What happens in a CPS investigation? Someone complained about us to CPS. What will happen?
CPS will determine the priority level of the complaint and respond accordingly. A priority 1 referral requires a fast response, but any other level will mean that you have more time to respond. If an investigation is opened, a CPS investigator will likely visit with both the parent and the child. This investigator will ask a parent questions related to the report that was made and may ask to inspect the child’s home. CPS will also want a list of other people who live in or visit the home frequently. The investigator will then run background checks on those people through both criminal and DFPS databases.
Depending on the type of complaint and the investigator’s opinion, CPS may want you sign paperwork, called a “safety plan” agreeing to follow certain rules or even leave your home, pending further investigation or services. Under extreme circumstances, CPS may sue you and remove your children, placing them with relatives, foster parents, or a shelter, while your legal case proceeds.
ALWAYS REMEMBER: CPS DOSE NOT ALWAYS FOLLOW THEIR OWN RULES. WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO AND WHAT THEY WILL DO ARE NOT ALWAYS THE SAME THING.
CPS is investigating my family. What will happen? What happens in a CPS investigation? How much stuff will CPS want from me? How Long will the investigation take?
CPS will interview the alleged victims, other children in the family, parents, alleged perpetrators, teachers and school personnel, and other “collaterals,” o
People who know the family and child. The investigator will visit the home and request various relevant paperwork, such as medical records. The CPS investigator should complete a risk assessment and may demand that you agree to a safety plan. Most investigations last around 30 days, however, the “thorough investigation” is only the first phase. Once the investigation closes, you will receive a “disposition letter” with more instructions.
Will CPS talk to my kids? The caseworker says she wants to talk to my kids. Do I have to let CPS talk to my kids?
The investigator will want to see and talk to your children, if possible.
As a part of the investigation, may visit them at school or outside of your presence. A parent may refuse to allow the caseworker to interview your child outside of your presence. However, if you do not give the caseworker permission to interview your child, the Department may ask a judge to order you to allow the interview. CPS may interview your children more than once. The investigator may conduct their own interview and then ask for a “forensic interview,” which is very formal and will be video recorded.
Can I refuse to let CPS talk to my child? What will happen if I don’t let CPS interview my child?
You may refuse. CPS can ask a judge to make you let them talk to your child or they may, if the allegations are serious enough, remove your child. If you refuse, be aware that the school can consent to an interview. So, if you want to prevent an interview, be certain to inform your day care or school, in writing, that you do not want your kids interviewed and are denying them permission to allow an interview. However, if CPS wants to see your child to be sure he’s safe, you need to let them, but do not have to let them ask any questions.
Who does CPS interview? Will CPS want to talk to me? Will they call my ex? Do I have to talk to CPS?
CPS will interview parents, children, anybody living with the children, teachers, and possibly neighbors and friends of the family, especially if they were listed as references.
Do parents have to talk to CPS? Should I talk to CPS? What happens if I refuse to talk to CPS?
You do NOT have to talk to CPS. Often, talking to CPS is the easiest way to get them to leave you alone. However, if something bad has happened to one of your kids or you may be in trouble, then talk to an experienced CPS lawyer first. If you talk to CPS, you need to know they’re looking for evidence of abuse or neglect. Anything you say can be used against you, even if you are not the alleged perpetrator. If you don’t talk to CPS, they may take legal action. So, what you should do depends on the facts of your case.
I’ve been accused of abuse or neglect, should I talk to CPS? CPS thinks I’m a perpetrator, do I have to talk to them?
NO, you do NOT have to talk to CPS, nor should you, without talking to a CPS attorney first. Anything you say can be used against you in child custody court, divorce court, by CPS, and in criminal court. Worse, CPS doesn’t just investigate the allegations. CPS can investigate anything affecting child welfare. So, you may not even realize what the investigator can or can’t use against you.
The caseworker wants lots of documents, do I have to give them to her? Do I have to sign a release? Do I have to give CPS permission to get my child’s school records, pediatrician records, etc.?
