Child Protective Services
Child Protective Services (CPS) is a State agency responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse. CPS is contacted when anyone makes a report that a child has been hurt. CPS investigates allegations of physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, inappropriate contact between siblings, and any other circumstance that potentially poses a risk or a danger to a child. If CPS is convinced there is an ongoing risk of harm they can remove your child from your home. If this occurs, CPS may ask a Judge, through a Dependency Petition to remove your child and set conditions before your child can return home. Parents and CPS may not agree about where your child should be placed until things are sorted out. Michele will ensure your voice is heard in this difficult process.
If CPS contacts you about speaking to you or your child you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can help navigate this organization and advise you of your options. Any statements made to CPS are not confidential and can be used as a basis to remove your child from your home or in support of filing criminal charges. Working successfully with CPS requires a balance of strong advocacy and cooperation. Through her years of working with CPS, Michele has developed an approach that will help prepare you for a CPS investigation and shield you and your child from the potential negative consequences. Acting proactively with an attorney to find an alternative home for your child or creating a Safety Plan can mitigate the consequences of a CPS investigation.
Allegations of Child Abuse
When someone reports that a family member is hurting a child in the home, CPS will investigate and make a determination about whether the family members can continue to live together safely. These allegations can become criminal charges and it is very common to have a parallel CPS and criminal investigation occurring at the same time. If the alleged conduct is physical abuse a criminal Domestic Violence referral could be made. If the alleged conduct is sexual, a criminal referral for a Sex Offense is possible. Both these types of offenses can have very severe consequences. Washington’s Mandatory Reporting Law requires medical professionals, teachers, caregivers, counselors, therapists, and others to report suspicions of child abuse. Because reporting is mandatory and can result in criminal charge for a mandatory reporter who fails to report child abuse, these reports can often be baseless or the result of false information.
Children Accused of Sex Offenses
If a report has been made that one of your children has had inappropriate contact with another child, CPS may investigate to determine whether the accused child can continue to live in your home with other children. If your child is referred for criminal charges, the Juvenile Court will also have concerns about the accused child being near other children. A good plan, called a Safety Plan can help convince CPS and a Judge that your child should stay in your home. Michele’s detailed approached to safety plans has helped many families stay together during these difficult investigations. A Safety Plan requires parents and children to follow strict rules which may include Line of Sight Supervision to ensure that the accused child does not have unsupervised access to young children.
Complex Family Structures
Many families have unique structures and custody arrangements. Michele specializes in working with families of all types and is very capable of facilitating a cohesive approach. Michele is also experienced defending parents where allegations arise from custody disputes or discord within blended families. Michele has worked with many parents of foster or adopted children who experienced sexual abuse prior to living with their current family. It is not uncommon for these children to offend against other children or make allegations against adults when they have not been treated for the sexual abuse they experienced. In cases where children make allegation against their parents, CPS will investigate and make a determination about whether the allegations are founded or unfounded. These allegations can have implications for employment, licensing, and potentially result in criminal charges.
If CPS believes a child has been abused or neglected or is at risk for harm, CPS can bring a petition in court to ask that the child be removed from the home. The petition can request that the child be removed for a short period of time or, in extreme cases, permanently. Once a Dependency Petition is filed, a parent has the obligation to follow court orders regarding the child’s living arrangements, visitation by the parent, and to complete treatment services ordered by the Judge. The Court will review the case every few months to determine whether the child can be safely returned to the home. The Court’s goal is to determine the best interest of the child and ensure that parents follow through with services as determined by the Court.