Category Archive: Children’s Services

HELP! CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES CALLED

Learn what to do when Child Protective Services calls, comes to your door, or pays your child a visit at school.

A Child Protective Service worker (CPS) called or left a card and wants to speak with you. What should I do? What do they want? Are they going to take my children away from me? You get on the Internet and do some research. You read horror story after horror story from parents about dealing with CPS. Some attorneys advise you not to talk with CPS and do not let them in your house. You may already have a family law attorney on a dissolution of marriage case and call them. They tell you don’t talk to CPS. Let the marriage dissolution judge determine custody.

I get these type calls frequently. I have been an attorney for 46 years and have been handling CPS cases for 42 years. If someone has made a call to a CPS hotline or a referral to the hotline has been made of suspected child abuse or child neglect, CPS is mandated to investigate. Depending on the risk level of the referral, they do it immediately or may wait 5 or more days to make the first contact. The job of a CPS worker is to do an investigation to determine if a child/children are at risk for child abuse or child neglect in the home. They will want to speak with the parents. They want to see the inside of the home. They make a quick assessment: does the home appear appropriate for minors? Is it clean? Is there sufficient good food in the refrigerator? Are there things observable in the home that could cause danger to the child? For example, if the CPS worker observed drugs in plain view they would be very concerned. If you have a marijuana card, where do you keep your marijuana? Is it safely kept away from the reach of children in the home? They do an assessment of the parent. Do they seem to be under the influence of drugs? Are they cooperative? Can we trust and work with this parent to make sure their kids are kept safe while we conduct our investigation? Will they take a drug test? They will have likely already talked to school-age children at their school without your knowledge about what is going on in the home. Call and consult with an attorney who has a lot of an experience working on CPS cases. If you do not know who to call, contact your local Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service for the name of an attorney to call. You will probably be able to at least get a free phone consultation.

When parents call for advice, I make an assessment of their living circumstances. I inquire about any vices they might have that might be considered a huge concern for the parents with CPS. I counsel parents how to interact with the CPS worker. In most cases, I advise the caller to permit the CPS worker into their home. I want the parents to show the CPS worker they are and will be cooperative. They will agree to a temporary Safety Plan should one be offered. They will cooperate with classes, drug treatment, and counseling should that be recommended. They will get appropriate counseling and medical help for their children should that be recommended. If I believe the continued placement of the kids with one or both of the parents is at risk, I immediately inquire about family members available to temporarily take the children until the CPS investigation is complete. I might advise one parent to leave the home temporarily if I believe that will allow CPS to leave the children with the other parent if their has been domestic violence or one parent is accused of sexual or serious child abuse to one of the children.

I tell parents the worst thing they can do is be aggressive, rude, or threatening to CPS workers. Do not tell them to go away. I encourage them to speak with the CPS worker and be cooperative. The CPS worker has a job to do. Their job is to see your children are not in a risky situation that could cause danger to your child. If the matter ends up in court, the CPS worker will put in her report how the parents were rude and aggressive towards them. The CPS worker will denigrate the parent in their report to the court. You will want the court to return your children temporarily to your home while the proceedings continue. The judge needs to know you can work with CPS and the attorneys on the case. I would much rather have the court report read the parent was cooperative. They were willing to agree to a Safety Plan. (Read my blog on Safety Plans.  Child Welfare Service Safety Plans Can Be Good, Deceptive or Deadly ) Be careful of agreeing to a change in custody of your child to the other parent or to temporary placement if you believe the allegations of abuse or neglect are not true or not that serious. Will the other parent immediately go into Family Court and ask for an immediate change in custody? Can you trust the other parent? In such cases, you may want the matter to go to court and litigate the false allegations or show the court your children are safe with you. Juvenile Court is mandated to provide reunification services to parents.

Juvenile court proceedings take precedence over Family Court proceedings. The fact that a Family Court judge is considering custody or has made a custody order is not controlling with CPS or the Juvenile Court judges. If there are criminal charges filed, the criminal court can issue a Criminal Protective Order which takes precedence even over a Juvenile Court custody order. However, if the Juvenile Court judge has granted visitation or temporary placement of your child/children with you, that can be pointed out to the criminal judge and they will likely follow what the Juvenile Court judge has ordered.

FINANCIAL HELP FOR ADOPTED GRANDCHILDREN WHO WERE NOT PREVIOUSLY FOSTER CHILDREN

Financial assistance for adopted grandchildren.

This blog is directed to grandparents who have adopted one or more of their grandchildren or step-grandchildren who were not previously foster children. If they were foster children prior to adoption, please review our blog entitled Financial Help for Adopted Foster Youth.

