Never thought you had very much to worry about? After all, you always thought of yourself to be an average parent. Unfortunately, most parents are completely unaware of the growing threat to their family autonomy from Child Protective Services.
When they call or show up at your door it can be quite a shock. They ask for an appointment to visit you and the children. It is to be a visit solely to follow up on a phone call they had received from a concerned neighbor. It would only take a few minutes. Most people agree to let CAS come to their home and to ask some questions of them. With little hesitancy because, after all, they are good parents and have nothing to worry about. Then the CAS show up with two law enforcement officers with a warrant to enter the premises and take their children for some questioning. Sound absurd?
Unfortunately, CAS has greatly increased the number of cases they are handling. And as many parents soon discover, homeschoolers, imigrants, disabled, and religious people are by no means exempt. In fact, these people have become more and more widespread cases for the CAS. So what should a parent do when placed in a situation like this? First, we recommend that the parent contact a private attorney to provide them immediate legal counsel. Second, the following method, however cumbersome, almost always effectively circumvents tragedy from occurring.
Assuming CAS calls beforehand to set up an appointment, the parent should not lose their friendly demeanor or sound defensive. Parents need to ask why CAS feels the need to visit with them or their children, and then the parent should make sure that they have plenty of time to take their children for a private medical exam beforehand. Parents must not simply hang-up or refuse to cooperate. CAS only needs a "reasonable suspicion" of child abuse (physical or emotional) to temporarily seize children. Consequently, the goal is to negate that reasonable suspicion before CAS has an opportunity to either visit with or take the children. But how?
The parent should immediately have their child physically examined by a private physician. The physician should be very thorough in their exam so that he or she can immediately write a letter stating that no bruises, marks, or health concerns were found on the child that in any way would create any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. (If it is at all possible in the parent's mind that emotional abuse may be alleged, then the parent should have the child questioned by a child psychiatrist and have a similar report prepared immediately.) It is best to explain that you are concerned about a possible child custody issue and need the reports for that. Do not under any circumstances mention that the reports are for CAS.
After the parent receives these written reports, the parent should send copies via certified mail to the CAS worker handling the case, as well as to the CAS worker's supervisor. To make sure that the CAS worker and supervisor receive these reports on time, the parent might want to personally (and in a friendly, helpful manner) deliver these reports to them instead.
The parent should then follow-up with a phone call to make sure that the reports satisfied the CAS worker's concerns and that the earlier scheduled meeting with the parent and children was, in fact, no longer necessary. Nine times out of 10, that will be the case. However, in those rare occurrences when it is not the case, the parent should immediately call competent legal counsel to intervene further on their behalf.
The parent also should not hesitate to further question the CAS worker to find out specifically what concerns he or she still had outstanding that were not already covered by the report. You may find that the CAS worker simply wants a second opinion or may have mistakenly lost or forgotten about the reports that were sent. Please note that CAS workers handle an average of 400 case files.
If the CAS worker continues to insist on examining the children, or even takes the children, the parent can be assured they probably have developed the proper evidence needed to get their children back in a timely fashion. The parent also has laid the groundwork for a possible civil suit against CAS if it can be shown that the CAS worker maliciously withheld the medical or psychological reports from the judge who signed the order allowing CAS to take the children.
Before CAS interviews the child, try to make sure that the interview is audio and/or video recorded. CAS will usually greatly resist this, but it is very important to prevent fraudulant reporting by CAS. In addition, try to arrange with CAS to have a member of your clergy present during the interview. (*NOTE: parents are always not allowed to be present in a CAS interview of the children.) It is everypersons legal right to conduct audio/video survailance of their private home, and to use this survailance in a court of law as evidence. A simple digital tabe recorder set on the table will work for this.
Some parents have no clergy who could attend. If not, some other repectable, non-family member should be sought instead. However, for a number of reasons (including the need for community support, emotional support, credible character witnesses, and combating the bias some CAS workers have for parents exercising "spiritual" neglect), parents are strongly encouraged to immediately become involved with a local church or synagogue reflective of the parent's faith. A Community Advocate can replace a clergy member and is legaly allowed to be present at all interviews conducted by the CAS.
Often, after the CAS worker has taken the children, they may offer to give back the children contingent upon parents signing an admission of neglect, waiver of a right to trial, and/or pledge to undergo CAS supervised "parental training". All parents should seek competent legal counsel before signing such a document. Without a doubt, no parent can be completely sure that they will never be confronted by CAS. However, there are ways to ensure that you protect your family from the unnecessary pain and severe trauma resulting from such confrontations.
Tags: cas family and child services child protective services abuse