is a cry for help — this dad’s and my own. I’m looking for someone to write a post or booklet on “How to Fight CPS” that is not a snarling screed (however cathartic), but filled with relevant laws, websites, and even phone numbers/emails that people can contact for legal help. Let me know if that’s something any of you feel up to producing, for zero monetary recompense. (The same way I write this blog!) — Â L.
is a cry for help — this dad’s and my own. I’m looking for someone to write a post or booklet on “How to Fight CPS” that is not a snarling screed (however cathartic), but filled with relevant laws, websites, and even phone numbers/emails that people can contact for legal help. Let me know if that’s something any of you feel up to producing, for zero monetary recompense. (The same way I write this blog!) — Â L.
Dear Free-Range Kids:Â .I’m really at the end of my rope and I was hoping you could help..My family was contacted by Denver Department of Human Services after a mark was found on my 11 year old son’s neck by his teacher. Â My wife explained to the investigator that she had been pulling my son (who has Aspberger’s Syndrome) off of my 9 year old when they were having a fight. Â The investigator called me on a Monday, told me she needed to inspect the home ASAP. Â She visited later that day.Â .Now, I’m not going to lie, our home was a mess. Â And the four hours of cleaning I did that day helped, but it was still messy when she saw it. Â She came in, saw the house and left with little comment. Â She called a week later and told us she’d like us clean the house even more and see it again. Â We SIGNIFICANTLY cleaned the house, and she visited again. Â Now, she’s telling us that we haven’t done enough and wants us to clean again and she’ll come see us for a third time..Now, I am angry because after a little research on the Internet, I learned that I didn’t need to let her in at all. Â I’m also angry because I feel like there is no justification for any further visits. Â And after hearing all the horror stories, I’m more than a little concerned. Â I’m also very frustrated because I can’t seem to find any legitimate advice on whether or not to allow a third visit or require a court order. Â Most of the “Fight CPS” info is so radical that I feel like it isn’t legitimate. Â I don’t know whether to get a lawyer or send a letter or what to do..You website has been, by far, the most valuable resource, but I need more information. Do you know of any additional resources that can help me?Â .Thank you so much for your time and your energy. — A Vexed Dad
Dear Vexed: Here’s the deal. Basically, I believe in CPS when it comes to removing kids from truly dangerous homes. My beef is that “dangerous” is in the eyes of the beholder. Â Since when is “Not clean enough” a true danger to the kid? The kid hadn’t shown up at the doctor’s covered with dirt and festering scabs. He came in with a neck bruise, which shouldn’t have triggered an investigation in the first place, given the fact it was a one-off and explained. But now CPS holds all the cards. THAT is what is so infuriating. How come CPS can harass and undermine an entire family on such a flimsy excuse?Â
I don’t want to get too dramatic, but in Scotland, every baby born is now issued a “named person” — a guardian — to watch over how he’s raised, ever on the lookout for problems. It’s as if the child has a third parent. My goal is to make sure moms and dads are allowed to parent as they see fit, in all their imperfection, without the threat of government interference unless a child is indisputably and immediately in obvious and grave danger.
That’s me in a nut shell. (Which is where some people think I belong.) – LÂ
Whenever you are involved with an agency with the power of law behind them, there is only one true option. Get an attorney.
“Now, sheâ€™s telling us that we havenâ€™t done enough and wants us to clean again and sheâ€™ll come see us for a third time.”
At which point she’ll claim your socks don’t match your shirt, so you’re an unfit parent.
CPS investigators are like vampires, they have to be invited into your home. Once you let them in you’re screwed. Get a lawyer, Vexed Dad.
I won’t open the door to people or let people into our home unexpectedly. I just won’t, and this sort of BS is a reason why.
At less than 2 weeks postpartum with our second child, my own mother threatened that “someone” would call CPS and take our kids away if I didn’t clean our refrigerator! Our house is in a similar state as that of most families with small children; it isn’t outright dirty, just cluttered and with too many toys. With two parents working full time and two small kids it’s a long, ongoing process to de-clutter and pare down the toys.
I really feel for this dad! Our home has been a mess many times. We have also unfortunately had a little experience with CPS visits, though no case was ever opened. CPS varies so much from state to state that it’s hard to say what the best approach is in Denver.
We had one visit seven years ago, when my sister had called because she didn’t like the way we were homeschooling. I let the social worker come in and see the house and talk with my girls, and she was pretty quickly satisfied that no case needed to be opened (I had gotten a weird urge that morning to go on a cleaning spree, so the house was much neater than usual when she showed up; that “weird urge” is one reason why I could never call myself an atheist :)).
Then, we had another visit four years ago, when we’d been keeping some poultry without adequately making sure that we were in regulation. The city came to take our birds, and the police showed up, too, and while my husband and I were talking with the city officials, some of the police officers decided to follow our daughters through the open door of our house. One of them, who seemed to be in charge, was concerned about the mess and also about our girls who were very dirty because they’d been out digging and playing in the mud. She said her own children never got that dirty, so she could tell that she was looking at day after day of caked-on mud, which simply was not true.
The CPS worker who came soon after the police and city officials left was much calmer and more easygoing than the angry and irate police officer, and understood about kids getting really dirty in the mud. But she said she did want to come back in few days to see that the house was clean. So we cleaned like crazy all weekend, but I still felt like there was a lot that we didn’t get to. But at any rate, she came back and said the house looked great and we wouldn’t be hearing any more from her. And we didn’t.
In both cases, I followed my gut reaction, which was just to be cooperative and let the CPS workers in, in spite of having heard all the warnings never to let them in without a warrant. Prior to the first visit, we’d had some friends who’d gotten a visit for allowing three of their children, the youngest being three years old, to play out in their unfenced yard. My friend refused to let the worker in and got a lawyer, and over a several-month period, she and her husband attended various meetings at the CPS office with their lawyer until the case was finally closed.
About a year after that, she and her husband separated and later divorced, and on one occasion when he had the children during the separation, he decided to just take them and move halfway across the country where his parents could help him, and they had money to help him fight for custody, too. It was clearly illegal for him to just take the kids out of state like that, but my friends was still so terrified of CPS that she didn’t even fight him over custody, because she knew that would result in CPS being involved in her kids’ lives and it would be so horrible for them. So she basically just let him take her kids away, but I think she at least gets to see them for summer breaks and maybe some holidays now.
