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.
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.
Go here to learn more: http://www.bransonlegal.com/Ten_Things.html
Learn the answers to frequently asked questions regarding Child Protective Services (CPS)
investigations in Texas and the concerns that families have.
© Copyright 2004, by Gregory L. Housewirth. All rights reserved
1. A CPS worker has called me and wants to meet with me to talk about my children. What do I do?
You need to cooperate. If you don’t cooperate, CPS will infer that you are attempting to hide something. Try to get some information from CPS about what they wish to discuss with you. Chances are, you probably know why they want to talk to you. Consult a lawyer and have legal counsel with you when you are interviewed. If you do not have time to obtain counsel and must participate in the interview, follow these guidelines.
CPS workers do not like lawyers. Unfortunately, a lawyer who is not familiar with CPS and takes the wrong approach in dealing with CPS may do you more harm than good. An experienced CPS lawyer can help to clarify the issues, present your case in a positive manner, and minimize the risk of your children being taken into foster care.
3. CPS wants me to bring my children to their offices for a meeting. What should I do?
This is a setup. NEVER, EVER take your children to CPS offices without your lawyer right beside you. This tactic is used by CPS to get you to surrender the children to them at there offices instead of them going to the effort of removing the children from your home. To summarize, take your children with you to CPS and chances are you’ll be going home alone.
4. CPS wants me to sign a “Safety Plan” or they are going to take my children into foster care. What should I do?
A Safety Plan tells you that you have to follow certain rules to keep your children with you in the home. For instance, in many cases, the Safety Plan will instruct you to remove an alleged abuser from your home, or to clean your home, or to participate in counseling. You must ask yourself whether you can follow the Safety Plan – if you can’t then you are at risk of having your children removed. You must make sure that both you and CPS understand what exactly the Safety Plan tells you to do or not do. Many children are removed each year because CPS interpreted the Safety Plan differently than the parent did. Ask CPS when does the Safety Plan expire. If no expiration date is given, then you are forever at risk of having your children removed. As always, try to review the Safety Plan with a lawyer before you sign it.
5. CPS wants me to separate from my husband or wife and to keep my children away from him/her. What should I do?
Just do it. CPS always believes that sexual abuse has occurred, no matter what the facts and logic suggest, and that children always know what they are talking about. The problem is that if you question any of the facts, your child will be out of your home. It is a difficult situation, but you must ALWAYS choose your child over your spouse.
Find out as much as you can about why the children were taken into foster care. Ask questions, but volunteer little information at this point. Be helpful. Tell the CPS worker what your child likes and doesn’t like, and inform her of any medications your child might be taking or other special needs he or she might have. Ask for a visit with your child. Typically, you will get a one hour visit one time a week. Do not threaten the CPS worker and try not to show too much anger. If the CPS worker feels threatened by you or senses that you are “unstable” it will only hurt your chances of getting your child home. Suggest relatives who would be willing to have temporary possession of your child. Try to make arrangements to get your child some of his toys, clothing, and other possessions that will make him feel more secure while in foster care.
7. I received legal papers telling me I have a court hearing to determine temporary custody of my children. What should I do?
Time is critical. You are going to have a Court hearing within 14 days of the date your child was removed from your possession. At the hearing, the Court will determine whether there is a continuing danger to your child in your home. CPS will have their investigators, lay witnesses, doctors and police officers ready to testify. Who will testify on your behalf? Who will present your case to the Court? Do you know how to cross-examine a witness or how to object to improper testimony? You need legal representation. If you lack time to hire an attorney, ask the Judge for an additional two weeks to hire one. Your child will have to stay in foster care, but many times it is better to wait an additional two weeks and be truly prepared for court rather than rushing in unprepared.
Several things can happen at the initial or “14 day hearing.” Your child can be returned to your care (this rarely happens); CPS can take steps to determine whether a relative would be able to care for the child, or your child can continue in foster care for a period of at least 60 days. A CPS case can be won or lost at this point. Without aggressive representation at the 14 day hearing, there is a very real chance that your child will spend months in foster care – - possibly without justification.
8. CPS is telling me my children have been sexually abused. What should I do?
Please do not say, “I don’t believe it” or “that’s not true” or “she tells stories” or anything that gives CPS the thought that you don’t believe sexual abuse has occurred. Show genuine concern. Ask, “what can I do to make sure I am providing my child with a safe home?” Ask the CPS worker questions. Seek detailed answers. Who is the alleged abuser? When did the abuse occur? How many times has the abuse occurred? Exactly what did occur? (you need to get over your embarrassment and ask for graphic details about what happened). You must ask yourself if you knew of the sexual abuse or had any hint that it was taking place. What has your child told CPS? Unless you convince CPS that you knew nothing about the sexual abuse and that you are able to protect the child from the abuser, your child is going to be placed outside your home.
