What You Should Know About Responding to a Child Protective Services Complaint
Maryland Child Protective Services (CPS) is a statewide agency that investigates and enforces allegations of child abuse and neglect throughout Maryland. When a parent or caregiver is reported for suspected abuse or neglect, CPS will take measures to ensure the safety of the child first and foremost, often erring on the side of caution. In most situations, the individuals performing these investigations are acting in good faith for the best interests of the child.
Sadly, these investigations have a way of spiraling out of control and becoming very bureaucratic. Often good parents find themselves losing sleep over investigations and having to jump through countless hoops just to prove they did not harm their child. With this in mind, here are some basic things you should know if you are facing a CPS investigation.
You May Need an Attorney
It’s difficult to say if you always need an attorney for these types of administrative investigations, but if the allegations are serious, you are much better off retaining legal counsel. In many cases, your very right to continue seeing your own child may hang in the balance. It’s best not to take chances.
Steps in the Investigation
It’s important to understand that these are administrative investigations, meaning they are not performed by police or prosecutors. Instead, they are performed by government employees of a state agency. While they have no law enforcement credentials, they do have the power to recommend sweeping actions that can affect you and your family.
Step 1: Screening
The initial report will be evaluated to see if it meets the basic definitions of abuse or child neglect under state law. If it does not meet these definitions, the investigation will generally end there. If the allegations do meet the definitions under state law, then an investigator is assigned to the case. The case will either proceed through a traditional “investigative response” or it will be assigned to an alternative response pathway.
Step 2: Fact Finding
Next, the investigator will look at the facts and perform other tasks, such as interviewing witnesses, reviewing medical records, or performing a home assessment. During this process, the investigator will be looking for any information that either conflicts with allegations or substantiates them.
Step 3: Findings
Finally, upon completing its investigation, CPS will render a “finding,” where a final determination is made regarding abuse and neglect. If CPS finds that abuse or neglect is present, they may make recommendations regarding the removal of children from the home or in severe cases, they may refer the matter to the local prosecutor for criminal charges.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you are facing an investigation, an attorney can help you form a response to the allegations against you and look for ways to reduce your chances of error. If a negative finding has already been rendered, an attorney can help you appeal the decision to the agency in order to disprove the allegations and refute their findings.
With decades of experience helping families in crisis, the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. are here to help. Call or visit us online to schedule a private consultation with a Maryland attorney today.