So…stressful as it was for us to deal with CPS those two times, I feel like we had a better and less stressful outcome than our friends who had such a long drawn-out case. But I’m not in Colorado so I have no way of knowing what CPS is like there. There are some situations where you just need to be still inside and listen to your own inner voice, and trust your hunches about the people you’re dealing with.
I think one thing that’s true wherever you are is not to sign anything if you have any kind of reading comprehension issues. I’ve heard of people just signing a form without really realizing that they were agreeing to meet certain criteria — and that if they didn’t meet those criteria, they’d be considered out of compliance. If you’re not absolutely sure what you’re being asked to sign, tell them that you’ll bring the form to them later, once your lawyer has helped you review it so you can decide whether or not you agree to the terms.
I carefully read the form I was asked to sign and saw that it was a simple statement that our home was considered safe, and no further intervention was needed (they always add the disclaimer “at this time”). So I was quite comfortable signing, even though I’d also heard the cautions about never signing anything. If you can read well enough to know what you’re signing, and are comfortable with what you’re agreeing to, then I don’t see any problem there.
I wouls refuse to let them in again without a court order/warrant. If they show up at the door, step outside and close the door behind you, locking it if necessary. Be polite but firm, ask exactly which statute says that a messy house warrants a full CPS investigation, and record the whole conversation on your phone.
I think that the primary reason that CPS backed off in our case is that we spoke up. We pushed back and demanded that they justify their intervention. They only have authority becasue parents are (understandbaly) too frightened to fight back. But contrary to what some people believe, cooperating does NOT make things better for you in the end – it just gives them more rope with which to hang you.
I actually interviewed with either Denver CPS or a neighboring suburb for a job a while ago (can’t remember if it was actually Denver). It was a weird experience as they showed me a book of what I might me seeing and it started with pictures of messy homes. Now some other things in the book were really horrible, but I felt like they also wanted me to react with shock to the messy homes-but to me they were just messy homes and it seemed a unfair to take kids away just because of that.
As for what you should do if you can at all afford it, I’d get a lawyer because honestly this social worker might be crazy. Many are.
As for your house messy is a broad term. It seems like it would be more helpful if the social worker actually stated actually what her concern was and exactly what she wanted to see fixed.
Hmmm. I hope they don’t come look at my daughter’s room.
Our general rule is that we need to get from the door to the bed in case of a fire. Beyond that, it’s the kids’ responsibility. If they want a clean room, they clean it (she does from time to time), but we don’t sweat the little stuff.
In this case I’d say that we don’t have enough information – and Lenore, I think it would be more honest if you removed the photo (although I’m glad that you clarified that it was unrelated to the story in the caption).
We don’t know what the house was like. All we’ve actually been told is that after four hours of cleaning plus SIGNIFICANT additional cleaning it was concerning to CPS. Now, I don’t know what standards they’re using, but its quite possible that the house was in fact kept more like an episode of Hoarders than the “mess” depicted in the photo. Maybe it wasn’t. The point is that we don’t know, and passing judgement in either direction without any actual facts is irresponsible at best.
Everyone I know who has let CPS into their home has ended up being told that their house wasn’t clean enough, and was subjected to follow ups to get the house cleaned up. We didn’t let CPS in to our house (called because we let our daughter walk to the park), and it wasn’t a problem.
At this point, it may be too late to just not let them in. You need to get a lawyer who knows the law and has the experience to advise.
Hey, gang, is there any insurance (something like an “umbrella insurance) we, as parents, should be buying? Since so many situations elicit an advice to “get a lawyer” – and I realize that, if anything happens, my savings won’t be nearly enough to cover the expenses – I am seriously thinking that an insurance might help.
My kid is 10 and quite independent, walking to/from school, skating and riding bike in with her friends in Central Park…and every day I am scared that some minor unpredictable mishap might attract attention of some busybody, or a cop looking to boost up his monthly statistics – and people will tell me “get a lawyer”. I feel like, in order to set my mind at ease, I should just be proactive and get that damn lawyer already, just in case – or at least make sure I’ll be able to afford the lawyer. Three adults and one child depend on me financially or otherwise – I have a good life insurance in case of whatever, but I can’t afford to go to jail either….
I’d ended a friendship and her payback was reporting me to DCF in Connecticut for homeschooling our kids and for having a “disgraceful” house.
The social worker surprised me one winter day and I decided to let her in to get it over with. She immediately commented on the state of my house and said she would return the following Tuesday in order to give us time to clean it up. I told her I wasn’t going to clean it up for her, that this was my house and my messy house was nobody’s business but mine and my family’s. I pointed out that my house had working plumbing, no garbage around, no toxic waste or vermin. Then she said it was a fire hazard. This was patently not true and I said so.
After talking about the homeschooling issues she left and said she probably wouldn’t be back. And she wasn’t. The report was closed a month later and I received notification in the mail saying so.
But I was depressed for years afterward. A DCF/CPS investigation really messes with your head and your happiness when you realize how easy it is for the government to enter your life and the lives of your family in such a powerfully negative way.
I am still surprised, and grateful, that Lenore never had such a visit after her article about her nine year old son riding the subway alone.
Richard.. to give you a base line, when cps showed up at my house the report read “fecal matter all over floors and dirty dishes stacked in sink”. what it actually was a litter box[ covered] which was cleaned daily but the cat had just used it and 1 [one ] unwashed glass in the sink. when pictures were taken by us[she mentioned how disgusting it was when she was there] we were told they could have been taken at anytime. take that and keep it in mind.
Often I feel that people behind CPS just need any justification for their existence… In Sweden and Norway you must not even raise a voice at your child. Give those social organizations more power and they turn it against you… Btw, the mess on the photo (I understand that it is not that of the letter writer) is just mess, no signs of dirt or mold. Also, check “Barnevernet”, what could happen even with the best intentions…
I also would like some more information- what is CPS criteria for “messy” house related to children?
I’ve visited houses I wouldn’t want my pets to live in yet the parents are amazing and loving and the kids thriving. The parents just have different standards of cleanliness than mine.
