When CPS comes calling

MY CHILD FELL OFF OF A SWING, AND GOT A LONG GASH OVER HIS RIGHT EYE. OBVIOUSLY,  I IMMEDIATELY TOOK MY CHILD TO THE DOCTOR. AT  3:00 A.A. THE NEXT MORNING, A SOCIAL WORKER AND TWO POLICE OFFICERS MADE AN UNANNOUNCED VISIT TO OUR HOME.  THEY ACCUSED ME OF ABUSING MY CHILD AND, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD NO WARRANT, THEY TOOK MY CHILD AWAY.  THIS IS THE FIRST OF THREE QUESTIONS I HAVE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, I AM HELL-BENT ANGRY, FRIGHTENED AND CONFUSED, I HAVE THE FOLLOWING QUIESTIONS:l

(1) CAN THE COUNTY DO THAT? EVEN WITHOUT A WARRANT?

Unfortunately, yes.
Even if the county has nothing more than a mere “reasonable cause for believing” that your child is at risk, the county can: (1) seize your child: (2) without a warrant; (3) without warning; and, (4) at any time of the day or night.

Nazi Germany had the SS. Cold war Russia had the KGB. We have the county Children’s Protective Services. Tradition lives on.

(2) HOW MUCH “CAUSE” IS ENOUGH TO BE “REASONABLE CAUSE FOR BELIEVING” A CHILD IS AT RISK?

Very little.

Children can be seized, based on nothing more than the unsubstantiated statements of a disgruntled neighbor or relative. Indeed, such allegations are becoming increasingly popular among separated parents, as a tool to deprive custody to one of the parents, at county expense.

Further, various professionals, including health care providers and school teachers, are required to report any basis for suspecting that a child may be at risk. They face severe legal consequences if they fail to report. Hence, when in doubt, they have substantial motive to err on the side of caution.

Therefore, you and your child risk an unpleasant visit from the county, every time: (1) your child visits the doctor or goes to school with any kind of bruise or injury; and, (2) every time you have in your life a disgruntled neighbor, relative, or co-parent.

(3) WHAT REMEDIES DO I OR MY CHILD HAVE, IF MY CHILD IS WRONGFULLY SEIZED?

Probably none.

The county is virtually immune from lawsuit in this situation. And, therefore, virtually immune from accountability.

(4) SO, WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN THE COUNTY COMES KNOCKING?

Cooperate fully.

As suggested above, the county has vast power to take your child away, and virtually no accountability. Hence, resistance is futile.

And probably counterproductive. When government workers have this much unbridled power, opposing them is unlikely to get any favors from them. Indeed, some forms of resistance will be an invitation to the county to send badges and guns to come take you away, as well.

Your best bet, therefore, is unfettered cooperation while the county is present. And an immediate phone call to your lawyer thereafter.


CRAIG A. CANDELORE, the author, is a California Certified Family Law Specialist attorney who has been practicing law since 1986.


The above article is intended for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice for any purpose. Due to the intense personal nature of any legal issue, it is important that you consult with appropriate legal counsel to ensure your issues are addressed appropriately.