Friday, August 12, 2011

What to do when CPS comes to your door. First meeting. YOU are in control.

When we first became involved with CPS I scoured the internet with questions.  What do I do?  How will my reactions affect their decision.  Should I cooperate with CPS or should I fight?  

I found many answers.  They ranged from something like

"Hand over your children, kiss them goodbye and move on" 


"put bars on your doors while you pack your kids and everything they own, plant bombs in your yard and move your family to a remote island, learn how to grow grass for food, and never be heard from again."

Ok, maybe slight exaggerations there, but only slight.  

It seemed one common thread was to tell you don't pass go until you've retained an attorney.  Well this is great advice, however there are some issues with that.  CPS rarely targets affluent, powerful members of society.  Usually the people on the ass side of CPS are poor or middle class folks living paycheck to paycheck.  Also, there are few lawyers who will take your case, the ones that will are usually NOT working for you.  The one's that are working for you, the ones who "hate" CPS can actually make things much worse for you.  

I happened to have the unfortunate decision making to move to Williamson County, Texas.  Otherwise called WilCo. (That's right, they are so important they get an acronym).  Any google search will show you that WilCo is as corrupt as they come, a fact I didn't know upon moving there.  When I called lawyers to help us, 8/10 refused to take a WilCo case, PERIOD.  1/10 said Suuuuuuure, I'll take it!  Thankfully I was able to find a diamond in the rough who said "girl, you are better off on your own.  Any lawyer that will take a WilCo case is definitely NOT on your side, the few that take WilCo cases are, in fact, very well compensated by the powers you are trying to fight to help you lose your case.

Now your county is probably NOT as corrupt as WilCo.  But I'm here to tell you that you CAN fight CPS without an attorney, and you're probably better off that way.  

So what should you do when CPS comes calling?  #1 remember YOU are in control.  ALWAYS be the one in control of the conversation.  You will be shaking inside and want to throw up on her shoes but remain composed and in control.  You can fall apart later.

If the allegation against you isn't life or death they may start with a phone call.  It will go something like this...

"Hello Mrs. Smith.  This is Daffy Duck from the department of family services and I would like to come and talk with you and your husband, can we set up a time that works for you?"  Your response should be.  "Sure, can you hold one moment while I grab my audio recorder?  I will be recording our conversation".  (It is NOT required that you inform them of this in every state, but for your own protection it's always best to inform them).  Then you should say "Ok, I have begun recording, can you restate what this phone call is about?"  She will then reiterate what she just said.  Next you should say.  "I absolutely would have you come and speak with my husband and I, I know we can clear this misunderstanding up in short order"  (Always speak in your sickeningly sweet voice btw).  Then you and Mrs. Duck will set a time to meet at your home.  

You might have cringed when I said At. YOUR. Home.  Don't.  Because 1 hour before Mrs. Duck arrives you are going to bring the children to a trusted friend or family members house and you and your spouse/significant other will be sitting on the front porch (or if it's cold outside in the garage with the door open) waiting for her.  She will pull up and walk to the house and you both should walk to meet her, shake her hand politely and invite her to a seat outside.  You will inform her that you will be again recording (video this time if you have the capability to do so) your meeting.  Again check your state laws on this or email me and I'll look it up for you, in most states you need to INFORM, not gain PERMISSION to record.  

Offer her something to drink and sit down.  She will likely pull out a computer to type on or maybe just jot things down on a piece of paper.  She will likely begin asking you questions about the children and the allegations at hand.  Keep your answers very concise.  Yes or no will work 99% of the time.  Resist the urge to spill your guts and tell the whole story, as interesting as it may be.  Also resist the urge to say things like "My husband would NEVER do that".  While you know he wouldn't, it makes it seem like you are taking the side of your husband right off the bat, and that's NOT what she wants to see.  Bite your tongue right off if you have to, but shut your mouth and think before you speak.

After the line of questioning about the allegations she will launch into her "Sometimes we get called for one problem and there's bigger problems in the home" schpeel.  "I just need to ask you a few more questions about your family to close the case".  Don't fall for it.  She's going to ask you how you discipline, which, unless the allegation is REGARDING your discipline is irrelevant.  She's going to ask you about drug and alchohol use, again unless it's relevant it's irrelevant.  She's going to ask you if you have ever been treated for mental illness like depression.  This is NEVER relevant.  You can simply tell her.  "I understand that sometimes there are bigger issues in a family, and I respect your desire to make sure all children are safe, but can you please explain to me how that question is relevant to the allegation?"  Keep her on task or you will open up a whole NEW set of allegations.  Simply stating "yes, 8 years ago when my grandmother died I was on medication for depression" red flags you. 

Here's a bit on how these answers are documented.  Each CPS agency has a standard form they use.  It will have questions like "Do parents have mental health issues".  The answer will be "yes".  That is all.  Nothing to state that your "mental health issue" was situational from losing your grandmother 8 years ago.  Now, the investigator knows your answer, but SHE doesn't make the decision on your case, the supervisor does.  And that "yes" answer is all the supervisor is going to see.  So shut up.

The next thing she will do is tell you she needs to tour your home, again, "to close the case".  Again this is where you must consider the relevance to the allegation.  If the allegation was that you have no food or that your kids live in squalor then by all means you should allow her to tour the home (I'm assuming you in fact DON'T make your kids live in squalor and DO feed them.  If not, then you're on your own and your kids DO need help tyvm!).  If you decide that her touring the home has some relevance to her allegations and allow her in I have two very good tips for you.  #1, do NOT invite her into the home and do not VERBALLY give her consent to enter right away.  Simply opening the door is NOT consent to enter and if she takes it as such and enters (and remember, you'll have it on video) she has just given you the hope diamond in defense later on (more on this in an upcoming post called "Constitutional rights and qualified immunity).  

If she's aware of this she may wait for you to give verbal consent.  Damn.  But that's ok really, that means she's doing her job right.  At least that part.  That's a good thing, I promise.  

When y'all enter the house make sure you bring the video camera with you and use it behind her to document the state of every room and every cabinet she may look into.  That way if her report reads "dirty clothes on the floor in bedrooms" you have video evidence that is not true. Chances are she's going to take a quick sweep through the house and then get out quickly, they don't like being behind walls with people who hate them.  It's scary.  

The final thing she's going to do is tell you that she needs to interview the children.  This is where it gets very sticky and I'm going to leave it for another post because it really deserves it's own space.  Stay tuned!

*I am not a lawyer, just a mom who fought and beat CPS.  NOTHING in any post I write should be taken as legal advice!!!*

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