Over the weekend, i watched my nephew with Aspergers Syndrome. He decorated the Christmas tree (did a great job), made a gingerbread house (and pretty much coated my kitchen in royal icing and candy bits), and played outside in the yard with my daughter. He ran through fresh dog poop and used my french door to scrape his shoes and then walked through the kitchen and on several carpets with his shitty shoes to tell me he had dog poop on them. Good times. I have HIGH standards of cleanliness and loath clutter but if CPS visited this house yesterday, it would fail a white glove test miserably. Most of the time it’s pretty clean, but I have kids with friends and dogs and cats that make messes. Hearing the stories on here that others have experienced with CPS, I would never let them in my home.
There is a definite difference between messy=cluttered and messy=dirty/unsanitary. Unless you have seen pictures of this person’s house, it is hard to know for certain if it is a valid issue.
My house – always a lived-in level of cluttered – but clean (no trash, no piles of dirty dishes, floors mopped, toilets clean, no mold, easy to navigate all rooms of the house).
However, I remember, as a kid, really not liking going to my aunts house. There were always bugs crawling around that shouldn’t be, trash around, etc. Eventually CPS was called in on them. My cousins had to go live at Grandpa’s house until they got it cleaned up. Having seen it all first hand, it was dirty/unsanitary, and it was probably not out of line for them to get involved.
Really, there should be a “5 Rules of Living in America” that would address things like this.
1. Never let uninvited guests in your home without a court order. Their claims that they have a right to enter and that you must let them are NOT sufficient.
2. Never give cash to strangers. If you want to help, there are better ways.
Well, from my experience with the messy house call, after the caseworker’s initial visit (before she left), she’d said there were no hazards for the children so it was safe for them to stay in the home. When talking with a friend who worked for the health department, I wondered why the worker felt a need to come back and check that we’d cleaned it since she didn’t find the initial mess hazardous to the kids, and my friend said that she was most likely wanting to assure herself that everything was indeed okay and that she was right in thinking that she didn’t need to open a case; my friend said that if it had still been just as much of a mess when the worker came back three days later, this could have been an indication that we were on drugs or had some other serious problem, and she might have felt like she needed to make more visits.
Since the caseworker who saw Vexed Dad’s house did not find any hazards worthy of removing the kids, it sounds like the additional visits aren’t specifically about the house but just added assurance for the caseworker that it’s safe to go ahead and close things out. I agree with the other who poster who said that Vexed Dad should find out exactly what the concerns are and work on fixing those issues. If those issues are fixed when the worker comes back and she still wants to come again, it might be a good idea at that point to get a lawyer.
“There is a definite difference between messy=cluttered and messy=dirty/unsanitary. Unless you have seen pictures of this personâ€™s house, it is hard to know for certain if it is a valid issue.”
I agree, although cluttered and unsanitary often do go together, they don’t necessarily. Insects, rodents, garbage (as opposed to trash), rotting food are all things to be concerned with. Piles of “stuff” that do not include any of the previous list should not be, unless they are so prevalent as to limit mobility.
I imagine the thought process of making several visits is to try to accurately determine what the “baseline” really is… if the worker shops by once, by appointment, they don’t really know if the nice, tidy, clean home they’re examining is what the kids actually experience, or if it is like a Potemkin Village, all for show.
In my experience, if you removed the kids from a home, it would instantaneously become cleaner, since the kids are 99% of the reason for the mess in the first place.
Some analysis (sorry for being so New York -centric (that’s where I am, so I have the stats handy), but you get the idea):
52.5 thousand car crashes are reported to the police in New York City in one year (2013 data)
54 thousand families are reported to CPS in New York City in one year (2012 data)
We all have car insurance. It’s time for parental “get-a-lawyer” insurance.
Something that costs under, say, $20-25 a month, and gives you a number you can call, in case you or your child had a momentary lapse of judgement, which ended up getting your family in trouble with school, the police or CPS.
I am going to ask my lawyer friends if they know of any kind of insurance that fits the description. Whoever reads this, please do the same.
Ok, I’m new to this website, but I’ve gotta know – what is your definition of “indisputably and immediately in obvious and grave danger?” My sister was investigated by CPS because she refused to take care of my nephew’s teeth. He had multiple cavities that caused several severe toothaches. I don’t feel like bad teeth are necessarily a “grave danger,” but I absolutely believe CPS was in the right in this situation. My sister would have never taken care of it on her own had CPS not intervened. My nephew ended up having 3 teeth pulled, several fillings and one root canal under general anesthesia. Much pain and suffering that could have been easily avoided simply by brushing his teeth. Anyway, I am interested in “Free Range” parenting, because I do believe it’s good for kids to play independently, outside, away from adults. I grew up that way and want the same for my son. I understand that CPS sometimes takes things too far, but I don’t think we want to push things too far in the opposite direction either, where parents are only investigated if they’re caught in the act of beating the crap out of a kid – which is what your comment implied to me.
Get a lawyer experienced in family law/CPS matters.
1. Simple rule is unless they have a warrant or force their way in claiming exigent circumstances, they not only stay outside, but they stay completely off property – not on the front porch, front walk, driveway, but on public right-of-way, be it the sidewalk, street, etc.
2. The proper response to any question by a government employee which may in any way be used against you in any sort of government proceeding is “I would like to consult with an attorney”.
3. Document every interaction with CPS/Law Enforcement/Code Enforcement – names, dates, times, nature of contact – if at all possible, audio and video record the contact – PRESERVE THOSE RECORDS!!
Of course, your mileage may vary.
Good luck; hope you prevail.
@James @Julie I wish people would educate themselves more about insects=filth. I don’t know if you ever lived in an apartment, but insects can easily be systemic through out the building, especially things like german cockroaches. I lived in a building where one filthy unit caused 2 whole tiers to become infested, even though ourselves and others would literally spend the majority of our weekends trying to clean every nook and cranny. We made our own traps. We put tape over our vents. We completely stopped using our kitchen and ate all meals out. It helped some, but we still had them. They will literally eat anything-glue in picture frames, the paper and glue in your books, etc. And they don’t even need to eat frequently. The buildings pest control was inefficient and actually made the problem worse…and we were not allowed to bring in private pest control. Of course we moved when we could.
FYI – I am not affiliated with LegalShield in any way – I just know of them through my mom…and since y’all were asking….
@librarian What a lawyer costs can vary greatly (granted the quality can also vary). If you look on Craig’s list you can usually find lawyers that don’t charge much, especially in large urban areas.
