Child Protective Services
Being told that you are unfit to raise your own child is one of the worst statements a parent can hear. Yet, this is an outcome that often results when a family comes into contact with Michigan Child Protective Services.
While the child protection system is created to ensure children live in homes that are safe and beneficial for them, it is too easy for innocent parents to get caught up in the system. Too often, when Child Protective Services come knocking, it can mean that a parent may be unfairly labeled as unfit or even worse, have their children taken away.
Metro Detroit family law attorney, Allison Folmar, routinely helps families fight against the injustice that the child protection system sometimes bring. These agencies were created to protect children and families, not harm them and tear them apart.If you are facing a situation where your rights as a parent are being wrongfully threatened or taken away, Allison can help. Call today to set up a free phone consultation to understand your rights and how to proceed.
What Does Child Protective Services Do?
Like their counterparts in states all over the US, Michigan Child Protective Services (CPS) is responsible for protecting the welfare of children. They respond to reports of child abuse or neglect and ensure that children have a safe, sheltered environment where they can grow and flourish.
In Michigan, CPS is a division of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. CPS is regulated by Michigan’s Child Protection law, under which they assess, investigate, and intervene in situations of child abuse or neglect.
Where abuse or neglect is suspected, CPS will work with families, police, the court, and other agencies to identify, prevent, or stop child abuse and neglect.
Usually, a CPS investigation begins when they receive a report about likely cases of abuse. These reports can be made by any person that reasonably suspects a child is being abused or neglected by their parents, caregivers, or guardians.
There are other people who are legally required to report a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect. These people are called “mandatory reporters” and include teachers, social workers, and doctors. Individuals that fall into this category may be at risk of criminal charges or even loss of their professional license if they fail to report a reasonable suspicion of abuse. As a result, they often err on the side of caution and report ‘suspected’ cases that end up being unfounded.
Reasons Why CPS Can Investigate You In Michigan
Generally, if you are suspected to have neglected or abused a child in any way, you may be under investigation by CPS. However, the major question is what amounts to child abuse or neglect?
There are instances when this will be clear cut, such as sexually or physically abusing a child. Other circumstances that may lead to an investigation by CPS include where:
- A child has unexplained bruises or scratches on their body
- A child says something that sounds suspicious to a reporter
- There is evidence of abuse or neglect
- There are reports that a parent failed to provide enough food, shelter, clothing or medical care to a child
- There are suspicions of placing a child at unreasonable risk of harm
However, not all situations are as clear cut as this. Sometimes, investigations are commenced in situations where the parents are innocent. Other times, CPS may try to force a parent to accept treatments that the parent genuinely believes will harm their child, a phenomenon known as “medical kidnapping”.
Being accused of child abuse or neglect is humiliating and insulting for most families, but it can result in even more harm. It can damage a family’s reputation or result in their losing a child. This is why it is important to immediately contact attorney Allison Folmar when CPS gets involved with your family.
What Does A Michigan CPS Investigation Entail?
CPS investigations typically start with a report of abuse or neglect. Often, these investigations occur alongside an allegation that a crime has been committed against your child, either by you, your spouse, or someone in your household. In these instances, a parent may be the direct subject of a criminal investigation or may be facing a “failure to protect” allegation.
From the time a report is made to Michigan CPS, they must either commence an investigation or reject the report within 24 hours. The whole of the investigation is typically required to be completed within 30 days. But a lot can happen within that period, and it can sometimes take even longer.
- Starting an investigation: CPS investigations may involve the service alone or may also include law enforcement, depending on the nature of the allegations. The investigation will usually include interviews with your child, you, and the members of your household, teachers, and other people who may have useful information.
- During the investigation: While the investigation is ongoing, a child may be temporarily removed from the home and placed with another parent or in foster care. CPS typically needs the permission of a judge to do this, but the police do not need a court order for this. Hospitals can also refuse to let a child go home to his/her parents if they believe the child would be in danger. It is important to keep in mind that where this happens, a preliminary hearing must be held in court within 24 hours.
- Categories of abuse or neglect: Most investigations lapse without evidence of wrongdoing by the parents. But where CPS finds evidence of abuse or neglect, they will typically assign the case to one of four categories, based on its seriousness. The categories are as follows:
- Category IV: Least serious. CPS may request parents to participate in certain services such as drug counseling to ensure the child stays safe.
- Category III: Significant evidence of abuse plus the possible risk of future harm to the child. CPS will ask parents to participate in services and if the parents do not cooperate, the case may be escalated to category II.
- Category II: Evidence of child abuse and significant risk of future harm to the child. The name of the perpetrator will be included in a statewide Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.
- Category I: Very serious case of abuse and the child is decidedly not safe. Name of the perpetrator will be included in Abuse and Neglect Registry plus CPS will ask a court to remove the child from home.
- Court petition and possible trial: Although CPS must petition for removal in a category I case, they may request this earlier if they decide the situation requires more serious action. If a petition is filed, a jury trial may result and the court may make a range of orders including removing the child from your home or even terminating parental rights if the abuse is deemed very serious.
Although the process seems cut and dried, you should understand that, in practice, there are many grey areas. Unfortunately, these grey areas can often result in overzealous enforcement by CPS that ends up persecuting innocent parents and causing harm to children.
The CPS Is Often Wrong
CPS has often come under criticism for its “anti-family mindset”. Due to a mix of insufficient checks and balances, heavy-handed enforcement of the child protection laws, overzealous and law enforcement minded workers, many cases end up ruining very children and families it was created to protect.
In many states around the U.S., countless families have horror stories of encounters with CPS. Reports are rife about unjustified forcible removals of children from their parents’ homes, unfair and unjustified intrusions into the lives of families, and broad trends of systemic racism in their enforcement patterns.
CPS staff are often overworked and underfunded. This means they have a tendency to rush through investigations, gloss over critical details, and miss the signs that an innocent parent is actually telling the truth. In a 2018 state audit of Michigan CPS, it was found that the agency was severely lacking in crucial aspects of its investigating procedures, including failing to conduct face-to-face interviews.
Even worse, when children are removed from their homes, they become exposed to severe risk of abuse, rape, physical harm, poisoning, and danger to life and health once they are put into the child protective system.
The bottom line is this: If your family comes into contact with CPS, you don’t want to face them alone. It is imperative that you work with an experienced Detroit family law attorney who understands the system and can help you get through the difficult ordeal swiftly and without undue harm to you and your family.
Allison Folmar Can Help
No parent deserves to be harassed or unfairly regarded as being unfit to raise their own child, especially when they have done nothing wrong. Whether you are being accused of child abuse or neglect, charged with a crime or have had your children removed by CPS, call Attorney Allison Folmar today for help.