If grandparents have adopted their grandchildren, the grandchildren may be eligible for Social Security benefits if one of the grandparents has applied for Social Security benefits.

Social Security will pay benefits to grandchildren when a grandparent retires, becomes disabled, or dies if certain conditions apply:
(1) the grandchild be legally adopted by the grandparent(s);
(2) in addition, the grandchild must have begun living with a grandparent before age 18; (3) received at least one half of his or her support from the grandparent for the year before the month grandparent became entitled to retirement. If a year has not passed or the baby or the grandchild was born during the year, the grandparent should consult with Social Security as to when they can first claim benefits for the grandchild.

For example, if the adoptive grandparent with the most Social Security benefits gets $2000 a month, a grandchild is entitled to approximately 50% of that amount per month.

Your adopted grandchildren can collect benefits if they are unmarried and younger than 18 years old, or between 18 and 19 years old and a full-time secondary school student, or age 18 or older and severely disabled. The disability must have started before age 22.

If there is more than one adopted grandchild, the benefit amount for the adopted grandchildren is subject to the limits of the family allowance. Family allowance is generally equal to about 150% to 180% of the grandparent’s Social Security benefit

Grandparents who have a legal guardianship of their grandchildren and the grandchildren were not previous foster children are entitled to claim welfare benefits for their grandchildren. The income and assets of the grandparents are not a bar to collecting welfare for their grandchildren when they have a legal guardianship..

Family members that can collect Social Security benefits include a widow or widower who is 60 or older, or is 50 or older and disabled, or is any age if he or she is caring for your child who is younger than 16 or disabled and entitled to associate Social Security benefits on your record.

A very helpful website which explains all the possible Social Security benefits is:
www. socialsecurity.gov

A DAUGHTER IS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED: THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES PART 3

Part 3 of a child sexual molestation story.

This is part 3 in this series, if you haven’t already you are invited to read part 1 and part 2.

On December 3, 1990, approximately a year and a half after the assault on their daughter, the father was charged with two felony counts of lewd act upon a child. To each count were added allegations of personally inflicting great bodily injury upon his daughter. It was also alleged he had occupied a special position of trust with his daughter and did have substantial sexual conduct with her. The father faced lengthy prison time.

The father was in the Navy and with the help of family and friends was able to bail out of jail. He was referred to an experienced criminal and juvenile defense attorney. He called the attorney on the weekend and the attorney met with the parents that same evening. The parents told the attorney they believed their daughter was brainwashed by her therapist. They also described how the father was denied any visits with his daughter. The mother’s supervised visits were terminated with her daughter prior to the recent allegations being made against the father. They also described how the Department of Social Services was recommending their parental rights be terminated and their daughter freed to be adopted by her foster parents. The attorney recalled a case he handled in Juvenile Court where he firmly believed the therapist for the two minor daughters had brainwashed them into making allegations against their father.

The attorney appeared on behalf of the father in the criminal case. He substituted in as the attorney for the father in the Juvenile Court proceedings. An acquittal of the father in his criminal case would not necessarily stop the Juvenile Court from freeing their daughter for adoption because of the different standards of proof needed to establish guilt and terminate parental rights.

The attorney hired a very experienced investigator. The parents told the attorney they had heard stories from some of their neighbors in the Navy housing complex where they lived that a man had molested some of the neighbor girls. They did not know his name. The police reports and the juvenile case reports did not disclose the name of a man who had molested other young girls in the same Navy housing project where the family lived. From his interviews, the investigator was finally able to get a name for the man who had molested the other girls.

The attorney reviewed the file from his previous case where he believed the therapist had brainwashed the two minor daughters into making sexual abuse allegations against their father. It was the same therapist. A Juvenile Court judge granted the attorney’s request to view the therapist’s records. After viewing them, the attorney had a strong belief the therapist had brainwashed the daughter into making allegations against her father.

At the preliminary hearing in criminal court, the daughter was called to testify. The foster mother who wanted to adopt her was allowed to stand by her side while she testified. The father was present with his attorney. The 8-year-old girl described to the court how her father had assaulted her and told her not to tell. She told the court her father told her to make up the story about a man taking her out of the window, taking her to a car, sexually assaulting her and returning her to her home through the window. The court heard the evidence and held the father over for trial on the charges. The attorney was able to convince the court, based on the investigation they were conducting, to allow the father to remain out of custody on his bail bond while he awaited trial. At the time of the preliminary hearing it was not disclosed to the defense in the police reports or disclosed by Social Services or their attorneys that on May 13, 1989, approximately 4 days after the sexual assault on their daughter, another young girl was taken out of the window of her home at a different Navy housing complex, taken to a phone booth and sexually assaulted by a man.