Huh…my first post didn’t go thru. Yes, there are rent-a-lawyer services with a monthly fee. LegalShield being one. They offer family plans. You can go their website and see what kind of services are offered.
FYI – I am not affiliated with LegalShield in any way. I just know they exist because my mom had a membership with them for quite some time for a particular reason…Thought I would mention since y’all were asking.
Yes, I have lived in apartments. Yes, I have had to deal with critters due to my neighbors.
A heavily infested stand-alone house with piles of garbage and unwashed dishes is still a problem.
I live in a house in the country now – when the weather turns cold, the mice go looking for a home. Rule #1 in our house – no food in bedrooms, kitchen and dining room only. That helps a ton in persuading them to look elsewhere.
@commonsense Stuff like that is the reason that even though I have a clean home I’d insist on a lawyer present. Because by those standards I’d currently fail. I also feel that being pregnant one can’t win in that situation with the litter box and CPS because if the cat poops during the day and I touch it then wouldn’t they say I’m putting the unborn child in danger?
I think the LW should get everything in writing. Have them list what they are looking for. Are they coming to see the floors mopped, dishes clean, etc.? Or are they checking the ceiling fans for dust and looking under beds? I would try to get specifics, so they can’t say you didn’t cooperate.
An acquaintance told me she used to work as a CPS investigator in California, and her boss used to send her out on the “messy house” calls because her coworkers would come rushing back to the office after those calls saying they “had to take the kids away” because the house was so messy. She said her standard was simply making sure babies weren’t crawling in garbage everywhere. Once kids are walking, she said, she didn’t think a messy house was a big deal, even if there was some garbage around. So her boss knew who the more level-head was in that office.
I had cps in my house several times while going through a custody battle. They never had a problem with the state of my house although I am a generally disorganized person. The idea that you could clean for so many hours without a spotless house at the end indicates it is truly a wreck. We fought them the first time and they took us to court. After that we just cooperated and everything was able to be solved simply with no changes to our lifestyle. I would advise fixing issues if there are genuine issues, letting it be a lesson to you and moving on. I mean, what’s so terrible about cleaning your house that you’re willing to fight cps over it? You can get a lawyer, but it won’t stop them from taking you to court if they are concerned, trust me.
This is actually my biggest fear. I have a messy house. Not a disgusting, biohazard garbage heap, but enough that my parents harp on me about it and I just know if CPS ever somehow got a gander, they would totally seize on that. I don’t always put stuff away, and dishes don’t get washed every day. I actually have a cleaning lady 2 days a week, so on those 2 days the house looks good, but in between, especially on the weekends when everyone is home, it gets messy again. It makes my blood boil that something so arbitrary- standards of cleanliness- can literally wreck a family if you let people with power set the standard. It’s one thing for your mother or mother-in-law to criticize your housekeeping, something else entirely when it’s a government entity. People always say “well, if you have nothing to hide, what’s the big deal”. The thing is, while I DON’T have anything to hide, I do have my weaknesses (which are mainly in the housekeeping department) that can absolutely give off the wrong impression if CPS ever did show up at my door. Not a gamble I’m willing to take.
I’d really like to know this Denver office’s standards of cleanliness. Children should not be raised in filth. Kids can get head lice, fleas, and illness from living in extremely dirty conditions. Help those kids. But clutter and trash are entirely different. Some mess is a normal consequence of children and having pets can be very healthy for kids.
If this about health and children, current studies show that a bit of a mess is actually GOOD for kids.
There are no standard guideline for “messy” when it comes to CPS. It is based solely on the worker’s own discretion. As a previous poster stated, a house “littered with feces filled diapers” can mean anything from one dirty diaper to hundreds. And unwashed dishes can mean anything from one meal’s worth of dishes to every dish in the house being dirty. The only defense is a prompt offence. If you allow the worker in your house, take pictures or video WITH THE WORKER in them.
I had CPS called to my home by my ex. The social worker first went to my sons school to talk to him. Then she came to my door. I invited her in. My house was clean, beds were made. I don’t remember if there were any dishes in the sink. She also looked in the refrigerator and pantry. I had changed sheets that morning and vacuumed. My sons room looked really good. She commented that it didn’t look like a boy lived here. I thought , great! My house is too clean. Lol She just said thank you and would be in touch. She talked to my son one more time and she never opened a case.
Years ago I was a foster mother. I had to deal with social workers weekly. One would spend and hour with me and the kids. She said the important things were, plenty of food and milk. A clean house. Clean kitchen and bathrooms. Lots of toys laying around, no problem. Some people don’t realize how bad their house smells. Keep some febreeze by the front door, spray before you open the door. Cleaning is something you need to keep up. A little every day. You should never need a huge marathon cleaning.
There is definitely not enough information here to be outraged. The only times that I have been involved with CPS cases for a “messy house,” the houses were unsanitary, not simply messy. Rotting food and dirty dishes swarming with roaches all over the place, pet and human feces on the floor, often inches thick, dirty diapers sitting on furniture, extensive trash, holes in walls. The amount of cleaning being reported in this case indicates a lot more than messy.
That said, this man needs an attorney experienced with the CPS agency and court at issue. The thing to keep in mind is that CPS proceedings are CIVIL, not criminal. You always can refuse anybody from entering your house, but unlike in criminal proceedings, your refusal CAN be used against you in civil proceedings. CPS is allowed to argue in a removal proceeding that the house must still be unsanitary since entrance was refused. A local attorney will be able to advise you of how THIS CPS is likely to react to the refusal.
My only experience with a CPS agency was many years ago right after my daughter was born. Unbeknownst to me, when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, my husband at the time had fallen under the spell of a serial homewrecker who wanted tto be a mom but didn’t want to be bothered with getting pregnant. So when she found out Hubby had a wife about to pop AND that we were having “problems”, she turned on the charm and Hubby fell for it. Walked out when our dau was SIX days old. Not long after, a lady from CPS came around to investigate an anonymous tip that the baby wasn’t being properly cared for. Luckily the apartment was spotless, and the baby had just been bathed and fed and was obviously NOT neglected. I told the woman that Hubby and I were separated and why. She quickly deduced the “tip” was intended to get me declared an unfit mother so Homewrecker’s wish for instant motherhood could be fulfilled. Case closed. However, the law required X number of follow up visits over the next few months, so the woman would call (which normally wasn’t allowed) and say “Put the coffee on” and we’d sit and chat for an hour or so. Hearing the horror stories of others who’ve been in a CPS caseworker’s sights, I consider myself extremely lucky that the woman assigned my case happened to have loads of common sense and compassion.
