If CPS receives a report of child abuse, they will usually try to make rapid contact with the child or children involved. If the child is old enough to be in school, CPS will go to the school to interview a child without telling you first. Under Michigan law, they can set up this meeting without your knowledge or consent, and school officials have to cooperate. They are obligated to tell you about it after the fact, but will often not tell you what your child said.
CPS protocol is to interview or do "well child" checks on all children in the home, including those children who primarily live with another parent. They will typically interview those other parents as well. As you can imagine, this leads to a lot of custody motions being filed by the parents who are not the focus of the investigation, and it often leads to temporary placement with those parents.
CPS workers will also want to talk to you, but they generally do so on their own schedule. They will often drop in unannounced at your home or workplace and demand to speak with you. Sometimes, they try to arrange joint interviews with law enforcement. It is important for you to understand that, whether the police are there or not, CPS will always share information with law enforcement if the report made to them has the potential of leading to a criminal charge of child abuse. Nothing you tell them about an alleged incident is confidential. Therefore, you should counsel with a good Michigan child abuse lawyer before deciding whether to talk to them at all.
A CPS investigation is supposed to come to a conclusion within 30 days. However, as a practical reality the 30-day deadline means very little. We have seen many investigations drag on much longer and there is no consequence to the agency for creating or allowing delays.
With many investigations, a parent is asked to bring the child to a forensic interview center (often called Children’s Assessment Centers.) These centers are designed to conduct neutral interviews with the goal of getting to the truth. In fact, they are not necessarily neutral. For example, the interview is almost always monitored by a police officer and a prosecuting attorney. Parents and defense attorneys are not permitted to observe. Interviews are supposed to take place in the manner described in the State of Michigan Forensic Interviewing Protocol. While all interviewers and CPS investigators claim to do their interviews in a manner consistent with the Protocol, a close examination of the interview typically reveals defects in the procedure.
A CPS investigation will conclude when the investigator decides whether the allegations are substantiated or unsubstantiated. That conclusion is an opinion as to whether the allegations in the complaint are supported by the evidence, using a standard of preponderance of the evidence. A substantiated allegation can lead to the parent being placed on the DHHS central registry, can result in the filing of a petition to take jurisdiction over the children involved and can fuel a police investigation which results in criminal charges being filed.
If you find yourself under investigation, an important first step is to contact a skilled Michigan child abuse defense attorney right away. At Cronkright Law, our primary goal is to defend parents and childcare professionals and keep families together.