This information is provided courtesy of Vincent W. Davis, Attorney at Law and posted herein with permission. See below post for more information.
10 Things You Should do if CPS or DCFS is Investigating You
1: Take any accusations seriously.
No matter how absurd or unbelievable the CPS/DCFS social worker’s claim(s) may seem, please understand that the social worker is dead serious, and most likely presumes – no… most likely BELIEVES that you are guilty as accused. Even if the social worker doesn’t admit that s/he is at your home to take your children, often times that IS EXACTLY why they are there. It is our experience, over 20+ years, that the majority of CPS social workers develop a cynical view of life and assume that you are UTTERLY GUILTY until YOU PROVE that you are not: the opposite of the way the “justice system” is supposed to operate.
2: Ask what the accusations and charges are.
Most typically, the CPS/DCFS social worker wants to keep you from knowing exactly what you have been accused of — sort of keeping themselves on a “general fishing expedition” — but it is required by state and federal law to tell you the exact details of the accusations at first contact with you. Be wary! Do not settle for the vague and general charges called “neglect” or “abuse.” Neglect and abuse are broad categories – not the legally-required “details” of the accusations or charges! You are entitled to know the “details & specifics” of what you are accused of committing.
3: Say as little as possible. In fact – BE QUIET!
In criminal law it is ALWAYS strongly suggested that you talk to NO ONE but your attorney. Think about it. Virtually ALL CHARGES that CPS or DCFS levels against you are CRIMINAL CHARGES. And while CPS or DCFS is there ONLY to take your kids, the police can and often will show up later for the parents! In fact, open your mouth and tell the CPS investigator just enough to “make their case” and you can start packing an overnight case as the police will be called by CPS who will be at your door to take you away.
Sure, it is totally natural that innocent parents who have nothing to hide will want to explain everything to a CPS social worker because such parents would assume that ANY reasonable person would see that there is nothing wrong going on. But CPS and DCFS social workers are commonly ANYTHING BUT reasonable. They become entrenched in a culture that is uniformly cynical about ALL PARENTS. Frankly, you are presumed guilty by the majority of CPS and DCFS agents. The exhausted, over-worked social worker who just fought the crowded freeways to make it to your home is there on a mission. That mission is most often to find evidence to support what the social worker already believes to be true – that you abused your child just as the neighbor, relative or anonymous tipster claimed.
If you don’t talk to them –just as you are always told to never voluntarily talk with the police if they are accusing you of a crime– you take their power away. They will not be able to use your own admissions, statements, and your very words against you. For example” “Have you ever spanked your toddler?” Do you really think there is a good answer to that question? The majority of CPS and DCFS social workers abhor most any form of parental punishment.
4: The minute you become aware that your family is being investigated, YOU MUST find an attorney who has experience in fighting CPS or DCFS.
An attorney EXPERIENCED in CPS and DCFS cases and courts is mandatory! Juvenile Dependency courts are worlds unto themselves. Your most seasoned and experienced lawyers when first stepping foot into a Juvenile Dependency courtroom are totally dumb struct as if they stepped into It’s a Small World at Disneyland. Most lawyers –even experienced Family Law attorneys– who are not experienced with CPS/DCFS mistakenly think that it is their job (as it would be in any other court setting) to find out what CPS or DCFS wants and then communicate all the details to their clients. Shockingly, doing exactly that often leads to total disaster and the loss of your children.
5: Be courteous and polite to CPS social workers & investigators.
Let’s face it, when a “government investigator” –without any advanced notice– knocks insistently on your door, well-dressed, looking all official with a county badge; exuding the authority of the government; is well-prepared, PRIMED and READY to level accusations of child abuse or neglect against you: most people would be SHOCKED! If you’re human you’d also be scared too. As government is getting bigger and bigger every year they are getting more and more powerful and intrusive in the lives of ordinary citizens. We are all a bit nervous and threatened by the power of the state as we witness weekly examples of government power wielded unfairly on Investigative TV News programs and in the lives of our own families and friends.