“2. The proper response to any question by a government employee which may in any way be used against you in any sort of government proceeding is â€œI would like to consult with an attorneyâ€
Don’t try to use this as an empty bluff, though. They can and in some cases will stand there and so “OK, call one” and wait.
Also note that “I want a lawyer” is NOT a magic “do not arrest me” if the CPS worker has brought a cop, and if you are arrested, your arrest gives them exigent circumstances to see to the immediate welfare of the children.
“@James @Julie I wish people would educate themselves more about insects=filth. I donâ€™t know if you ever lived in an apartment, but insects can easily be systemic through out the building”
So, insects should be ignored, then?
I said they were a cause for concern, not an immediate and complete justification for “OMG! I saw a bug! Seize these children from these unfit parents immediately and terminate their parental rights!!!”
YOU obviously found them to be a cause for concern… you said you moved out of the building at the first opportunity. Were you improperly educated at the time?
How would a CPS worked know if insects are being ignored? And first opportunity has 3 months. Ever heard of something called a lease?
“YOU obviously found them to be a cause for concernâ€¦ you said you moved out of the building at the first opportunity. Were you improperly educated at the time?”
I interpreted her post as saying that if someone had labeled her and her husband as filthy people during the time before they were able to move, that person would have been very, very wrong. I agree with her. It would be good if a prerequisite to being a CPS worker would be to have some firsthand experience in trying to keep an older house or apartment completely roach-free once there’s ever been a really bad infestation there, especially for people with little to no disposable income.
With this experience under their belt, even when they see a need for intervention, they may lean more towards providing assistance to the family in ridding their home of pests, than towards labeling the parents as filthy people who don’t have any business raising children.
“How would a CPS worked know if insects are being ignored?”
By asking themselves, “say, am I ignoring those insects I saw”? I suppose if they wanted to know if anyone ELSE was ALSO ignoring them, they might try asking “say, what you doing about the bugs?”
” And first opportunity has 3 months. Ever heard of something called a lease?”
You seem overly defensive about something.
“I interpreted her post as saying that if someone had labeled her and her husband as filthy people during the time before they were able to move, that person would have been very, very wrong. I agree with her.”
If that’s the only cause for concern, I’d agree, too.
Please refer back to
I said they were a cause for concern, not an immediate and complete justification for â€œOMG! I saw a bug! Seize these children from these unfit parents immediately and terminate their parental rights!!!â€
Yes that is what I was trying to say. I’d also ad even with moderate disposable income it can be a problem, especially when a 2 bedroom apartment is over 2000 per month (and then you have utilities). Even on a six figure income this really is not easily do able especially over a long time period.
Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely
When CPS visit, make certain that your car has the correct air pressure in your tires.
@Katie, absolutely! In an area where the cost of living is so high, people with six-figure incomes may indeed have very little disposable income, so for a situation requiring continual maintenance, all it takes is for some other crisis to happen to make you postpone whatever you were doing to treat the bugs. And people who’ve never been in that situation, really have no idea what it’s like. I’m certainly not saying that EVERYONE should have to go through something like this, but I think Child Protective Services workers have a responsibility to do everything they can to put themselves into the place of the people most likely to get visits from them.
My suggestion is to contact their State Senator and Representatives for their area, then contact their Federal Representatives and Senator. It is their job to help citizens wade through the government bureaucracies.
Hello…you DO NOT have to participate in cps visits. Even if there is an ‘official’ present when they arrive at your home. This is in texas. Google your states’ cps employee handbook and read it thoroughly. There is ‘fine print’. So consult an attorney with any questions or concerns.
The majority of investigations I have experienced concluded ‘unfounded’ results when parents refuse unnecessary visits by cps. It costs the state significantly to take the case to court so in most cases they will not proceed. I do recommend you consulting with an attorney before making any drastic decisions regarding the issue, but not before you find out all u can about your states cps policies and procedures. I also recommend reading your states’ family law codes reguarding cps and also finding out your rights and responsibilities as a parent.
I have had threats from CPS. I have NOT had a child removed from my custody. I have NOT let them in unless I was confident that NO pet mess was present, the toys were picked up and the housework had been done for the day. One day, one of them showed up unexpectedly and I refused to let them in because I had just pulled everything out of the closets and was re-arranging things in hopes of finding a little more room once I had stowed everything neatly. I was not about to let them in to see the mess. She threatened me with taking away my child unless I let her in IMMEDIATELY! I refused. She left in a huff and came back the next day with a warrant stating that a complaint had been filed and there was reason to believe that my child was living in unsafe conditions. I let her in (the place had been well cleaned and everything stowed properly) and she said she did not see why I could not have let her in the previous day. Since I had told her why on the previous day, I did not repeat myself.
I did not lose my child, but had I let her in the first time, I might have.
This was also not the first time I had been investigated by CPS. Some busybody in the neighborhood had decided that I should be investigated because I let my children walk to the local stores BY THEMSELVES! And my home was not spotless. I’ve been investigated a total of 4 times. You would think that after the first couple of times the charges were found to be baseless, that they would stop investigating.
Hmmm. My dryers broken at the moment. So here I am mom of a 17 month old chasing her around all day literally waiting for clothes to dry to start a new load. I have piles of clothes in the bathroom and also in our bedroom and hanging clothes everywhere (along with the everyday toddler mess). I’m sure if cps showed up at the moment because I say let my daughter play in the backyard alone while I do dishes with both doors wide open. I have nosey neighbors. Who are two inches behind there own granddaughter while she plays in the yard. Its crazy that I should even be worried about such a thing. I shouldn’t have to be.
We have the place treated once a month (it’s a duplex) and we can’t get rid of the bugs. The exterminator doesn’t understand why the treatment isn’t working, unless the two units share a common area in the roof and they escape the treatment over there and come back after the treatment begins to weaken. I can’t exactly go over there and ask if they have a bug problem. I’d be willing to pay to start their treatment if they have a problem, but neighbors don’t seem to communicate anymore.
Thankfully, we plan to move some time next year (hopefully early.)