Parents may be asked to provide the caseworker with certain documentation including but not limited to immunization records, medical records, or school records. The caseworker may ask the parent to sign a “release” in order for the caseworker to access these documents. You are not required to sign a release or provide documents, unless ordered by a court. Sometimes, it is helpful to release documents, depending on what’s in them.
I signed a release. What should I do now? What if I want to take back a release? I want to release documents, what’s the best way?
Whenever you sign paperwork, GET A COPY. A release is a document that gives someone permission to access information they would not otherwise be able to access. Most written release forms can be revoked or taken back but only if you notify the authorized agency and individual in writing that you have decided to revoke the release. If you are signing a release, then feel free to modify the written form by writing in any conditions or limits that you want.
CPS wants to see my house. What do I do? Why does CPS want to see my house? How far can the investigator go in looking around my home?
The investigator will look to make sure that the environment is safe and suitable for habitation. You do not have to let them. You may have an attorney present, by are not entitled to a court appointed lawyer. The investigator can only go as far as you let them. They may want to see if there is food in the house, proper sleeping conditions, and plenty of clothes. But, they’re also looking for signs of health issues, drugs, weapons, and anything that might be used against you. How far you let CPS go in looking around is up to you.
The caseworker has left, what happens next? What will CPS do if they think I’m a bad parent? How do I know if the investigation is over?
The investigator can:
1. Close the investigation with no further action
2. Continue investigating
3. Refer you to Family Based Social Services
4. Request a court order for you to work services or cooperate
5. Ask for a “safety plan” or Parent-Child Safety Placement (“PCSP”)
6. Remove your children and sue you
The investigation isn’t fully closed until you receive a disposition letter telling you the results. Just because the investigation is over, doesn’t mean CPS is done with you. It just means CPS has finished the investigative phase.
When CPS’ investigations turn up issues for concern, CPS will try to get you to agree to follow certain rules to make your home safe until they can begin the next phase of a CPS case. They might ask you to move out, have a relative stay with you, or demand that you work services, such as counseling.
Do I have to move out of my home? Can CPS make me let a relative take my children? Do I have to agree to have all my contact with my child supervised? Why can’t I be around my child alone?
CPS may ask you to voluntarily place the child or children with another person, if the investigator or caseworker thinks you may be dangerous. Sometimes, they ask you to stay away or be supervised for no real reason or just because it’s easier for them and puts pressure on you to do what they want later.
This is usually done with a Parent-Child Safety Placement or safety plan. These plans generally only last thirty days, but may be extended. You do NOT have to agree.
CPS is taking my children, what do I do? CPS took my children, where will they go? My children were removed by CPS, can I fight them?
Call an experienced CPS attorney quickly. If your child must be placed out of your home, placing the child with friends or family the child knows and is comfortable with is almost always the best option. Any person you would like to be placement for your children must be approved by CPS. DFPS will run a criminal history and a DFPS history on anyone you suggest. DFPS will also need to inspect the proposed placement’s home to make sure it is safe. The proposed placement will also need to be able to show to DFPS they can be protective of the children and follow all requirements of the voluntary placement.
If no suitable caregiver or voluntary placement is provided, the caseworker may have no other option than to place the child in foster care or a shelter where he or she may stay until the safety issues are resolved.
If CPS is suing you, they will give you a court date. They will need to serve you with a petition. Do NOT avoid service. You need the paperwork.
I have been given a court date by CPS, what’s happening? I was served by CPS, what does this paperwork mean?
CPS can take you to court for two reasons. First, to ask a judge to order you to work services. Second, because they are required to give you an “adversarial hearing” within 14 days of removing your child from your home. The paperwork that you were served with explains what CPS wants and why they think they can get it. Either way, the paperwork will have a court date. You must go.
You will be served with a “Motion to Participate in Services” or a “Petition for Protection of a Child,” an affidavit explaining why they sued you or took your children, notice of a court date, and whether or not you have a court appointed lawyer.
Who should I list as a voluntary placement or caregiver?