The father was set for trial on his criminal charges. The Department of Social Services and their attorneys were moving rapidly to have the parents parental rights terminated and the daughter freed for adoption.

To be continued

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CHILD WELFARE SERVICE SAFETY PLANS CAN BE GOOD, CAN BE DECEPTIVE, OR CAN BE DEADLY

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When a child abuse report is made to the Child Abuse Hotline an emergency services worker is assigned to investigate the referral.  Depending on the threat level reported it might be an immediate visit to your home or a visit that takes place several days later.  The emergency protective worker (CPS) can, after investigating, leave your child in your custody but ask you to sign and agree to a Safety Plan.  If you don’t agree to the Safety Plan you are told they will most probably initiate a child dependency case in juvenile court and your children will be taken from your home.

Safety Plans Can Be Good

For example, the police are called to a home because of reported domestic violence between the parents.  There are minor children in the home.  They may or may not have witnessed the incident(s) between the parents.  The father was arrested and taken to jail.  He may face criminal charges.  The Child Protective Services (CPS) worker will want to make sure the father, if he bails out of custody, does not return to the home and further violence take place.  The mother may be requested to get a Family Court restraining order against her husband.  The mother will be told there can be no visits by the father with the children until some form of supervised visitation can be arranged and those visits cannot supervised by mother.  Mother is told the Safety Plan is for 30 days.  In the above scenario the alleged abusive parent could have been the wife.  These types of scenarios, whether for domestic violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, someone else in the home causing violence, sex and physical abuse allegations, or mental health concerns, play out on a daily basis in our communities.  As a general rule, if the police are called to the home and there are minor children in the home that might potentially be at risk a child abuse referral will be made by the police to the local CPS agency.

Safety Plans Can Be Deceptive

In the above scenario, if the mother agreed to the Safety Plan the children will  remain with her for the time being.  What the mother is not told is the plan she signed is a Temporary Safety Plan. CPS has no intention of walking away from this family at the end of 30 days. Safety Plans generally are for six months and depending on the progress of the family can be re-initiated for another six months.  If the family refuses to sign up for another six months, the CPS agency is likely to start juvenile dependency proceedings in the local Juvenile Court and allege your children are at risk in your home and most likely try to have them removed.

The first CPS worker to come to the home is an emergency response worker.  They will turn your case over to another CPS worker who will then start the interview and evaluation process all over again.  If the second CPS worker and their supervisors are okay with the initial Safety Plan, they will have the family sign a second Safety Plan.  This second Safety Plan document will not have anything on it saying it is for 30 days.

Safety Plans Can Be Deadly If Violated

A number of families are lulled into believing that once the 30 days of the initial Safety Plan have passed that the family can reunite and everything is the same as it was before.  WRONG!  Because CPS workers don’t reside in your home they want to make sure you are abiding by the terms and intent of the Safety Plan.  As soon as they see you are violating the terms or intent of the plan, they can stop the process, take your children, report to the court you were offered a Safety Plan and that you intentionally violated it.  You say the 30 days had passed, nobody specifically told me my husband, wife, son, or whomever was asked to leave, could not return home so I let them back in the home.  You will be told you should have known better so too bad.  You are told another CPS worker would be contacting you.  Without waiting to be contacted, you should contact CPS to ask what you should do. They will say you let the offending parent or other person back in the home or allowed them to visit the children when you were told they could not.  We cannot trust you or your judgment.

What Should A Parent Do?

1.  You want to keep custody of your children.  Co-operate with and agree to the Safety Plan.  Abide by the conditions no matter how unfair you think they may be.  Don’t be fooled into thinking the Safety Plan is only for 30 days.  Until a CPS worker tells you it is allowed, do not start allowing something you agreed not to do.  If you lose temporary custody of your kids to CPS and the Court, you could end up losing them for good.  If you cannot reach your CPS worker or have not heard from one since the initial visit, call the CPS office.  Talk to a CPS Supervisor to find out whose is assigned to your case and what you should do.

2.  Consult with an experienced lawyer who deals with these kinds of cases.  Call your local Lawyer/Attorney Referral Service and get a recommendation for a lawyer(s).  Generally they will do a brief free consultation with you on the phone.  Until the case gets to court you will not have the services of an appointed lawyer/public defender to assist you.  Many CPS workers will tell you if the matter gets to court there are court assigned lawyers who can help you.  The most crucial time for help is when you get that first visit from a social worker and sign that initial Safety Plan.  You desperately need good advice as to how you should proceed with CPS.