Anyway, you can pay expensive treatments and still not get anywhere. We don’t have trash laying out and we don’t have open containers of bad food out. Bugs don’t mean neglect or not having care for your home, not necessarily.
*** Why I don’t clean my house ***
There are a lot of wonderful things in these comments, including details about how clean our houses are.
I’m a working mother with two children under age 5. I spend minimal time cleaning our messy house. I want to give details and make a stand that a messy house may be something we can tolerate, given other pressures in our lives.
My messy details include:
a baby sitter refused employment saying the “working conditions were not clean.”
After kneeling down to play or pick up the kids or whatever, I need to brush my knees free of twigs and dirt when I get up.
If I find an old nut or piece of food in a corner, if it isn’t too dirty, I sometimes simply eat it because that is easier than taking in to the trash, and hey, that is what our hunter-gatherer ancestors did. (We all eat food off the floor in my house — why waste food.)
The once-elegant kitchen island base has layers of thrown food and other things in a kind of colored bas relief format.
I’m reliving the Adams Family with the cobwebs hanging from the high ceilings in to this old house (built in 1890).
Permanent black marker adorns one hallway with an arabesque design.
and grime, grime grime everywhere, underneath the chaotic play mess.
And one negative cost: can’t invite over other kids to play (sad).
Why don’t I clean more? Let me tell you in two stages.
1. I don’t clean because we all have to pick our battles. I also wish I could sleep more. Make more progress on my career. I’d like to wear make-up and shave my legs, work out at a gym, and have more time for long talks with the two boys about how and why not to fight. My old house has minor repairs that need to be done, and I often prioritize these above cleaning (broken windows, non-working lights). So I don’t clean because I have other things I need to do with my time.
But why don’t I make time? Why isn’t cleaning a priority?
2. I don’t clean on principle. I am the primary caregiver and sole income earner in my household which includes my invalid mother-in-law and non-working husband who has health problems. I don’t clean because I earn all the money, pay the mortgage and all bills, and provide health care for 4 people, and look after two kids (my husband does help with childcare). For these reasons, I refuse to clean, other than the dishes and basic kitchen clean-up after meals.
“I canâ€™t exactly go over there and ask if they have a bug problem.”
Why not? Language barrier?
“neighbors donâ€™t seem to communicate anymore.”
Oh, the irony.
These sorts of stories are why I’m this close to saying CPS should be totally abolished. I can honestly say that I consider it to be the case that parents, short of beating their kids to a pulp or farming them out in Thailand’s red-light district for prostitution, should have absolute 100% authority with respect to how they parent, and that goes for cluttered or messy houses as well.
Messiness isn’t something to be proud of, but at the same time, getting rid of it is so much work and I can be one that after awhile decides “heck with it, life should be FUN” and I proceed to do what I WANT to do–and I feel this right still exists even if you have children. If they end up becoming sick or they’re always carrying a trashy appearance at school AND such can be traced to the house being in a truly awful state of repairs, thenk OK, but otherwise it should be up to the parents, and I personally have better things to do with my life than to be an unpaid slave of manual house labor.
A good friend of mine has grass in his yard which grows quickly, to the point that he may find himself cutting it every weekend. He’s told me of occasions where friends would invite him to go fishing etc, something he really likes to do, and he’d always be telling them “no, I have to cut the grass” to the point they started remarking “you’re ALWAYS cutting your grass.” (He has no children, in case that matters.) I told him that if it were up to me, I’d cut it, say, every 3 weeks and let the chips fall where they may, but life is too short to spend cutting grass all the time, and I say the same thing goes for cleaning house.
I consider that my right to choose as a parent, and any organization or persons who would meddle in that, they need to be reformed or destroyed.
@housedirtykidsthriving Wow, I feel for you. That is tough and I can’t even imagine long term. We had a few weeks where my husband had to do almost everything because I had hyperemesis gravidarum and the house was not as clean those weeks! So I can certainly understand how dealing with 2 ill people long term cleaning just would not be a priority.
@James and if you want to know why I’m in your words “defensive” that is why. Because sometimes people are too sick to clean or have other problems. Just because they do doesn’t = that there kids should be taken away.
“@James and if you want to know why Iâ€™m in your words â€œdefensiveâ€ that is why. Because sometimes people are too sick to clean or have other problems. Just because they do doesnâ€™t = that there kids should be taken away.”
All I can say is:
“I said they were a cause for concern, not an immediate and complete justification for ‘OMG! I saw a bug! Seize these children from these unfit parents immediately and terminate their parental rights!!!’â€
Maybe the third time’ll be the charm?
@Kassandra: “I have nosy neighbors.” Ah! People with working dryers by any chance? [evil grin]
@Julie, @Richard and @donna. I agree. We don’t know the facts. And there is a reason that we don’t know the facts. Because people are entitled to privacy, and CPS is bound by law to respect people’s privacy.
How do we know that the children of “vexed Dad” are not living in domestic squalor. Perhaps they are. Perhaps they’re not. Or indeed, how do we know that some individual CPS worker is not going on half-cocked about a single dirty nappy. And if he/she has, how do we know it represents the whole CPS organisation for that state? And if it does, how do we know that it represents the attitude of CPS nationally or indeed, internationally?
As a CPS worker, I visit a large number of homes where the conditions are such that I would not be happy to live there myself. Some of these are even homes where I find it unpleasant to stay for very long. Some are homes where I either can’t even get in the door due to clutter/hoarding, or if I can, I can’t stand being there for a moment due to the extremely offensive odour. I have to then make a judgement about the difference between what I personally find unacceptable, as opposed to what compromises the health and safety of a child.
Here’s a perspective from a CPS worker about when a dirty house becomes genuinely unsafe for children to remain:
1. Where there is a danger to their health or safety. This may include rotten food or sharp objects (broken glass, blades etc) within reach of small children, exposed wiring, dangerous structural problems (I’m not an engineer, but some things are obvious even to me), persistent damp and mould if the child has respiratory problems, no proper toileting and washing facilities, sleeping on dirty mattresses with no linen, faeces or urine on surfaces, severe rodent or bug infestation (and I acknowledge that there may be many reasons for this out of the control of the parent), no reasonably clean place to store and prepare food, dangerous chemicals in reach of children, broken pool fences, clutter placed up against pool fences, backyards so cluttered and/or overgrown that they are simply dangerous to play in due to what might be lurking there and a level of clutter that presents a serious fire hazard.