You may list anyone that you believe will provide for the safety and well-being of your child during the length of your involvement with CPS. CPS requires a voluntary placement to meet the following rules:
1. No prior findings of abuse or neglect;
2. No prior involvement with DFPS;
3. No prior criminal record;
4. Familiar with caring for children;
5. Has the available means and space to house the children during the duration of your involvement with DFPS.
The caseworker says the allegations have been found “reason to believe,” what does that mean? I have a letter saying allegations have been ruled out / unable to determine / reason to believe, what do I do next?
You will receive a letter after a CPS investigation. The caseworker may tell you ahead of time, but you need the letter. This “disposition letter” will contain instructions and possibly deadlines. You may want to file an administrative appeal
and the letter will have the form to get an appeal. At the conclusion of the investigation the case worker must issue one of the following findings regarding the report of abuse or neglect that was reported:
1. REASON TO BELIEVE
o The Reason to Believe or RTB disposition is assigned as the outcome of the investigation if the caseworker determines that the reported abuse or neglect did occur.
Texas Administrative Code Section 700.512(b)(2), 700.511. See also TX DFPS Handbook Section 2281.2
2. UNABLE TO DETERMINE
o The Unable to Determine or UTD disposition is assigned as the outcome of the investigation if the caseworker determines that the reported abuse or neglect did occur but there is not enough evidence to support this determination.
Texas Administrative Code Section 700.511(b)(4), 700.512(b)(4)
3. RULED OUT
o The Ruled out or RO disposition is assigned as the outcome if the caseworker determines that the reported abuse or neglected did not occur or if the alleged perpetrator of the reported abuse or neglect is younger than 9 years of age.
Texas Administrative Code Section 700.511 (b)(2), 700.512(a)(1)
4. UNABLE TO COMPLETE
o Unable to Complete is assigned as the outcome if the caseworker was unable to complete the investigation
5. ADMINISTRATIVE CLOSURE
o Additional information obtained during the investigation results in DFPS determining the investigation is no longer warranted.
Texas Administrative Code Section 700.507, 700.511.
How long does a CPS investigation last? How long will I have to deal with CPS?
What happens at an adversarial hearing? What is a 262 hearing? CPS removed my kids and now I have court, what do I do?
DFPS is required to give parents a hearing within 14 days of removing children from their home. This is called an “adversarial hearing” or “Chapter 262 hearing.” They are the same thing. CPS must prove that they had legal cause to remove your children and ask a judge to continue letting them keep your children. You may ask the judge for more time to get a lawyer or to prepare for the hearing, but you will not get your children until you have the hearing. If the judge rule in CPS’ favor, then you will have to work services to get your kids back.
At the hearing, CPS will call witnesses and attempt to prove their case against you. You may call witnesses, too. In addition to the attorney for CPS, there will be lawyers for each parent and the children. They can all make arguments, call witnesses, and introduce evidence. You really need a lawyer for all of this. You may also agree to work services, but then CPS will not be required to prove their case.
You should expect to be drug tested.
What should I do to prepare for CPS court? How do I get ready for an adversarial hearing?
First, you need to consult a CPS lawyer. If you have a court appointed lawyer, then get in touch with that person and schedule a meeting as soon as possible. You are entitled to a lawyer, but the court may not pay for one. Regardless, you need to talk to an experienced children’s court attorney immediately. You may have less than two weeks to fight for your children.
Second, you need to start collecting evidence. You may want school records, medical records (at least vaccination records for the children), tax returns, and copies of everything CPS has given you. If the police were involved, then get a police report. Also get any recordings or photos you have that are relevant to CPS or whatever has upset them.
Third, put together a timeline of how CPS got involved. Your lawyer will need this.
CPS took my kids, when I can see them? How often will I get to see my child? Am I entitled to court ordered visitation?
If you haven’t been to court, yet, then CPS is required to give you a visit with your child before court. This visit may only be for an hour at a DFPS facility. However, you won’t have any control over how visitation happens until you go to court. Generally, parents will have two visits per month for one or two hours. Visitation increases as parents progress in their services.