A parent is contacted by CPS with a business card on the door. Not knowing the reason, the parent calls the social worker who left the business card and leaves a message. The social worker calls back and says CPS is investigating the family. What for? The worker won’t say until she meets the parents in person and interviews the kids. This is usually the point in which smart parents contact my office. Here are 3 reasons you should not engage in a social worker meeting without me by your side:
1. You Don’t Know What CPS Is Investigating
You have no idea what CPS is investigating so you have no idea how to answer their questions. An innocent answer could provide a basis in fact to support another conclusion that could be used against you. Similar to when speaking with police, a social worker is gathering evidence to determine if child abuse or neglect has occurred. An attorney should always require the social worker at least provide the factual allegation before the interview. Usually by then I have already analyzed the possible risk factors for the family and can help the parent respond accordingly.
2. You Don’t Know What Questions They Are Going To Ask
Generally, I do. I have handled so many CPS interviews that I have heard all of the basic questions they ask that lead to follow up questions based on your answers. Similarly, I can help identify any risk factors in your family and help you address them before the social worker meeting. The problem that you did not even know was a problem can’t be addressed until you know that it is. My job is to help identify problems and come up with solutions.
3. You May Be a Criminal Suspect of the Police
CPS and the police work together. Your interview with the CPS worker is confidential. However, law enforcement is permitted under Welfare and Institutions Code section 827 to access this confidential information. That means anything you say can be used against you in a criminal case. The goal in a CPS interview is to cooperate to the extent that you can. However, in some cases cooperation is in conflict with the goal in protecting yourself against a criminal charge. My job is to identify when that is the situation and advise you accordingly.
Don’t take the risk of turning a situation that might have resulted into a closed case into a problem for your family. Many cases close when I help prepare families for the CPS interview. Other times, parents refuse to cooperate and the social worker gets a warrant to interview the child and/or remove him or her from the family home. The risks are too great to navigate that situation without legal counsel.