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Please note this is not legal advice. Instead it is a from the trenches breakdown of the most common CPS violations I see within my clients cases as a Coach, Advocate, and Consultant (the term coach will be used throughout, as our service is really a blend of all three).
I am heavily involved in all aspects of my clients cases, and actively helping them to resolve the allegations and concerns against them. This requires a strong understanding of state and federal laws, policies, and procedures surrounding Child Welfare, and a through assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their case so that we can strategically move towards successful reunification.
This happens when parents agree to a safety plan with CPS, without a court order. While there can be benefits to doing this, especially in keeping the kids at home or with family, there is also a risk without court oversight and legal protections. Without court oversight CPS often gets away with doing whatever they want to do, legal or not, because the parent doesn't know any better and they are being threatened with further legal action if they do ABC. This leads to widespread CPS corruption that judges never hear about.
While coaching isn't legal representation, we can advocate for your rights, help to bring the case into compliance with laws, policies, and procedures. Further, we can help you to decide when it is time to get an attorney involved or file in court for the return of your children.
I cannot tell you how important this is, and how frequently I see this problem (almost every case). A case/service plan needs to be clear and specific, stating exactly what you need to do, how long you need to do it, and how progress will be measured. It needs to include what reunification steps will take place and when, based upon case compliance. If you do not have this then you are at the mercy of the case workers interpretation- they can say you haven't made adequate progress and that will stand as fact.
Coaching can help you to develop a clear, specific, and measurable case/service plan. Then we will bring it to the case worker for approval, and help to advocate if the state refuses to get into compliance.
This one is incredibly common! At least half of my clients have case records with issues that are outright false and made up. Often it happens that these lies are repeated so many times that they are eventually accepted as facts within cases- even in court!
In coaching we can walk back falsehoods. We can review documents, you can provide me with counter evidence, and I can document and include this information in reports that then get put into case discovery. A coach can also talk with case workers directly to get facts vs accusations sorted out and documented. This helps tremendously, because once it is clearly documented and confronted it becomes a liability for them to ignore it.
Unfortunately this is another issue that I see all the time. Sometimes understanding why something is a problem can help us to understand how to address it. When a child is taken into state care the state is responsible for the safety and welfare of the child. When the state fails to protect a child and acknowledges the child has been harmed, then they have accepted liability. The reason they deny is because admitting would make them responsible for the harm to the child- responsibility would expose them to lawsuits. It is sick and sad, but really that simple- they are limiting their liability.
In these cases parents often repeatedly address the case workers with their concerns, but nothing really changes. In coaching we will take a strategic approach to achieving safety for the child, and there are a number of watch-dogs that we can report to that are entrusted to help protect these vulnerable kids. Coaching can help you to access state defense funds to get private investigators involved. We can help to work with your attorney to file in court to change the placement and get the in-care abuse on record. Child safety is always our number one priority.
Children have a right to be placed with family. Often I see excuses from case workers that they "don't trust" a family member to follow the restrictions placed by CPS, because the family member won't admit the parent is guilty, or something similarly baseless. CPS is not the thought police, nor do they operate with a crystal ball. They are not allowed to restrict a family placement do to convenient made-up concerns.
I have successfully gotten children moved into family placement a number of times, simply by having the willing placement write compliance declarations, submitting a background check, and complaining higher up to have their rights protected. Placement is an important issue to dig heels in over and fight, because the placement of the child is often one of the best predictors of what cases will successfully reunify and which ones won't. We can help to make change of placements happen.
This one seems to surprise people! It is fairly common for a parents to hold a diagnosis that is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. These conditions require the department to make reasonable accommodations for the parent, and to not discriminate based upon the disability. They discriminate and fail to make reasonable accommodations in almost every ADA case I have ever looked at.
Coaching can help you become aware of the rights you hold. In advocating for these clients there are a number of agencies that operate as watch-dogs that can help to bring CPS into compliance, and sometimes consulting with a civil-rights attorney and getting a demand letter for compliance into the case can be a powerful game changer. We can help with all of this.
This one can be tricky as court orders aren't always measurable and specific, and they leave a lot of room for interpretation. Example: Mother will undergo drug tests and pass them in order to breastfeed infant. CPS may decide that they are going to test mom one a week or once a day in that case. Then mom misses a daily test due to an appointment, and then they restrict her from nursing.
I deal with vague orders all the time, and I have found the best way to address these is by having my client directly propose their interpretation of the order to CPS in writing. If CPS agrees, great. If they don't then they or their counsel can ask the Judges Clerk for clarification. Keeping tight control of these sort of issues helps to make sure that they can't say you are not in compliance when you are doing everything right.
Other times they just grossly ignore court orders for visitation and similar, and they make up excuses. I see attorneys drag their heels on dealing with, but generally if we meet with your attorney we can get them to aggressively push back on CPS for compliance. 9/10 pushing back will get them in compliance, sometimes we just need to motivate your attorney.
This one overlaps with their investigations a bit, in my experience. It isn't uncommon for CPS to blab about your protected history, the case, and the allegations against you to anyone with ears. They tell the school, the doctors, the neighbors, all your friends and relatives about the case allegations as though it is an established fact. They are given a lot of freedom to do this in the course of their investigations, but this line is easily crossed when they talk about protected information within your case. This behavior also often crosses the line into some form of witness tampering when done with mandatory reporters who may feel targeted for not reporting the supposed "abuse" the state is claiming.
Aggressively addressing this type of violation is important because they do this to reduce your support network, tamper with witnesses, and establish false information as accepted fact. We have a lot of experience helping clients clear up the record and stop information leaks.
I usually see this happen in substance misuse allegations. My client will have a dozen clean tests and then a random dirty test. The client will swear on everything it is a false positive, but this doesn't matter to the case worker and they give parents no avenue to disprove it. In these sort of situations we can help you get expert defense funds for an independent court admissible hair follicle test to disprove their test results.
False evidence isn't limited to drugs, I have also seen it pop up when there is a supposed restraining order violation, misconstrued statements put in records, written reports about school attendance, cleanliness of the house, safety of pets, really any area they can use a written report as proof and evidence. In these cases it really boils down to the word of a party that is against you, and counter evidence can usually help to clean things up.
I have recently seen a trend where case workers and state attorneys will walk this grey line of diagnosing my clients. They are not treatment providers, and they may not diagnose you or actively interfere within any diagnostic process that a client is undertaking. This is an area that I have had to work with clients attorneys closely to deal with, as these false claims need to be aggressively addressed in court so that the record is corrected.
The reality is that a WIDE RANGE of emotions and behaviors are normal when CPS steps in and takes your children, as that is one of the most serious forms of trauma a normal parent can face. Some parents suffer depression, some anxiety, some slip back into substance misuse, some cry all the time, others write nasty texts and emails, some advocate extremely well for themselves, while others get lost in it all. In my experience all of this is extremely normal, and parental emotions and behaviors often change within a case, as they try everything and experience that nothing works.
As a coach and advocate I will touch-base with your mental health provider, review your reports, and write reports to reflect this. Often I will talk with the case worker to share the information and ask that any false information is removed. This issue isn't really that hard to solve if you know what you're doing.
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