What could your reaction possibly be to a surprise home-visit from a government agent? No one appreciates surprise visits by any one! Perhaps the dishes are unwashed; maybe you haven’t cleaned house for a day or two; say that there are a collection of beer bottles on the coffee table from the football game the day before; could be that you’re not dressed in appropriate attire as you would be IF EXPECTING guests… So when you are surprised and ACCUSED TO YOUR FACE of child neglect or child abuse it might be natural that you are shocked, defensive, upset, angry and a little hostile. As Homer Simpson would say: “Do’ah!”
Guess what? An angry demeanor toward the CPS social worker or DCFS investigator is considered evidence of your guilt. Your perfectly natural, upset and angry reaction to being accused of harming your child will very OFTEN BE USED as evidence of your violent and abusive personality.
6: Never invite any CPS or DCFS social worker or investigator into your home unless he or she has a warrant or court order.
If a County CPS/DCFS social worker requests that you invite them into your home politely refuse. If he or she insists or suggests that not allowing entry will work against you or will ensure that your children are taken away from you HOLD YOUR GROUND. Politely ask to see their warrant or court order to come into your home. It the CPS social worker or investigator claims to have a warrant, insist on seeing it: in fact they owe you a copy! Why? Would a Social worker lie? YES. Police and government agents often suggest they have a warrant or outright lie and claim to have a warrant when they do not. It makes their task of finding needed evidence against you so much easier! If the CPS/DCFS government agent cannot produce a warrant, firmly but politely tell them that they will have to remain outside until a warrant is presented. They will be annoyed. But you will be far better off – legally. If the agent says it is an EMERGENCY call their bluff. Insist that they explain how it is an emergency and what constitutes an emergency. Typically, in so-called “emergency situations,” the police and the CPS social workers come together and even then it is not necessarily an emergency but a working relationship that some CPS agents have with associates on the police force.
Do not even open the door to allow the CPS agent look into your home to see your children: they can see something that creates an “emergency situation” even if it is not true.
Be FIRM. You should not waiver nor give in to thinking: “What’s the harm?” There is no compromise here: no exception. If you invite a County CPS investigator or a Los Angeles DCFS social worker into your home, you have just waived your Federally-protected fourth amendment constitutional protection. Just like a police detective intent on hauling you to the police station for questioning would love for you to willingly invite them into your home, a CPS social worker who is openly or secretly intent on taking your children from you WILL FIND SOMETHING IN YOUR HOME TO JUSTIFY THE REMOVAL OF YOUR KIDS.
This happens every day all over America and even more often in Southern California where CPS and DCFS agents are the most ruthless social workers anywhere. The bar for removal is “whatever it needs to be” as far as the social worker is concerned. A legal prescription in your bathroom cabinet, a beer bottle on the coffee table, a kitchen knife not in the drawer, a broken window, a back door without a deadbolt, a missing smoke detector, a swimming pool without its own secondary safety fence: whatever might be necessary to fill out the paperwork to justify removal. If this particular social worker set out to take your child, allowing them innocently into your house will ensure that your child is taken from you. You now have a year or a lifetime of HELL before you.
7: Demand that CPS tape any interrogation of your child.
Subjective reports of what a child said or did not say is hardly ever adequate. Ask that any interrogation be recorded. You could produce your own recorder (as a back-up) just in case the CPS or DCFS investigator “loses” their tape between the interrogation and a subsequent court hearing where you might have “wished” that you had such a tape.
8: If you are accused of physical abuse, immediately have your doctor give your child a thorough physical exam.
Ask your doctor to write a letter stating that there are no bruises or injuries observed, nor any other health-related issues that would raise any concern or suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Obviously go to a doctor whom you trust. If a CPS or DCFS social worker suggests a doctor for you, or suggests that they know where you can see a doctor at NO CHARGE (as attractive as that may be), NEVER visit with a doctor recommended by CPS. What you may not know is that these doctors are a regular part of the CPS system and they are commonly called as expert-testimony witnesses by CPS as a witness against the parents. They are paid handsomely for their testimony.
9: Create a list of relatives and friends who are willing and able to care for your children if CPS takes them.
If your children are removed from your home, or the court is demanding that your children must soon leave your home for some period of time it is always better that your children are taken in by relatives or friends. Are you aware that children placed in foster care are sometimes abused or mistreated by people working the foster care system for a “pay check?” There is the flip side to that where some truly loving foster parents sometimes become smitten with your kids and start their own campaign with the court and petition for adoption! Having your kids in foster care is simply adding one more level of stress and complexity to your plate.
