When domestic violence touches your life, things can become confusing and scary pretty quick. Whether it’s your choice or not, Child Protective Services (CPS) may become involved and begin their own investigation, which will be independent of what is happening in the criminal or family law courts.
It’s vital that survivors of domestic violence in Washington State understand their rights when an agency like this steps in. CPS investigators are looking out for the best interests of your child, but they are not allowed to violate your legal rights. Here is what you need to know about CPS investigations in Washington State if you are the survivor of domestic violence.
The Rules that CPS Investigators Must Follow
It’s tough to know if social workers and investigators are following the rules if you don’t know what they are. In domestic violence cases, these investigators have a specific guide that they follow. You can view and download a copy of it here.
When CPS Becomes Involved in Your Life
CPS can receive a referral from a variety of sources. Sometimes it’s from law enforcement after they’ve been called out to a home on a domestic violence call. Other times, a call might come in from a concerned physician, family member, friend, or teacher. CPS doesn’t follow up on every call, but many prompt a CPS investigator to make a visit to confirm that the child is safe.
As a parent, you do not have the right to prevent an investigator from confirming the safety of your child. However, you do have the right to request that the investigator adheres to all guidelines, policies, and laws that are meant to ensure your child’s safety.
You also don’t have the right to know who made the report of domestic violence or to insist on being present for any interviews with your child. However, you can take your child for an independent examination, such as with a physician or psychologist.
When CPS Asks You About Domestic Violence
If there was domestic violence between yourself and your spouse, this does not necessarily qualify as child abuse or neglect. While it might be emotionally painful for your child to witness some of these events, the acts themselves aren’t evidence of a crime against the child. That doesn’t mean, however, that the child is not in danger of being unintentionally harmed in this type of situation.
If CPS asks about domestic violence in the home, you have the right to decide whether you will discuss this. According to CPS policy, they will ask you about this, and they also have access to police and court records as well as past CPS filings. If the investigator believes that there is a threat to the children, they will conduct a “domestic violence assessment.”
Keeping Your Children Safe from Abuse
The goal of CPS is to keep your children safe from abuse, but you and the agency might have different ideas about the best way to accomplish this. CPS investigators are supposed to work with the parent to create a reasonable safety plan to keep children from harm. This may or may not involve your filing for a DV Protective Order.
In some cases, the CPS investigator will conclude that removing the children from the home is the best way to keep them safe. If this happens, you have the right to full disclosure about their concerns and should be able to suggest a safe alternative, such as family or friends, while you make necessary adjustments.
At AB Law, we are fierce legal advocates for the victims of domestic violence and their children. Through no fault of your own, a CPS investigation could lead to your children being removed from your home. If this is something you’re currently facing, having an experienced family law attorney in your corner could make a difference in your outcome.