Child Protective Service Facts and Myths

    There are videos, written work, and other stuff all over the internet bashing and making child protective investigators and the service in general look monstrous, but as with many things you see, hear, or read a blending of myth sprinkled with a few truths always gets the attention of people and makes a better story or video presentation. Sometimes these things are even reinforced by people who once worked for child protective services that have a bone to pick, but as someone who did the job for a short time I can tell you that child protective investigators in general have the best of intentions and work hard to keep children safe and if there is problem it is not with the people doing the job as much as it is the system in which they are working.  Child Protective Investigators do have certain protocols they must follow and absolute time frames in which they must accomplish specific things and there is little allowance for deviation in either of them without causing problems somewhere. Nevertheless, stories on internet complaining about or speaking about the horrible mistakes made by Child Protective Services tend to focus or bash Child Protection Investigators themselves as if they were uneducated independent contractors making decisions about scooping up someone’s children and ripping them from their home on their own without consent or approval from anyone above them which is simply not true. The Department of Children and Families is a record keeping machine and every visit to a location, every conversation, every picture, every phone call, and every action a child protective investigator makes is noted and documented in detail with a date and time in their system and every supervisor knows exactly what cases their investigators are working on and where they are in a particular case, so there is nothing done by any individual child protective investigator under some cloak of darkness without someone else knowing about it and if there was they would certainly not be in their position long. My point here is if there is a villain in this anywhere it is not the child protective investigator that speaks to your children unannounced or that comes knocking on your door out of the blue. They are there to investigate allegations related to a child victim or victims that have been made and to determine if there is any basis for those allegations. No children are taken from a home unless all the criteria for what they call present danger is met and that does not happen as often as many like to think and yes mistakes are made, but the determination to remove a child from a home is not done in a vacuum by the investigator alone, nor is it a decision that is based on the feelings of anyone. The reality is Child Protective Investigators do not want to take your child or children because when they do have to shelter a child or children it is the start of a very long day for them and it involves completing a mountain  of paperwork the size of a cheap novel that has to be done that very day because if a child is removed from a home what is known as a shelter hearing must occur by law in front of a judge within twenty-four hours to establish if the investigator had cause to remove the child or children in the first place.

     The myths about the job Child Protective Investigators do are seemingly limitless, but some of the worse myths and vile misconceptions are those directed at the investigators themselves. One huge myth is the Child Protective Investigators are uneducated and not trained well. I cannot speak of other states, but here in Florida that is pure nonsense. All Child Protective Investigators here have at least a bachelor’s degree in something and all go to training for a month before getting their first case and then they tutored by a senior investigator through their first case and beyond. New CPI’s do not get anywhere near a normal case load for months after they start because it is not a position you can learn fast or on your own. It takes a lot of time to learn and to begin to feel comfortable with what you are doing. They also have special training for certain aspects of their work all along as well. Another myth is that Child Protective Investigators do not care. This is again complete nonsense. As one Senior CPI once said to me, “If this job doesn’t leave you crying in your car at least once, you are not doing it right.”  The job is stressful, but a lot of that is due to nature of the work and what you are dealing with. If you have a child, a grandchild of your own, or have been a child victim, just simply reading some of the allegations, let alone having to interview a child molester or a victim of it, is quite often unsettling and disturbing enough to rattle your soul.  

    People also have the wrong information when it comes to aspects of investigations and often wonder or get angry over certain things Child Protective Investigators do for no reason. For example, many parents get irritated when they find out that a CPI has talked with their children first at their school or something without asking them or informing them they are doing so. The truth is the CPI is perfectly within their rights to talk to children without asking or informing parents first and are within protocol in even asking parents to leave the room when parents are present with them to talk the children individually. If you are under investigation, they are investigators and their victims are children, so it makes logical sense if you think about it to wish to talk to the victim or the potential victim first. The police or local sheriff’s deputy would too be talking to the victim or potential victim of a situation or crime first as well. Another question people often wonder is when a child is talked to at a school or another location by a CPI, doesn’t a witness have to be present? The answer is no, but at schools someone from the school system will often want to sit in on the interview and the CPI will do nothing to stop it because any witness to one of their interviews can be easily be subpoenaed to appear in court as witness if necessary, so this is why some schools prefer not to have their people in the room while a CPI is interviewing a child. One thing you will hear differing points of view on is whether you must let a CPI into your home. Well there is kind of grey area around this issue that often gives rise to constitutional arguments and from a technical aspect a CPI cannot just walk into your home without consent. However, someone with allegations against them refusing to allow a CPI entry into their home is most likely not helping themselves and as soon as the CPI leaves they will be contacting their supervisor and will be returning to your home shortly with the police, so if one were to do this I would advise them to call a lawyer immediately because in all likelihood they just made a bad situation worse by raising suspicions. It does no good to ask the CPI who made that allegation against you either because they are not supposed to reveal that to you and doing so could cost them their job. However, they can and will tell you what allegations were made against you, but even if you can guess who made the allegation(s) against you the CPI cannot really acknowledge that you are right. The truth is sometimes CPI’s do not even know who made the allegation because some are made anonymously. However, there are people in certain positions, like police, nurses, and so on that must automatically notify DCF if children are involved or in the picture.  