“Neglect” means different things to different people. Ask questions. Seek specific answers. Try to get CPS to agree to leave the children with you while you participate in parenting classes or other services CPS recommends. If your house is dirty, clean it. If it’s still dirty after you clean, move. You may have to agree to do other things like place the children in daycare, or change your work hours. Remember, you are doing these things to keep your children with you.
10. CPS is telling me my children have been physically abused. What should I do?
Physical abuse usually occurs in one of two instances:
1. The case of the baby who is shaken or beaten by an adult. Cases involving injuries babies and young children are the most difficult mainly because the victim is unable to speak. You need to convince CPS that you didn’t injure your child and that your home is safe. This is very difficult. CPS wants to know who injured the child and until someone comes forward with an explanation, the child is not going home. Do not make up stories, for instance, “he rolled off the bed.” Do not cover-up if you know who hurt the child — unless the person you are protecting is more important to you than your child. Your attorney may suggest you take a lie-detector test. You must attempt to obtain legal counsel.
2. The case of improper physical discipline of a child. In the case of improper discipline, you have a chance of keeping your child at home, but you are going to have to participate in parenting classes and counseling. Of course, it will depend too on the type of injuries sustained by the child and if there appears to be a long-standing pattern of improper physical discipline — for example the use of extension cords to administer spankings is abuse and may result in removal of the child.
You need a lawyer. CPS is represented by the District Attorney. Your children will have their own attorney. You will not be successful representing yourself. Also, don’t fall for the line, “this is only temporary.” Many a termination case starts with such a representation.
If your family can help you in any way, financial, emotional, or as a temporary placement for your children, tell them. A CPS case could be the most serious legal matter in your life. It is no time to “go it alone.” Show CPS that you come from a good family and that you have their support — it will make a difference.
13. CPS wants me to take a drug test. What should I do?
You know whether you will pass. If you will pass, sure, take the test. If you know you won’t pass, consult your lawyer. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to refuse to take the test, or admit to your drug usage. These are critical decisions and you need a professional to advise you. The main thing is to get clean! If you are using illegal drugs, find someone in your family to care for the children while you go through a inpatient program. The longer you remain in denial about your problem, the worse things will get. Remember, in a CPS case, you have one year to get your act together. It’s better to start early rather than waiting until you are out of time to save your family.
Get more questions from this Fort Worth Texas Law Practice
What is a drug crime?
A drug crime is the:
of any of the following:
* Anabolic steroids
* Chemicals (used in the production of drugs)
Different types of illegal drugs:
* Methamphetamine (meth)
Consequences of a Drug Crime conviction
* Probation or parole
* Loss of custody of children
* Court ordered counseling
* Significant fines
* Loss of a job
* Community service
* Loss of residency
The likelihood of any of the above consequences depends on:
* Amount of drugs in possession
* The type of drug
* Prior convictions
* Currently on probation or parole
* Attitude of community and court toward this type of crime
What can you do if you are Accused of a Drug Crime?
If you are accused of a drug crime, you should speak to a lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system.
A family law attorney can help with family related problems from marriage, divorce, and child rearing to caring for elderly parents and family members or seeking guardianship for a distressed family member. Families with problems may chose to seek relief from the courts or find other means of resolution through mediation by finding a family attorney.
Before getting married, many people find themselves signing prenuptial agreements. Filling for a divorce or a separation often requires the skill of an experienced family law attorney to help split up property and determining spousal support or alimony.
Children are often a first concern of the parent whatever the nature of the parents’ relationship. If divorced, people seeking help with child custody issues need a family law attorney. Even if the parents have a legal relationship they may still need help deciding custody and child support issues and can be helped by a good family law attorney. Family members concerned about a child’s safety can seek guardianship using a family law attorneys.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that suspects must tell police explicitly that they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations, a decision one dissenting justice said turns defendants’ rights “upside down.”
A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings, which police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations. But the justices said in a 5-4 decision that suspects must tell police they are going to remain silent to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.
The ruling comes in a case in which a suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained mostly silent for a three-hour police interrogation before implicating himself in a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield, Mich. He appealed his conviction, saying that he invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by remaining silent.
But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court’s conservatives, said that wasn’t enough.
“Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police,” Justice Kennedy said. “Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his ‘right to cut off questioning.’ Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s newest member, wrote a strongly worded dissent for the court’s liberals, saying the majority’s decision “turns Miranda upside down.”
“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counterintuitively, requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”
Thompkins was arrested for murder in 2001 and interrogated by police for three hours. At the beginning, Thompkins was read his Miranda rights and said he understood.
The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering “yes,” ”no,” ”I don’t know,” nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down,” Thompkins said, “Yes.”
He was convicted, but on appeal he wanted that statement thrown out because he said he invoked his Miranda rights by being uncommunicative with the interrogating officers.
The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and threw out his confession and conviction. The high court reversed that decision.
The case is Berghuis v. Thompkins, 08-1470.
By Jesse J. Holland
Associated Press JUNE 2010