2 Where the level of squalor (and the unpleasantness of being in the home) is such that it is excessively stigmatising to children (who don’t want to bring friends home and/or arrive at school regularly looking extremely unkempt) and the children (indeed the whole family) are socially isolated as a result.
I don’t often see houses this bad. The last one I saw like this was so awful, I leaned against a wall as I was talking to the parents (for fear of sitting in one of the two dirty chairs in the seven person house), and had to peel myself off the wall afterwards. God knows what that was.
And yes I did direct the parents to clean the house. I told them exactly what the safety and health hazards were, and told them they must focus on the children having clean places to sleep and wash, and somewhere clean to prepare meals, and some plates to eat them off. I also bought them cleaning materials, food, plates and linen, clean clothing for the children amongst other thnigs. CPS also provided a skip bin so they could clean up the clutter. This was just for the time being though. Then we got onto public housing and advocated for new housing as a matter of urgency. They have been placed on top of the list. No children removed.
My advice to vexed Dads everywhere is not to get a lawyer. Expensive and unnecessary. It’s to ask the CPS worker how the mess constitutes a risk to the safety and wellbeing of the child. If the CPS worker can’t tell you, then by all means, fight the good fight. If they can clearly tell you, then clean up your house. You owe it to your kids.
A Vexed Dad, IF you let the CPS in your house the next time they come….do so with a warning of “I plan to take pictures of you and any problems that you find.” As she is moving through the house, take photos…of her in the kitchen, of her in the living room, ask her to stand next to stuff if you need to. Have her point to it, if you want, to “help remind” you of what you are supposed to do. (Insert sarcasm here.) But mostly….you want those photos in case you end up in court so that you can say that you are getting harassed. With her in the photos…there is no question of when they were taken. Take them even if she says there is no problem…just in case they come back.
I understand mess. And I understand that everyone has different tolerance levels. My tolerance includes clutter on every shelf and level surface, but a relatively clean floor. And some tracked in duck or goose poop unless we just vacuumed and mopped. And right now, two ducks living in a crate in the living room (which I agree….it smells like a barn.) But the ducks have medical issues and we don’t eat them…so they end up inside. Oh, and Legos…everywhere, because…well, they are Legos.
Family and friends of mine range from spotless to making me uncomfortable due to the amount of trash and dishes and just plain years of dirt built up. But all of the family….they love the kids and they will do what they can to provide them with as stable of a home as they are able to do. The kids in the dirty houses are doing just fine…maybe even healthier than my kids, maybe because of the dirt, who knows?
Good luck with your case…I hope they close it.
Several people have said it, but parents loving their children does not preclude them being abusive or neglectful. I have more than 100 active CPS cases right now. Without a doubt, every single one of the parents love their children. They simply have their own issues which seriously hinder their parenting.
And sometimes your best just isn’t good enough. Children deserve to live in a safe home and if parents can’t provide that, even while trying their best, then their children need to be elsewhere.
I am not saying that this is a case of neglect or abuse. Just that love doesn’t equal good parents and the fact that the parents are trying their best doesn’t mean that that level of care is acceptable.
margot, I agree there are good and bad cps agents. I also agree we don’t know exact facts in this case. however I do know cps will exaggerate , stretch the truth and down right lie. been there in their line of fire[for whatever reason they feel the need too]. if they’ve already cleaned twice chances are it’s a case of “my house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy” and the cps agent wants it to be sterile.
This is a legal matter and so please, whatever else you do, do NOT take legal advice from anyone posting on this site. For starters, most of them are not lawyers, and second, how best to handle CPS differs greatly from one jurisdiction to another, even from social worker to another. I AM a lawyer, and my firm does some child protection work, so I do have a little bit of insight to offer. And it is this: HIRE A LAWYER. One who specializes in CPS work. A local lawyer will know the ins and outs of the particular laws affecting your jurisdiction (I would not begin to advise you, for instance, on whether or not to let CPS into your home because the laws where you are may well be different from where I am). Also, the local lawyers in your area who specialize in this area often have good or at least working relationships with the CPS lawyers and often also with the social workers. The lawyers in my office who do this work are on a first name basis with many of the local social workers which means that they can pick up the phone, have a pleasant chat with the worker and often solve the problem quickly. They will know if you need to play nice or if a more combative tone is called for. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution and the best way to understand not only your rights, but the smartest approach (because “right” and “smart” are not always the same thing) to the situation is to get good legal advice from someone local.
In a perfect world, you can get CPS on-side and you might even get hooked up with some extra help or resources for your son. On a good day, CPS can be a wonderful resource with the ability to connect parents to all manner of community resources that most of us don’t even know exist.
Wishing you the best.
I do understand irony, but asking a neighbor if there’s bugs over there can breed almost immediate feud. I wouldn’t even ask my best friend if they had a bug problem (I’d probably already know, but still…) They would blame the bugs on me, despite them not treating their own place. (unless the guys invisible. There’s always someone in my apartment and we haven’t noticed anyone…not that we’re looking, but I’m sure in the year they’ve been our neighbors we would have noticed a bug man’s truck next door at least once).
Anyway, asking someone if they’ve got a pest problem is an immediate way to get on someone’s bad side. Wrong or right, that’s drama we don’t need.
In case I wasn’t clear, ‘they’ in ‘they would blame’ refers to neighbors, not best friends.
No toys out, sorry kids. Try to go somewhere else to play. No real, healthy cooking as that will leave those dishes in the sink right when she comes. No leftovers in the fridge. No date. Check all food for expiration dates. Don’t stock up on food. You have to have food, but smaller amounts are easier to manage. Floors are really important. No bugs allowed. Spray even if you don’t need to. Gas cans, laundry detergent and other chemicals should be out of reach of your 10 year old infants. I’m not being rude to your kids. CPS thinks of kids as being younger than they really are assume they will all start a fire with the gas can or drink the Clorox. Medications should be out of reach of children. Firearms should be properly stored. If there is mold on the shower curtain it should be thrown out. You may have to get a cleaning lady to help and if you have a lot of stuff it may have to go to a storage unit. I am not a lawyer. My opinion is that at this point in time you are better off trying to do what they want and close the case than you are to get a lawyer. CPS sometimes fights back harder if a lawyer tries to defend the family. Sometimes people are better off without them, though they certainly have their place. Best of luck. K2
“I do understand irony, but asking a neighbor if thereâ€™s bugs over there can breed almost immediate feud.”