10: Never admit guilt, even if pressured by a CPS social worker to do so in exchange for leniency or getting your kids back.
If you are innocent of neglect or abuse why would you buckle to the pressure of a CPS agent’s demands to have you admit to false accusations? If you are accused or charged with neglect because someone has informed the county CPS system that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the social worker who is investigating those accusations may have good-reason to be concerned for your kids’ safety.
Even if you privately agree that maybe you drink too often or too much that does not mean that you have to incriminate yourself in this investigation. Bite your tongue. Admit NOTHING! Even if you recognize that you have a problem that needs to be addressed this is not your DOCTOR; this is not your PRIEST; this is not your LAWYER. Wrong person! Wrong time! This person is not here to HEP YOU. This person is here to collect evidence to support the accusations made against you and to TAKE YOUR KIDS. Period.
Do not admit guilt. Instead, work with your doctor, pastor or even your private CPS defense attorney to find the professional help you might need need (and professional help that the courts will recognize – no sense paying twice because a treatment program is not court-approved). By NOT ADMITTING GUILT, you can then honestly work on any issues you have and work with the court to keep your kids under your roof or to get your kids returned to you when appropriate.
By mistakenly thinking that admitting guilt to a social worker is justified is often a fast trip to jail – removing many of the options that you need right now to get your life in order. In any potentially-criminal situation NEVER voluntarily do anything until you contact an attorney: preferably a compassionate and understanding attorney who works with parents, kids and the Juvenile Dependency Courts on a daily basis. They will offer you frank advice that will be better than unnecessarily sitting locked behind bars. CPS social workers and investigators are not above lying to you to encourage you to confess or admit to something that you might not even be guilty of – just to get you arrested and your kids in their control.
FOR MORE INFORMATION REGARDING LEGAL ADVICE CONTACT ATTORNEY VINCENT W. DAVIS AT: 888-506-6810
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The Most Important Thing You Must Know At the Beginning of Your Juvenile Dependency Case
I’ve been noticing a shift in the willingness of social workers, and sometimes judges to place foster children with family. It seems that all the political lobbying foster parents are doing in Sacramento and amongst the County social workers is paying off.
It is imperative that you know the following: YOU MUST FIGHT TO PLACE YOUR CHILDREN WITH FRIENDLY RELATIVES at the very beginning of the case; otherwise you risk losing them to adoption to the foster parent. This is rarely fought about during these juvenile dependency cases. And it should be something that should be raised by your attorney at each and every hearing; and if it is not completed (i.e., the child actually placed with a relative), your attorney should have a trial on this, and perhaps other issues, at the Disposition Hearing. Please read, read and re-read California Welfare and Institutions Code section 309. And if necessary have your attorney have a trial on these issues at the Dispositional Hearing.
Here are some actual recent case studies.
The first case from Riverside County. The relatives who wanted the child lived in Oklahoma. They were cousins of the mother. They contacted the social worker at the very beginning of the case, 3 days after the first hearing, the hearing commonly known as the arraignment detention hearing. Short after that hearing, the child was placed with a local foster care family. Turns out, the foster parents were a young couple, who couldn’t have children and wanted to adopt this child. And under a concept in the law called Concurrent Planning, the county social worker supported the foster parents desire to adopt.
The social worker informed them of two important things; both of which were false. First, the social worker said that they could not have the child placed in their home in Oklahoma, at the beginning of the case, because the court would order Family Reunification Services for the parents. And that could not happen until the court terminated Reunification Services 6 to 12 months into the case. This is false, because the child can be placed with the relatives, despite the parents being given Family Reunification Services.
Second, the social worker informed the relatives that the child could not be placed in their home without an Interstate Compact Placement of Children (“ICPC”) approval from Oklahoma. An ICPC is a report prepared by the receiving state social worker approving the Oklahoma relatives. All of this is true. But, the social worker told the relatives that this could not even be requested or initiated until at or after the disposition hearing; which in this case, was months down the road. This was false. ICPC can be initiated at any time. And remember, the foster parents and the child are living and bonding during all this time.
Third, the social worker had the opportunity to initiate and request and Expedited ICPC, which is completed in 30 days. For whatever reason, she did not. Had she done so, the child could have been placed with the relatives quicker and faster.
