Child Protective Services is at My Door. Now What?

close up of hands taking notesIn 2015, the last year for which information is available, child protective services in the United States investigated 3.4 million allegations of abuse. Let that sink in. That’s about five percent of children. Less than twenty-percent turned out to be abuse, mostly because of the high number of false reports. False reporting is a problem in every state, and if you’ve angered someone, they may retaliate by calling child protective services on you. It’s something you should be prepared for, especially if you are in open conflict with someone. If you get the knock at the door don’t panic. Here are ten simple steps to help you handle the situation calmly.

  1. Unless the person at the door has a court order to remove your children or is accompanied by law enforcement with a warrant, they’ve just come to check out a complaint. All the information they have came from whoever made the complaint. That alone is not enough to remove your child(ren). Remain calm and answer the door. Don’t be rude. Ask how you can help them and let them identify themselves and their reason for being there. Don’t let them in your house.
  2. Once they’ve identified themselves and their purpose, tell them you’ll be right back.  Close the door and grab something to write with and some paper. It is important that you write down the names of the people at the door, even if they gave you their card. Once you have your paper and pen, step outside to talk with the investigators.
  3. Takes notes as they talk, but remember that anything you say will be used against you. If during the conversation you learn that someone has turned you in because they’re mad at you, don’t blow up. Remain calm and respectful, even if the investigator is abrasive—especially if the investigator is abrasive.
  4. Remember that they are at your door because they are concerned for the safety of your children, and so are you. While it’s important not to be intimidated, don’t be combative either. Take a moment to be thankful that you live in a country where someone cares about the safety of children. Not everyone is so fortunate. The people at your door aren’t necessarily your enemy. Don’t make the mistake of making them one. Acknowledge that you appreciate that people are concerned about your kids, but no one is more concerned than you.
  5. Remember, you don’t have to let the child protective services worker in your home unless there’s a warrant served by law enforcement. If they showed up unannounced and your house is a wreck, you can tell them it isn’t a good time. Or, you can just tell them that you’re not comfortable with them coming in. If they ask to see the children, you can have the kids come to a window and look out.
  6. When they leave, make notes of what the child protective services people said and what questions they asked. Make note of the date and time as well. At this point, you might want to start looking for an attorney. Check our resources page to see if there’s low-cost or no-cost legal aid near you.
  7. Call a couple of people you trust and ask if they would be willing to take your children if they are removed by child protective services. Write down their names, addresses, phone numbers (including work numbers), and keep them with the notes you just took. Let them know that you’ve had a visit from child protective services. Even if they left, they could return with law enforcement and a court order to remove your children. Your children could spend less time in the dangerous foster care system if you have a responsible person who can care for them.
  8. Don’t retaliate against whomever you think called. Don’t become hysterical.
  9. Don’t send a follow-up letter, no matter what you’ve read on a Facebook group or websites like fightcps.com. Everything Linda Jo Martin of fighcps.com says is incorrect, dangerously so. If you send a follow-up letter like the one she provides on her website, your children WILL be removed by CPS. Never, ever take the tone she suggests with social services or law enforcement. If you’ve received an unannounced visit from CPS, wait until they contact you before you respond. Sending an impudent letter before you even know what they’ve decided is as arrogant as it is ignorant. There’s no telling how many children had prolonged stays in foster care because their parents took advice from Linda Jo Martin.
  10. Tell your child(ren) you love them and give them a hug.

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