS needs your permission to speak to your child in your presence. If a CPS worker comes to your residence and wants to interview your child, they have to ask for your permission to do so. If you are not at home, they can interview your child in your absence but without entering your residence. Usually, CPS conducts interviews with children without the parents’ knowledge, such as in a school, in a park or in the hospital. They have the legal right to do so. However, you may sign a letter and leave it with your child’s school administration that says that nobody is allowed to interview your child without your presence. In this instance, CPS will need to have you present to conduct an interview.
- You can ask to be given time to review your rights. This is especially the case if you’re given a surprise visit. You can ask the CPS worker that you are willing to talk to them after you’ve gone through your rights. Or you can ask them to tell you what your rights are.
- CPS cannot test you for drugs without your consent. Different states have different rules as to who may be tested and when. But, the worker cannot force you to take the test. They are not bound to notify you when they will test you. Anybody in the family can be asked to get tested, regardless of their age.
- If CPS files a lawsuit against you, you have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may request a court-appointed attorney. You also have the right to attend all court hearings about your case. If English is not your first language, you have the right to ask for an interpreter. You also have the right to deny allegations about the case and present your defence.
- CPS cannot seize your child without proper evidence of danger in the household. Just the possibility of danger is not enough to remove a child from parental care. It is illegal and CPS workers can be sued for this. A family cannot be broken up just because the caseworker feels the residence is unsafe for the child, without any proof.
CPS Mothers Rights
Mothers and fathers both have rights with regards to CPS. Generally, if a mother is living with an abusive partner, CPS may remove the child from that household. The child may be placed in the protection of a relative, like an uncle, aunt or grandparent. In this case, if the mother has been named in the allegations just because she is a parent to the child, and has no part to play in the allegations, she may ask the court to grant her visitation rights until the case is solved. She also has the right to get involved in the case so she may be granted legal guardianship of her children away from the abusive partner.
What Does CPS Look For In A Home Visit?
Essentially what CPS looks for in a home visit, is to determine whether your house is a safe place for your child to live in. They may gather evidence that is direct or supportive. For instance, an untidy house is not direct evidence, but it might make the CPS worker pass judgement on your ability to provide a clean environment for your child.
Other things that a CPS worker might look for in a home visit include:
- Is the child safe from hazardous material? Many homes have cleaning materials like detergents, surface cleaners, pest control substance, power tools and possibly guns. The CPS worker will want to see that the house is safe and that these hazardous materials are not openly available to the kids. All chemicals should be locked away in a cabinet and guns and alcohol should be away from the reach of children. Any open wires, sockets, and loose boards should be fixed.
- Is there any illegal activity in the house? Besides making sure that there are no illegal substances in easy reach of your children, the CPS worker will note down any activity that is considered illegal. For instance, selling, buying or creating drugs, dealing with arms, engaging in sexual activities or pornography all work against you.
- Does the child have a safe space? It is not necessary that your child has a separate room, but you should have some designated place in your home for the child to play in. This can be a cleared space in the lounge, or in a room that the child may be sharing with another sibling. It works in your favour if the child has some safe toys to play with as well.
- Are the child’s basic needs being fulfilled? The basic needs include diapers, healthy meals, clean clothes, the availability of medicine or first aid, a safe environment free from abuse and a loving family. If you have pets, they must be clean and free from fleas and ticks that may be passed on to your child. The house should be free from animal waste as well. Your fridge or pantry should have adequate food for your child.
- Is the environment a healthy one for a child? The CPS worker will check for common things that show the house is a healthy and safe place for the child. For instance, he or she might check if the smoke alarm is working or not, if all prescription medicine is adequately locked away, and there are locks on cabinets that hold hazardous material or lead to unsafe basements or garages. However, permanent locks on windows or locks on the hallway side of a door that can be used to lock a child inside are taken extremely seriously and speak very negatively for you.
- How is the child’s relationship with his or her parents/ guardians? This is one of the most decisive factors in a CPS case. If your child is hesitant to talk in front of you, keeps looking at you when answering the worker, or is generally afraid or jumpy, then these are all tell-tale signs that a child is not in a safe place. He or she might be experiencing abuse and the worker will want to place them in temporary custody with a relative until help can be sought to correct the abusive parent’s behaviour.
If you are expecting a CPS visit, try to work on your own as well as your child’s behaviour. Calm yourself before your caseworker arrives. This will help your child relax as well. It is sometimes a good idea to appraise your child about the situation beforehand so that they do not get alarmed by questions by the CPS investigator.
CPS harassment guidelines provide the conduct of conduct that all workers must abide by in each case. If the CPS tries to remove the child forcefully, tries to enter the house forcefully or tries to distract the parent to talk to the child alone, it is considered a violation. Besides these issues, if the CPS worker conducts long interviews with the child in school in the presence of an armed police officer without exigent (emergency) circumstances, parental consent, warrant or probable cause, then that amounts to a violation of the 4th amendment.
The CPS worker is also explicitly prohibited from lying, even if that was in the best interest of the child. This is a violation of the 4th and the 14th amendment of the US constitution.
CPS cannot keep a parent away from a child who is undergoing a medical examination for the alleged abuse he might have faced, whether physical or sexual. A parent has to present with the child or at the bare minimum should be present at the facility as well.
CPS workers can be sued for violating any of the rights of the parents secured under the 4th and 14th amendment. Even minors, if forcefully removed from the guardianship of their parents, can launch a lawsuit against child protective services once they become majors.
What CPS Can And Cannot Do
What CPS can and cannot do is largely debated to address the problems with child protective services. The system has its issues and it is important to be aware of parents’ rights when dealing with CPS. First, let’s talk about what CPS can do during a case investigation.
- CPS has the right to talk to your child without your knowledge or permission. Once a case is reported, the investigations may have started way before the worker contacts you.
- CPS is legally bound to investigate each and every claim, even if it is false. This is a requirement of CPS by law and not just a matter of policy. So, even if the allegations against you are by an ex-spouse seeking to gain control of your children, CPS will not write it off until they investigate it.
- CPS does not have to notify you when they are coming for a home visit. They can come unannounced and at any time they wish.
- CPS can remove your child from your care and take away your rights as a parent. In most cases, CPS would not want to do this unless it is the only option available.
Things that CPS cannot do include
- Entering or searching your house without your permission.
- Take away your child without adequate proof.
- Deny you the right to a court hearing, or to meet your child without a court order.
The CPS cannot take away any of your rights protected under the 4th and 14th amendment. Educate yourself and talk to an attorney about what these are and if they might have been violated.
You rights with CPS in Kentucky are protected by the Constitution of the US. Remember, CPS workers are just people and might make mistakes. Its part of your job to take a stand for yourself if you feel like you’re being treated wrongfully.