Good Evening Loves,
Have you ever became frustrated, overwhelmed, or stressed out when faced with a cps investigation and/or charge? It is totally understandable especially with a high rate of children being removed from the home even over the smallest thing. Relationships between Child Protective Services (CPS) and the community are very strained similar to the relationship between the police and the community. It comes down to a matter of trust. The community itself does not trust the police or CPS especially if they (police and cps) does not treat the community with respect. The community does not believe that police and cps is designed to keep the community safe as well as keeping families intact. Let’s dig a little further regarding lack of trust.
At-risk populations and minorities are highly overrated in the justice system and the child welfare system. They are more caught up in the system due to lack of services, access to services, etc to properly care for their children. It doesn’t make them a bad parent, its just that they need additional assistance to meet the needs of their children. This is where child protective services comes in the picture with a goal to help the parent get the services they need so that the child(ren) could continue to remain in care with them along with the proper linkages in place. If the CPS worker is not helping you then they are just being difficult, because they are overwhelmed with their job and many more other issues.
First and foremost, its very important that you know your rights. You have to be your own best advocate. You cannot rely on your lawyer, social worker, or support networks to advocate on your behalf. Keep all your important papers together such as counseling treatment plans, drug court treatment plans, certificates of completion, income documentation, housing assistance documentation, anything you get from social services such as SNAP, Medicaid, daycare coverage, etc. You must do your research at all times. If its something that you do not understand, ask questions, and conduct your research. Your research is your number one support, because it can back up your case. Anytime you have a cps report whether “indicated” or “unfounded” always write a letter requesting to receive copies of the information contained in the State Central Register regarding the incident. Make sure you list your address, Case ID number and Intake Stage ID number which is usually located in the upper right corner of the report. This goes the same for requesting to amend your report.
Secondly, any advice/feedback in this blog does not take the place of your recommendations from your lawyer. Every case is different, not every scenario requires the same recommendation. The recommendations in this blog is to help you become aware and inform you of what you can do. Remember every case is different. Below is an example of a scenario that is most common when a child is left home alone.
Scenario 1 – A 10 year old girl was left alone at home for two hours with her two year old sister while Mom went to the store up the street to get some groceries for the house. After an hour had went by, the 10 year old started to worry about her mother so instead of calling her mother to see when she was coming home, she called the police. She told the operator that she was scared for her mom and that she has been gone for some time. When mom had arrived home with the groceries, she received a knock at the door which was the police officers. They informed mom that the 10 year old had called 911. Police officer arrested the mom for endangering the welfare of the children by being gone for two hours despite the fact the children were safe. They were physically fine. The mom’s sister was able to come straight to the house, before police officers took the mother to jail.
Background of the mother: a military spouse whose husband was killed in line of duty overseas, never been in trouble with the law, never been arrested nor never had a cps investigation/charge, educated with a bachelor degree, works a part time job, children are well taken care of.
Question: Do you think the mother should have been arrested or no? Do you think CPS should’ve been called or not? Share your thoughts.
Response: The mother should not have been arrested, because the children were not hurt nor abused. She was home with the girls when the police had arrived. If she was not home when the police had arrived then it’s a different story. Secondly, yes and no that a call to cps should be made, depending on severity of situation.
Results: CPS report found indicated
What you should know to appeal the decision: According to the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) network (ocfs.ny.gov website); “OCFS is often asked questions regarding the appropriate age to leave a child alone, or what age is appropriate to allow a child to begin babysitting. There are no straightforward answers to these questions. All children develop at their own rate and with their own special needs and abilities.”
On the website it also listed some items for decision-makers to consider before leaving a child alone. Based on the items listed; consider the child, consider the child’s knowledge and ability, and consider the circumstances.
Consider the child: How mature is the child? How comfortable is the child with the circumstances? What has the child done in the past to show you he/she is able to take on this kind of responsibility?
Consider the child’s knowledge and ability: Does the child know how and when to contact emergency help? Is the child able to prepare food for him/herself? Are there hazards to the child in the environment such as accessible knives, power tools, a stove or oven?
Consider the circumstances: Where will the child be when left alone? How long is the child to be alone?
So when writing a letter to the State Central Register to appeal the decision, state your defense along with including the items listed above answering each question relating to the item. Make sure you state “I am requesting for the report to be amended from being “indicated” to being “unfounded”. List why it should be amended by listing your accomplishments, taking your role as a parent seriously by meeting their basic, emotional, mental and physical needs, stating you never been arrested nor in trouble with the law, stating the milestones of each child that has been listed in the report. Write professionally, no cursing, or bad mouthing and have some one read your report before you submit it. It’s optional if you want to send them a copy of a most recent certificate of completion of a parenting class. It helps your appeal. The Commissioner have 90 days to respond to your appeal. If the Commissioner decides not to amend it to “unfounded” or hasn’t respond to your appeal, then you are given a date for a hearing to state your case.
Services available: Child Protective Workers are required to link services on behalf of the parent. The CPS worker should’ve asked the mother if her or the children were currently in counseling grieving over the loss of the husband, if money was tight despite working a part time job, if she needed daycare assistance, need housing assistance in paying for rent, etc. Because no child(ren) were harmed or abused in this scenario, the cps worker should’ve changed the case to a Family Assessment Safety (FAR). “It is an alternative child protection responses to some reports of child maltreatment. FAR does not require an investigation and determination of allegations and individual culpability for families reported to the State Central Register. It is an alternative approach to providing protection to children by engaging families in an assessment of child safety and of family needs in finding solutions to family problems and in identifying informal and formal supports to meet their needs and increase their ability to care for their children.” as cited from ocfs.ny.gov website.
Its very important that you do your research so that you know your rights! Share this blog with someone who may need it. The goal is to keep children with their families to prevent them from being traumatized. Foster care should be the last resort. The CPS worker is obligated to exercise all the options you have to place your child such as with an aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc before they can decide if the child will be entering foster care.
If you have any questions regarding CPS and knowing your rights, please don’t hesitate to reach to me.