When Out-of-Home Placement is Harmful to a Child
On a daily basis, I get calls from parents complaining that CPS workers took their children away. In many of my cases, I am amazed at the placement recommendations Michigan CPS workers make to a court. It often appears that when a parent is under investigation, the goals that guide the placement decision may not include the best interest of the child. For example, when a parent chooses not to cooperate with CPS or decides to stop cooperating with the investigator, CPS investigators often ask a judge to remove the child from the home. It can be a difficult and traumatic event for children to be taken against their will. When the children find themselves placed in a worse situation, it can be devastating and harmful.
In my practice, I commonly see the following:
- Children are placed with the other parent even when there are horrible conditions in that parent’s home, or when that parent has previously been deemed unfit.
- Relatives of the investigated parent are ignored and the child is placed in the home of relatives of the other parent.
- Children are placed in foster care when willing and able relative caregivers are available.
- Placement with the investigated parent is not seriously considered even when there are adequate safeguards available to assure the welfare of the children.
When Out of Home Placement is Used as Leverage in the Litigation
I don’t know how many cases I have had where CPS objected to placement of children with their own parents unless the parents willingly surrendered jurisdiction of the children to the court. This is very unfair to members of the family. When a family comes into the court system, all of the participants in the system need to be focused on the best interest of the children. DHHS Petitioners want cases to settle and prefer parental pleas to jury trials. When a parent hires a serious defense attorney and announces his/her desire to take the case to trial, CPS workers often dig in their heels and oppose everything the parent asks of the court even if it is a reasonable request. This includes the request to place the children back in the parental home while the case is pending. Interestingly, it is often the case that court settlements include the immediate return of children to the home. When this happens, the CPS Petitioner who testified that the home was unfit in the first place and the children needed to be removed may have to come back and explain to the judge why CPS now approves of in-home placement.
Parents Need an Attorney Who Will Fight for Their Rights
Judges tend to rely heavily on the recommendations of CPS and the Prosecutor. In some ways, this makes sense. There is a good chance that this judge sees the assistant prosecutor and the CPS worker more often than your attorney. Your judge may have followed the recommendations of this CPS worker or prosecutor dozens of times. That’s why your attorney needs to be prepared to represent you as a completely appropriate parent. This requires a significant amount of information sharing before you ever make it into court. The judge in most cases is hearing about your family for the first time. Part of what your attorney needs to accomplish at your first appearance is to introduce the family and its members to the court. When a proposed placement is likely to harm the child, your attorney needs to be ready to present the reasons why to the court.
Cronkright Law Can Help
At Cronkright Law, we defend parents. We recognize that in-home placement is not always possible, but we are strongly opposed to using children as pawns in litigation. The parent-child relationship can be extremely damaged by a forced removal from the parent. Our goal is to keep your children in your home whenever possible.