San Diego CPS Lawyer
Your Best Line of Defense
Did CPS contact your child at school? Did CPS leave a card for you at home or work asking for an immediate call back? Did CPS show up at the hospital after your child was injured?
As a parent, you are entitled to specific rights for your child, and we can help inform you of those rights. We have over 15 years of experience assisting parents in a variety of CPS-related situations, including representation during investigations, and defense in court if and when charges are filed. With an emphasis on personal, undivided attention, you will know you are in good hands.
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Allegations of child abuse, mistreatment, and neglect are often times blindsiding as the idea of being the target of such accusations is a thought that never crosses most parents’ minds. However, widespread public awareness and society’s heightened sensitivity to the issue of child abuse have led to massive waves of well-meaning but unfounded reports, putting even the most loving and caring parents at risk of becoming the subjects of a state investigation.
What is Child Protective Services?
Child Protective Services is a government agency charged with investigating allegations of child abuse, mistreatment, and neglect. Allegations can come from almost any source, including concerned citizens as well as teachers, child care workers, psychiatrists and therapists, who are legally required to report any suspected or admitted instances of child injury or abuse to authorities.
The CPS Process for Response and Removal of a Child
If a report of child abuse is deemed credible, an Emergency Response social worker is assigned to conduct an in-person investigation of the referral. Referrals deemed emergencies are investigated within 24 hours of the report. Otherwise, an investigation will occur within 10 days. During the intake investigation, the social worker will examine the home and conduct interviews with the parents, child, family, friends, etc., to determine whether there is any evidence that substantiates the allegations.
When the Emergency Response social worker feels that there is a substantial likelihood that the child faces continued physical and/or emotional danger in the household and parents are unable to protect them, the law permits CPS agencies and law enforcement to immediately remove children from the home and place them in protective custody for up to 72 hours. A petition alleging child abuse or neglect must be filed within two days of removal, and a detention hearing must be held no later than the end of the next court day after the petition is filed.
Parents and guardians are entitled to a trial on all allegations of child abuse or neglect charged against them in the petition. Known as a jurisdictional hearing, parents can invoke the right to have this trial held within 15 court days of a detention hearing if the child is detained, or within 30 days of the date the petition was filed if the child remains in the home.
When a petition is sustained at the jurisdictional level, the next phase is a dispositional hearing. The hearing is usually conducted on the same day and immediately following the jurisdictional hearing, though it may be continued for up to 10 days if the child remains detained pending the hearing, and up to 30 days if the child remains in the home.
At the dispositional hearing, the court determines whether or not to declare the child a dependent. If the child is adjudicated a dependent, the court then addresses the issues of child placement and reunification services. The CPS worker will submit a case plan outlining the necessary actions a parent must take to resolve the problems that warranted CPS and court intervention. The case plan will include a list of services requiring the parent’s active participation, and it must be specifically tailored to the needs of a family in order to promote successful reunification.
What follows afterward will be a series of status reviews that determine whether the parents have followed the case plan and are therefore capable of retaining custody of the child. These happen in six-month intervals, up to 18 months. If the circumstances do not warrant continued reunification planes, a 366.26 hearing will be held to select a permanent option for the child.
Afterward, post-permanency hearings will be held every six months to determine whether progress is being made to find the child a permanent home. These hearings will continue until the child is adopted, a permanent guardianship is established, the case is dismissed, or the child turns 18 years of age.
How Will CPS Make Contact?
CPS will often be called to your house and will leave a business card on your door to alert you that an investigation is underway. If CPS is called to your child’s school they are not required to call you. Parents will often act harshly when they find out that CPS talked to their children without their consent, and this could hurt their reputation in the investigation. Another common location CPS will make contact is in hospitals. Hospitals are required to call and report any suspicious injuries and whoever is on duty will immediately come to the hospital to talk to you and your children.
What Should You Do If Contacted By CPS?
Regardless of where CPS first makes contact, their initial and primary purpose is to take statements while the parent/child is in a state of trauma, regardless of whether any actual trauma was suffered. While in panic mode due to CPS being involved, parents are not always in a proper state of mind to give proper statements. This could ultimately implicate the parents in wrongdoing.
It is important to consult a lawyer before talking to CPS social worker. Your response can affect whether CPS removes your child from your home and files charges or closes the investigation without any further adverse consequences. The interviews are not recorded so if there are any mistakes in the social worker’s report, it will be their word against yours in front of the judge. Having an attorney who can take notes of your statements will help prevent inaccuracies, giving you a proper record of your interactions with CPS.
What Are My Rights with Child Protective Services?
Regardless of whether or not your child was removed from your home, you are nonetheless entitled to rights regarding your offspring.
- If CPS has removed your child and placed them in a different temporary shelter, it is your legal right to visit your child unless a court order states that you cannot visit.
- You child cannot be removed from your care if you are homeless – but if your homelessness contributes to the child’s abuse and neglect, your child may be removed from you.
- If you have any complaints about your social worker, you are entitled to voice your concerns – first with your social worker. If your concerns haven’t been adequately addressed, you can contact the social worker’s supervisor, or Child Welfare Services manager. If there are still issues that have not been resolved, you may file a complaint in writing to the Health and Human Service Agency.
- Only the police and social workers from Child Welfare Services may remove your child if they believe he or she is being abused or neglected. If you are not present at the time, they will notify you as soon as you are located.
- You have a right to hire your own attorney to safeguard your right and represent you in your efforts to regain custody and control of your child.
- If your child has been removed from custody, the social workers are required to first look for family members for temporary placement. You have a right to encourage interested relatives or family friends to request placement under their supervision.
- If the social worker does not place your child with your relatives, your relatives have the right to appeal that decision.
Retaining the services of a qualified CPS attorney, such as George H. Ramos, are well-versed in a parents’ rights during the CPS process, and can answer any other questions regarding your abilities.
Get the Help You Need to Keep Your Family Together
George Ramos is one of only a handful of San Diego attorneys recognized in CPS courts as qualified to represent charged parents. He has successfully handled multiple CPS and dependency cases throughout his legal career and has an extensive background in both child abuse cases, both physical and emotional, as a city prosecutor. CPS cases are very complicated and specialized. Not all attorneys have the experience and knowledge required to specialize in these cases.
In a recent case, bilingual CPS attorney George Ramos had a client that CPS, County Counsel, and Minor’s Counsel all recommended should not receive services and should lose legal custody of her 3 minor sons due to this case being the 3rd court case against her. She was deemed a lost cause who could not provide a safe home for her children and not worthy of services. George Ramos was able to contest the recommendation and tried the case. The judge agreed with attorney Ramos’s defense and he won the unwinnable case allowing the mother to reunite with her children.