Can You Get a CPS Case Closed Fast?
Child Protective Services (CPS) is a government agency investigating cases and reports of child abuse and neglect. They assess and give services to families and children to protect them from further maltreatment. In addition, if necessary to ensure child welfare, they can also go to court to file for removal of the child from the parent's or caregiver's custody.
CPS investigates reports of possible cases of child abuse, child neglect, or domestic violence. The investigation aims to establish whether the child has experienced harm or is at risk of experiencing harm. CPS also looks at reducing these risks and increasing the child's safety. They would assess if a criminal action occurred and if the family needs CPS services for support.
CPS Is Legally Required To Investigate Complaints
CPS is legally required to investigate all child abuse allegations it receives. This is the case regardless of whether they have merit or are false allegations. These investigations may vary from a simple conversation to a full investigation.
The officer will likely contact you within 72 hours of getting the complaint.
The investigation may include background checks. They could interview the parents, the child or children, and others who are familiar with the situation. CPS also conducts evaluations and safety and risk assessments.
What Constitutes Abuse or Neglect
State laws define what constitutes abuse or neglect. Generally speaking, any physical, mental, or sexual abuse during the child's life will be subject to an investigation by CPS. States, in assessing child abuse cases, often look at the following elements:
- There was an act or omission (failure to act) that resulted in a risk of harm to the health and welfare of the child;
- The act or omission affected the child; and
- A caregiver, a parent, or another person responsible for the health and welfare of the child committed the act or omission
Neglect, conversely, is usually defined as the failure of a parent or guardian to provide proper childcare. This may include:
- Failing to provide food, shelter, or medical care for the child
- Not finding someone (such as daycare or relatives) to watch your young child when you are unavailable to care for them
- Not putting your child in school (half the states and DC have this rule)
- Not giving the required additional treatment for children with special needs
What Happens During a CPS Investigation?
A CPS caseworker may take different steps after receiving a complaint. They may start with a home visit to speak to the child or the parents, foster parents, or family members of the child. The CPS worker may also physically examine the child for any evidence of abuse.
Another thing the caseworker may do is look into the mental health, medical records, and criminal charges of the child and the alleged abusers. This will help the caseworker see if there is a history of substance abuse.
After the investigation, the caseworker will assess if enough evidence exists to conclude that the child suffered neglect or abuse. CPS needs to intervene to ensure the child's well-being.
If there is evidence of neglect, CPS may assign a social worker who will work with you to develop a safety plan to ensure the child's safety. This may include:
- Taking parenting classes
- Taking drug tests and getting help with any drug-related problems
But, if the child is in immediate danger or if you don't cooperate, the child protective services worker may speak to the county attorney and have a petition filed in court. The petition may ask the court for:
- Temporary custody of the child
- Placement of the child in foster care
- An order requiring the parent to participate in the safety plan
How Long Does a CPS Case Last?
Although it depends on the case's particulars, CPS usually has about 45 days to complete an investigation. CPS has to send a notification to the parents, stating the reasons for the delay in case the investigation takes longer than usual.
How Do I Know if My CPS Case Is Closed?
In most instances, CPS will send you a letter to inform you that they have closed the case. They usually send this letter within 90 days after the investigation. You also have the option to follow up with CPS to check the status of your case. Make sure to record your correspondence with CPS.
Getting Access to CPS Records
You are often given access to CPS records. However, the identity of the person who made the allegations against you is confidential. Look into your state laws to learn how to request access to CPS records and the court case.
How To Get a CPS Case Closed
In general, CPS cannot force a person to cooperate if they do not have a court order. Thus, if CPS knocked on your door, you may ask for a court order before answering questions. In many states, CPS will have the right to speak with your children even without your permission. Cooperation with CPS social workers can benefit your case after CPS, or another law enforcement agency, produces a court order. Cooperating with CPS may include the following:
- Providing documents
- Letting CPS into your home for inspection
- Answering questions
If you want to get the CPS case closed, it is best to do all you can before the case goes to a juvenile court.
You should remember that CPS workers and the department of social services must do their jobs to guarantee your child's safety. CPS and family services prefer not to separate the child from their parents unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
How About When the Court Gets Involved?
If the caseworker believes the child is in immediate danger because of emotional or physical abuse, they may petition the family court or juvenile court. The judge will review the petition and decide whether to remove the child from the home.
If you disagree with the judge's decision, you can take the case to trial. At the court hearing, the judge can decide to do one or more of the following:
- Order the parent to cooperate on the case plan with social services
- Order the alleged abuser to leave the home
- Order the child to be removed and placed with a foster family or another relative
- Appoint a guardian ad litem (attorney for the child)
- Order the parent to pay child support
- Dismiss the petition
State laws set the guidelines for conducting the trial and establishing the trial timeline. However, in order for federal funding to be accessed, states and localities must comply with federal guidelines. In most cases, however, the judge must find clear and convincing evidence before terminating parental rights.
Can a CPS Case Be Dismissed?
The judge can dismiss a CPS case if it determines CPS has not provided enough evidence to substantiate the allegations. In such cases, CPS can't continue its investigation unless the family consents.
How Do You Fight a CPS Case?
If you believe CPS is wrongfully accusing you of child abuse, there are ways you can contest it. First, you can research your state laws to understand better the situation and how to protect yourself. It is best to consult a family law attorney for complicated cases or if your case goes to court.
A family law attorney is a legal service provider that can assist you with your case. They will ensure you have the best chance of achieving a good outcome.
There are various resources that you can read to help you have a better understanding of your case. FindLaw offers a wide range of articles covering CPS, child abuse, and other family services. The following are some of the related articles that you can access for free:
- Focusing on the "Best Interests" of the Child
- Preference for the 'Primary Caregiver'
- What Is a Mandatory Reporter of Child Abuse?
- False Allegations of Child Abuse
A Family Law Attorney Can Help You With Your CPS Case
CPS investigations can be very stressful and leave you concerned about your family's future. Although you are not legally required to retain an attorney, hiring one can be helpful. This is particularly true since your child's future may depend on it. Speak to a family law attorney near you for answers and legal advice..
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.