Interviewing Children in CPS Investigations

Part of a CPS investigation often includes interviewing the child who is the subject of the potential abuse.

The agency responsible for assessing or investigating reports of child maltreatment has the authority to interview the child, the person or persons responsible for the child’s care, the alleged perpetrator, and any other person with knowledge of the abuse or neglect for the purpose of gathering the facts, assessing safety and risk to the child, and formulating a plan.

It is important to note that a parent’s consent is not necessary prior to the interview of the suspected victim of child abuse. However, while not typical practice, there is no bar to having an attorney present during an interview with CPS. Some counties requires that an Assistant County Attorney also be present during the investigative or assessment interview if a parent, for example, has his/her own attorney present.

Failure to cooperate with the interview process can impact the result of the investigation or assessment.

For example, when a mother was provided an opportunity to meet with a social worker for a face-to-face interview but the mother’s attorney canceled the appointment, the CPS social worker made a determination that the son had been maltreated (based on the rest of her investigation minus the interview).  There the CPS social worker satisfied any statutory requirement to provide the mother with opportunity to make a statement prior to making the determination that the son was maltreated.

If you are involved with a CPS investigation, here is what a family law attorney can potentially assist you with:

  1. Understanding and explaining the legal process and practical risks
  2. Considering whether to involve juvenile law attorney or criminal defense attorney
  3. Assessing and advising on how to interact with investigators and/or professionals involved
  4. Accompanying clients to interviews or explaining processes to clients prior to interview;
  5. Advising as to potential risks/benefits of CPS involvement, services, and timelines involved if:
    1. Maltreatment is determined and there is an appeal
    2. Child is removed from home on 72 hour hold or per EPC hearing in juvenile court; or
    3. CHIPS case is filed
  6. Advocate for voluntary access of community support services or for services CPS can provide to support family and/or prevent an out of home placement.