Will CPS Interview my Child During an Investigation?
by: Attorney Kristi Tyler
Once the Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Protective Services (CPS) begins an investigation of your family, know that the process typically begins with an interview of the child.
CPS will attempt to interview your child and may also interview other children living in the home. A CPS Investigator can interview any child who is a reported victim of abuse or neglect at any reasonable time or place, including the child’s home, school, or daycare. In some counties, children are taken to a Children’s Advocacy Center, which houses professionals who work with abused and neglected children in one facility. If no Children’s Advocacy Center is available, then the interview can take place elsewhere.
If an investigator requests permission to interview your child in your home, the investigator must, first, obtain your permission. If you decline permission, then CPS may try to get a court order to compel the interview. Know, however, that if your child is interviewed at school, the interview can happen without your consent. CPS cannot, however, interview the child at school after you have refused consent at home.
Once it occurs, the child’s interview will be recorded and should be conducted by someone with experience interviewing children. The investigator will try to determine whether the child was abused, the specific details of any abuse, whether the child feels safe now, and whether the child believes the abuse will happen again.
If available, a forensic interviewer may ask questions of the child. A forensic interviewer is an interviewer who gathers information for use in a legal setting, such as a court hearing. This interviewer should be asking open-ended questions from the child, not suggesting information.
If there are other children in your home, CPS may also conduct an interview of these children to ensure that no additional instances of abuse have occurred.
In addition to interviewing the children, CPS will also conduct interviews of others who may know about the situation, including anyone else living in the home, other family members, and those teachers, coaches, and other adults who expressed concern about the child’s welfare.
If CPS conducts an off-site interview with your child without your consent, CPS should notify you within 24 hours of your child’s interview. This notification should include information regarding the nature of the allegations.
During this time, CPS may also try to interview you in an attempt to obtain your explanation of any injuries or neglect that were reported. Keep in mind that you do not need to say anything. In some case, while cooperating may be beneficial, know that anything you say can be used against you in your CPS case, or in a criminal case, if one is filed based on the CPS Investigation. Now would be a good time to consult with an attorney who can advise you of your rights and walk you through this process.