     What to do if you are being investigated by child protective services? First, getting angry, yelling, or spouting off about your constitutional rights and not letting them come in your home to do their job is not going to be good thing because even if they are forced to leave they will be back with law enforcement and they will eventually get in your home and get you to cooperate with them, so starting off being adversarial would not be helping your situation at all. As a matter of fact, actions like that will only increase their suspicions that a child in your home may be in real danger. Second, answer all their questions as thoroughly and as truthfully as you possibly can because every question they ask has a purpose even those that sound silly. Some questions a CPI might throw out can be something they already have the answer to just to see if you are going to lie or conceal things. For example, they might ask you if you have a criminal record or if you ever had a DCF case against you before. These are test questions that they already know the answer to because before they even come out to your home they have done a criminal background check on everyone in your household age twelve and older and ran a check to see if you or any family member had a DCF complaint or case on them in the past. They do this prior to going to your home, not for the sole purpose of tricking you, but to ascertain whether they need to bring law enforcement with them.  The CPI will also ask you to take a drug test too and even though you can refuse to take a drug test at the time it may not be a good idea to do that if you have no drugs in your system or only those for which you have prescriptions for. The CPI will ask to see the rooms your children sleep in as well and take pictures of their rooms and other things like a food pantry as well. They will also take pictures of the children. This may seem invasive to you, but it is part of their job and they are following investigation protocol in doing these things. You must keep in mind that a Child Protective Investigator is there to do an investigation based on allegations of something to do with a child and that they are there to determine whether there is what they term present danger or if there is impending danger and both have very specific criteria. No, they are not police, but their investigations are just as important, and they gather evidence as if they might have to go to court whether your case ever reaches a courtroom or not. If you find yourself under investigation by Child Protective Services and a CPI arriving at your door unannounced is a pretty good indication of that, my advice would be to get a pen and paper in your hand to make notes of everything they do or say with the date and time on it. If you have your phone or a tape recorder, record everything that is said between you and the investigator and you should do either of these things each time you speak to someone from Child Protective Services. One of the reasons they have a big advantage in court, should your situation come to that, is because you have nothing to rebuke what they have documented, and I promise you they have documented everything in detail. If your children are taken or you think that they might be or that the investigation against you might arrive in court at some point, contact a family lawyer. Unfortunately, people without the ability to afford representation or the ability to obtain representation are quickly at a disadvantage because you are just another case in a long line of many to any lawyer that may be appointed to you. In either event, the notes or recordings you took during each engagement you have had with Child Protective Services could be of great help to you because this way all the evidence and documentation is not coming from just one side of the aisle.

    Child Protective Services are not the monsters or demons’ people on the internet try to make them out to be. Yes, mistakes are made, occasionally serious ones, but keep in mind that children are of tantamount concern to Child Protective Services and that when you hear in the news that a child died in someone’s custody chances are good that a family court judge somewhere rendered a decision that put the child in harms way, not Child Protective Services, and that is exactly why CPI’s must carefully investigate every case and document everything in detail. The goal of Child Protective Services is to make sure our children are safe and to accomplish this goal by being thorough and by being the least intrusive as possible on families. Unfortunately, there are those times when those stars do not align well and mistakes are made that are hard to impossible to reverse, However, keep in mind that it is not the sole fault of the Child Protective Investigator that knocked on your door in the beginning because if a big mistake has been made realize that your case has been through a lot of other hands long before it got to that point.            

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I have been writing quite a number of years. I have been published numerous times and I have won several writing awards throughout the years. I won one for poetry just last year from a state contest through my college, the College of Central Florida. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from that same college in 2015 with a degree in Mass Communications. I now have a BA in Psychology from Saint Leo University and I am working on a Masters in Forensic Psychology at SNHU.

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