Few experiences are as scary and painful as the prospect of losing your children. Children’s Protective Services (CPS) investigations are a nightmare. The team at Kronzek & Cronkright, PLLC understands how to navigate the system and keep families together. We help our clients during the process and understand how to win cases, even very difficult ones.
What is a CPS Investigation?
DHS, also known as the Department of Human Services, must investigate every report of neglect or child abuse within twenty-four hours. Next, CPS has thirty days to finish an investigation unless an extension is necessary. Many CPS investigations begin from reports made by mandatory reporters, who are professionals like doctors, teachers, etc, that are required to report suspected abuse.
An investigation typically involves the interviews of parents, alleged victims, and/or accused abusers. This questioning typically takes place at school or home. CPS also conducts interviews of family member, friends, professionals, or neighbors as needed. During the investigative process, CPS examines any relevant medical, school, and police reports. If CPS requests a medical examination for a child, this is recorded as well. CPS’ goal is to assess the child’s overall safety, neglect or abuse risk, and the family dynamics.
It is not uncommon for CPS to bully people to get the information that is desired. These tactics, when successful, can pave the way for police to prosecute parents for related crimes in the future.
It is important to keep in mind that an officer may, without a court order, take a child into custody if there is reasonable cause to believe a child is, “...at substantial risk of harm or is in surroundings that present an imminent risk of harm and the child's immediate removal from those surroundings is necessary to protect the child's health and safety.” (MCL 712A.14a) These type of cases tend to move swiftly and require aggressive legal representation.
CPS must determine if there is neglect or abuse by a preponderance of the evidence. Meaning there is over a 51% chance that the event happened. After the investigation ends, the case is placed in one of 5 different categories.
Category V, no evidence is found of neglect or abuse, the family cannot be located, etc. The abuse or neglect claim is considered unsubstantiated.
Category IV, preponderance of the evidence for abuse or neglect is not reached. These families are helped with voluntary services that are appropriate for the risk level of the family.
Category III cases have met a preponderance of the evidence that neglect or abuse exists but at a low to moderate risk level. CPS then makes a referral for community-based services to help the family.
Category II cases have met the preponderance of the evidence for neglect and abuse as well. Yet, these are high risk cases that also involve a referral for community-based services.
Category I, a preponderance of the evidence is met. However, these are the most serious cases. A court petition is needed. Services provided by CPS, foster care, or community-based services are required as well.
In any Category I or II case, the parent's name is included on the Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.
What Happens When a CPS Investigation is Concluded?
If a child is determined to be at risk, CPS can file a petition for a child protective proceeding with the court. It may be terrifying for a parent to think an abuse/neglect petition can end with termination of parental rights. The petitions can involve conditions like removal of the abuser from the residence; the child removed; or the use of services in the home.
Children can be placed in foster care or with relatives during the process. When kids are removed from their parents, the court reviews the case on a specific schedule.
There are certain kinds of neglect and abuse that have a requirement that DHS must seek termination of parental rights at the time of the abuse/neglect petition. These include cases of rape, torture, severe beatings, the presence of life-threatening injuries, and more.
During termination of parental rights proceedings, parents have their own lawyers. In order for a termination to happen, the prosecutor must prove the neglect or abuse by a clear and convincing standard of evidence. In other words, this requires a high level of proof.
Additionally, there is a list of specific grounds for termination. The Court decides if any of the grounds exist and make the ultimate determination regarding termination.
Child Abuse And Neglect Defense
Battling CPS is often a messy, confusing, lengthy process. Going up against the state can be extremely intimidating, as it is a formidable foe with many resources and an army of people working against you. This is as an overview of the process and not intended as a substitute for an attorney consultation. You will need to speak with us directly to understand your case and the best way to protect your parental and constitutional rights.
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