3.  Safety Plans can be modified as you and your family progress in services.  Seek consultation with an experienced lawyer to assist in trying to get the plan modified.  CPS has guidelines for their workers as to how to handle specific types of cases.  They can be rigid, onerous and seem very unfair to many parents.  In many domestic violence cases, the parents are told they must split up, get a restraining order, have no contact between them, and the father/mother cannot visit the children unless CPS or someone they choose supervises the visits.  Parents without legal consultation think their situations do not warrant such burdensome/unfair conditions and sneak visits.  CPS will find out.  They will then take your kids and you will have a much steeper uphill battle getting them back.  Far too many cases, when parents violate the Safety Plans, end up with the parents losing their parental rights and their kids being put up for adoption.  Don’t be fooled by misinformation or taking too lightly what is being required of you.

SAY NO TO “SPARE THE ROD, SPOIL THE CHILD”

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The purpose of our blogs is to relate our experiences with cases we regularly see in the child protection system, juvenile courts and criminal courts. We attempt to provide guidance and information to assist you and your family into leading good, productive lives and to staying away from the juvenile and criminal courts.

If you do use a “rod”, i.e. a belt, brush, paddle, switch, or extension cord, to discipline your child, you will eventually end up having child protection workers taking your child and their siblings and the police investigating you for child abuse. How will they know? Every mandated child abuse reporter in the country such as nurses, doctors, daycare workers, teachers, counselors, YMCA workers are required to report any evidence of suspected child abuse. A mark on your child such as a bruise which indicates your child was spanked will cause that referral. I can guarantee that you will have a child protection worker within days interviewing your child/children at their school or at your home as to every phase of discipline used at home and every phase of your life at home. It is likely your child/children will be removed from their home by the child protection worker and put into a receiving home. An immediate referral will also be made to the police and they will investigate to determine if criminal charges should be filed against you.

Perhaps you attended a parenting seminar and a well-known  parenting expert told you to apply a “rod” of choice to discipline your young child–a belt, paddle, or switch–“severely” such that the event is never forgotten by the child. You may also have heard, “don’t use your hand to spank your child; that is what you love your child with.” You are further told to continue your spanking until the child is crying softly, indicating true repentance. If you have attended such a parenting seminar you know exactly what I am talking about. Doesn’t the Bible say, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”? According to John Rosemond, author of a must-read book To Spank or Not to Spank, that phrase is not actually in the Bible. Reference to the phrase “use the rod” is found in Proverbs 13:24 (He who spares his rod, hates his son,/But he who loves him disciplines him diligently”) and Proverbs 23:13 (Do not hold back discipline from the child,/Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die”). John Rosemond explains in his book how these phrases should not be taken literally but are metaphors to be interpreted as a symbol of parental authority.

The law permits parents to use physical discipline but not “excessive punishment.” What is considered “excessive.” Social workers, child abuse doctors, and juvenile court judges will tell you leaving bruises or marks is excessive. They will say “you need to learn not to use physical discipline.” Just because you and I were disciplined this way and we believe it worked effectively, doesn’t count in the year 2013 or beyond. Most seven or eight-year olds and older know that they can report you for child abuse.

What is a parent to do when they have tried timeouts and other non-physical means of disciplining their young children and it is not working? What about the seven or eight year old who keeps getting referrals from school for misbehavior and will not change his or her ways? I recommend the following 3 things:

1. Read John K. Rosemond’s book To Spank or Not to Spank. It can be purchased on Amazon or found in most public libraries.

2. The safest thing to do and probably the best for your family is to find a therapist who specializes in Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT). These therapists don’t recommend spanking. We have received very good feedback from parents who have used this type therapist. I realize in many communities you will not have therapists who specialize in PCIT therapy. Then get a therapist on board for your child. Seek their guidance in your discipline techniques. You can then tell the child protection workers and police officers that you are following their advice. Make sure it is not one of the “spare the rod, spoil the child” type therapists. Despite my being physically disciplined when I was young, my children never received any demonstrative physical discipline other than a poke from my wife when they got out of line. They are professional, well-adjusted adults and great citizens.

3. Read the advice posted on our website by Jeffrey Selzer, M.D., a pediatric specialist in San Diego, CA, on “Punishment for Wrong Behaviors.” Go to our website JuvenileLawCenter.com and find it under Resources. I am not aware of any publication by child protection agencies or prosecution agencies outlining what is and what is not permissible physical punishment. Dr Selzer emphasizes not using a “rod”; use your hand and do not give any more than 2 swats to his/her bottom and not on the bare skin.