All too often allegations of child abuse get brought up in a highly contested child custody litigation. Too many men have become the targets of false allegations. False allegations of domestic violence. False allegations of sexual assault. And false allegations of sexual abuse.
Getting a phone call from an agent of Child Protective Services (CPS) is frightening. An indictment can result in the loss of your child or the implementation of a service plan that interferes with your relationship. Even unfounded cases can have traumatic effects on your record and your closeness with your family.
Anybody can report suspicions of child abuse. Some medical professionals, educational staff, caretakers and social service providers are required to file a report. CPS has 24 hours to begin an investigation of child abuse or neglect allegations after receiving the initial report. After interviewing all parties and gathering all relevant information, CPS caseworkers must determine whether maltreatment has occurred and can be substantiated. In most States, CPS staff are mandated by law to determine whether the report is substantiated or founded (meaning that credible evidence indicates that abuse or neglect has occurred) or whether the report is unsubstantiated or unfounded (meaning that there is a lack of credible evidence to substantiate child maltreatment--but does not mean it did not necessarily occur). During the investigation, the agent may:
- Review family history that exists with the CPS
- Conduct home visits
- Contact the person who reported the abuse
- Interview you and other caretakers
- Question people who may have relevant information -- such as teachers, medical professionals and neighbor
What you should do if contacted by CPS
You may know which event triggered the investigation -- possibly an injurious fall at your home or a parenting style that is inconsistent with your neighborhood or school culture. On the other hand, you may have no idea what started the process. Regardless, the first contact made by a Santa Rosa child protective agent is likely to come as a shock. Remain composed and calm whenever you speak to the agent, social workers and other professionals involved in the investigation and adjudication process. Even if your reaction is justified, your angry response will backfire!
Consider retaining a Santa Rosa family law attorney who understands the juvenile dependency process. A lawyer can help strike the delicate balance between cooperating with the agencies and courts while aggressively protecting your parental rights and your relationship with your child.
The Law Offices of James V. Sansone offers a full range of family law legal services including divorce, domestic violence, enforcement of court orders, and guardianships. We are located in Santa Rosa, California and serve clients throughout Sonoma County, Mendocino County, and Lake County, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Glen Ellen, Windsor, Bodega Bay, Ukiah, Willits, Clearlake, Lakeport, and Kelseyville.