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How to Protect Your Child During a CPS Investigation

by | Dec 29, 2020 | Child Protective Services (CPS ), NY

Knock, knock. 

Someone is at the door and to your surprise, it’s an agent from Child Protective Services (CPS). They claim that someone has reported the abuse or neglect of your child and that they’re there to conduct an investigation. The agent asks you to let them into your home; the investigation starts now and they’re allowed to look at anything they want in the best interests of the child.

What do you do?

You should know that CPS typically has an agenda when investigating allegations of abuse. Instead of evaluating all available facts, agents are looking for evidence that supports the allegations of the person that initially reported to the agency.

Here’s the critical information you need if you’re involved in a CPS investigation.


Understand What CPS Is and Isn’t Legally Allowed to Do 

It’s critical that you have a good understanding of what Child Protective Services is and isn’t legally allowed to do when they are investigating a claim of child abuse or neglect in someone’s home. If you’re not aware of where the CPS agent’s boundaries are, you may unknowingly allow them to collect information they can manipulate and use against you.

Child Protective Services Can:

Visit Your Home 

CPS has the right to come to your home and request a conversation with you. However, this can and should take place outside; you should never allow a CPS agent into your home unless ordered by a judge to do so.

Interview and Examine Your Child 

CPS can request to interview and physically examine your child for signs of abuse and/or neglect directly related to the allegation against you. For example, if you are accused of physically abusing your child in anger, it would be unreasonable that CPS could request a sexual abuse examination.

Interview and Examine Other Children in the Home 

CPS can also interview and examine any other children living with you in the home, again, in a manner that is specifically related to the activity for which you are being accused.

Child Protective Services Cannot: 

Conduct an Investigation Without Specific Allegations 

You have a right to be informed of the allegations made against you. Remember that “child abuse” and “neglect” are broad categories and not specific accusations. The agent must inform you of what exactly you are under investigation for.

CPS cannot legally investigate you if the allegations sounds like this:

“We received a call from your child’s teacher that they are being neglected.” 

This leaves the definition of neglect in this case open to the CPS agent’s personal interpretation.

Instead, the accusations must be specific:

“We received a report from your child that there is not enough food in the home and that they go for extended periods without eating while in your care.” 

Enter Your Home 

A CPS agent cannot enter your home without your permission if they do not have a court order to do so. However, if you do allow them into your home, anything they can plainly see can be used as evidence against you. For example, a messy house can be exaggerated and used to support claims of neglect. It’s typically in your best interest to speak with the agent on your porch or otherwise outside of your home.

Interview Children Alone

While CPS does have the right to interview your child, ask questions about the allegations, and examine your child for signs of abuse, they cannot do so while they are alone with the child. You have the right to request that you or your representative be present in the room at the time your child is being questioned by the agent.

Decline the Recording of a Child Interview 

You have the right to record on audio or video the agent’s interview with your child. Sometimes, CPS will bring a camera or audio device and initiate recording on their own. If they don’t, you should take the initiative to conduct an audio or video recording yourself. The agent cannot decline to be recorded if they wish to continue with the interview of your child.

When to Contact an Experienced Long Island Family Lawyer

If you’ve received any communication from Child Protective Services, you should consult with an experienced Long Island family attorney right away. At Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C., we can help you navigate the challenges of a CPS investigation. Call now for a consultation at 631-923-1910.


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About the Author

Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., Founding Partner, Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C.

  • Over 20 years practicing matrimonial law
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  • Founder and Partner of Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C.
  • Experienced and compassionate Long Island Divorce Attorney, Family Law Attorney, and Divorce Mediator
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  • International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
  • Graduate of Hofstra University School of Law
  • Double Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy, Politics & Law and History from SUNY Binghamton University
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