Instead, the social worker requested and ICPC, which took months and months. Apparently, and as usual, a regular ICPC takes months and months and months. And on top of that there was further delay because the County social worker delayed the process, the California ICPC office delayed processing the request, and then Oklahoma delayed the process because someone went on vacation.
While all of this was pending, the parents’ parental rights were terminated at the Welfare & Institutions Code section 366.26 hearing.
About a month later, the Oklahoma ICPC was approved, but the relatives were no longer legal relatives since the parents lost their parental rights. Relatives are relatives only through the parents; and if the parents lose their rights, the relatives in turn lose their relationship with the children as well.
The relatives did go to court and request that the child still be placed with them, but they were denied. The fact that they were no longer relatives, and the fact that the child had formed a loving bond with the child after all that time, were things used by the juvenile court to justify not giving the child to the Oklahoma relatives.
The next case is out of San Diego County. The child was taken from the parents based on the allegations that mother had mental and emotional deficits, and that the father was responsible for the death of a sibling. The child was placed in a single parent foster home.
As it turns out, the social worker claimed that she was never told of any relatives that wanted the child placed in their home. And as it turned out, there were 3 relative families in San Diego, one in Arizona, one in Colorado, one in Alabama and one in Korea. The Arizona and Korea families were stationed in that locale, as part of the United States Armed forces. It appears that the social worker either spoke to, or had the chance to speak to some of these relatives, but never inquired if they wanted the child; instead waiting for the relative to take some affirmative action to have the child placed in their homes.
This is not the law in California. California Welfare and Institutions Code section 309, requires the social worker to search out and find, and to use “due diligence” to find relatives. If you think about it, this is an onerous burden for the social workers, but it is the law. And the biggest problem is that most attorneys are not familiar with this particular law, or choose not to fight for it, or enforce it at every hearing, especially the disposition hearing. In this case, it was conceded that there was no due diligence filed with the court. And honestly, after 25 years of practice as an attorney in this area, I’ve never seen a due diligence for relatives filed with the court. I take that back, San Francisco uses an outside service to locate relatives, but I don’t think it was filed with the court. But there, one of the relatives informed me that she did get a call, but the caller basically called to talk her out of wanting to have the child placed in her home. And the relative went along with the recommendation that the child not be placed in the relative home.
Yet, despite these facts, the court left the child in the foster home because the child had formed a bond with the foster parent.
The third case is an interesting case out of San Bernardino County. The children were removed from the parents because of allegations of mutual domestic violence. At the beginning of the case, I provided 25 names of relatives to the social worker. After 2 months, the social worker refused to investigate and report to the court about any of the relatives. The children were in foster care, and the recommendation by the social worker, for concurrent planning, was adoption by the foster family.
Here’s the funny part. The number one relatives was the maternal grandparents, who were both medical surgeons from El Salvador. Both traveled to/from the United States frequently, visiting and working in the United States. Both came to the San Bernardino, and the court was informed that they would stay there as long as necessary to keep the children, and to get them out of foster care. Turns out the grandfather had a United States Visa that expired in 2021, and the grandmother had a Visa that expired in 2018.
WIC 309 states that the immigration status of the relative care takers cannot be considered. So if you are undocumented, that cannot be used against you in getting your relative children placed with you. Notwithstanding, the social worker told the grandparents after they arrived in California, that they could not have the children because they weren’t citizens. And the worker’s attorney argued in court that since they were not permanent residents, they children could not be placed with these grandparents. And initially, the court seemed to go along with that, but began reversing when I pressed the matter.
Now, on my recommendation, the grandparents I recommend these grandparents come from El Salvador, and I had section 309 on our side.
After a trial, the judge informed me that the children should be placed with the mother, my client, after her home was checked out, and after we filed a Restraining Order against the father. It seemed that I had pushed the relative placement issue so hard, the court decided just to place the children back with the mother. Maybe it was easier than investigating 25 relatives, and dealing with the Immigration issues.
We offer free initial consultations, and we can offer an extended case analysis and consultation for a nominal fee. Also we are available to represent you in your juvenile dependency matter as a parent, relative or foster parent. Check our website for news on the monthly Juvenile Dependency Law seminars in a city near you.
Vincent W Davis
888 888 6582
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