Then, IMO, bugs are not the problem. Either way, not MY problem, so… as Scooby would say, “rotsa ruck, raggy!”
Kidjacked.com is a pretty decent resource site. It’s where I had my daughter look when she had to deal with CPS.
Re: 4 hours of cleaning means it’s a disaster.
I’m lucky enough to have a cleaning lady who comes every other week for 4 hours. My apartment is 900 square feet, so tiny. In 4 hours she scrubs all the floors (we have hardwood and tile, and she does a hands and knees scrubbing), cleans the bathrooms (1.5 bathrooms), and does a thorough cleaning of the kitchen. I make sure there is nothing on the floors before she gets there. She may find stuff hiding under the beds or couches, but nothing that any visitor would see.
I’m home when she’s there (I work from home) and she works her tail end off. She’s amazing and my house sparkles when she leaves. I love her. But, but my point is that if you were starting from a large cluttered house, 4 hours might be enough time to do one room thoroughly, but it isn’t enough time to scrub a messy house from top to bottom.
People who have terribly cluttered houses aren’t generally skilled at cleaning, and may focus on the unimportant things first. I know this because I’m a horrible cleaner myself–hence the cleaning lady.
No, you raise your voice to your children in Sweden. What you cannot do is belittle them and harass them verbally. You can’t say “stupid idiot”, scream an inch from their face and things like that but you can’t whisper threats to your children either so it is not the tone of voice. It is perfectly legal to raise your voice if you are in a noisy environment, if the child is doing something dangerous and you raise your voice due to being scared and so on. No parent needs to be able to belittle a child or spank a child to be able to raise them properly, people middle-aged and younger have all been raised here without violence and our country has by no means crumbled.
This is the Vexed Dad who wrote originally. I just wanted to thank you all for your comments. I’m still not 100% sure what I’m going to do, but you guys have given me some insight. We have done even more cleaning since the visit and the CPS investigator has said she will come out and visit next week.
Our house is messy and cluttered, but not unsanitary and NOT unsafe The work we are doing now is work we should have done in the past, but didn’t. I’ll bear that responsibility, but like most of you, I’m most concerned about the intrusion. This system is set up for the wrong CPS worker on the wrong day to abuse it and it seems to create the situations it is suppose to prevent.
Someone here made a good point about kids causing a lot of mess. Also, I’m just curious, but if CPS walked into someone’s house, and saw a mess in the kitchen that was obviously from doing a craft or baking project or some such with the kids, would they fault the parents for that? I mean, if one dirty glass in the sink turns into “sink full of dirty dishes” on the CPS form, then I’d hate to see what they’d say if they saw, say, baking pans and a mixing bowl soaking in the sink, or the kind of mess that happens from doing crafts. If that would raise alarm, then really, the only “safe” way to raise children would be to feed them pre-packaged everything, and entertain them with screened devices, when not shuttling them to various organized, supervised extra-curricular activities. After all, CPS might drop by any minute, because some busybody neighbour called about something trivial, like a child playing outside (maybe the child WAS being supervised, but the parent ran inside to get a glass of water or something), or grass being slightly too long (because a travel soccer tournament meant the family was out of town all weekend), or whatever. So, if the new standard is, “everything must look picture-perfect 24/7,” then the actions necessary to achieve that, could actually be even more dangerous to kids.
“It is perfectly legal to raise your voice if you are in a noisy environment, if the child is doing something dangerous and you raise your voice due to being scared and so on.”
Wait. There is actually a law legislating the exact circumstances under which a parent can raise their voice? So if I’m in a noisy environment, and I would like my kid to come nearer to me, I CAN’T raise my voice to get his attention unless he’s doing something dangerous and I’m scared?
Who is policing this?
@Vexed Dad, I hope everything is completely wrapped up on this next visit, and I totally understand how all those little seemingly non-urgent cleaning tasks can kind of pile up for months or even years, as they sometimes have at our house. Please let us know how everything goes!
“if one dirty glass in the sink turns into â€œsink full of dirty dishesâ€ on the CPS form,”
Every single case that I have had that involved a dirty house was well documented with copious pictures and sometimes even videos, that were presented to the judge before he signed a removal order. There was no ability to turn one dirty glass into a sink full of dirty dishes. Nor has a child ever been removed simply because there was a sink full of dirty dishes. Nor is that even close to what vexed-dad is claiming happened here.
“So, if the new standard is, â€œeverything must look picture-perfect 24/7”
That is absolutely NOT the standard. You all are taking “messy house” and defining it as a “lived in house.” I am what I would consider a bad housekeeper, and even to me, the houses in the pictures that I have seen are truly repulsive, not messy or lived in. I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy to live there. In fact, two of them had to be completely condemned as they could not be made habitable. The houses are in such a state as to indicate that the parents have a drug problem, untreated mental illness or way too much on their plate as no sane person would choose to live that way.
Now I don’t know what this guy’s house looked like – it clearly didn’t rise to the level of the houses that I have seen since the children were not removed – but we have the writer’s own reports that he and his family have spent a substantial amount of time cleaning and repairing this house. That is beyond lived-in mess.
“Now I donâ€™t know what this guyâ€™s house looked like â€“ it clearly didnâ€™t rise to the level of the houses that I have seen since the children were not removed â€“ but we have the writerâ€™s own reports that he and his family have spent a substantial amount of time cleaning and repairing this house. That is beyond lived-in mess.”
He did say this: “Our house is messy and cluttered, but not unsanitary and NOT unsafe”
I imagine each of us might define “lived-in mess” quite differently — but it sounds like his situation is similar to ours. In his case, a report was made by a teacher; in our case, it was made by a police officer. In both cases, the workers felt our homes were plenty safe to leave our kids there, but they still wanted to come back one more time (and in this case, one more time after that).
It seems to me that the concern in both cases was not about child safety, but rather about appeasing the professionals who made the calls in the first place, by being able to demonstrate that the worker checked the situation out thoroughly before deciding not to open a case.
“He did say this: ‘Our house is messy and cluttered, but not unsanitary and NOT unsafe’â€
There’s a small chance he may not be entirely objective.
I recommend an attorney too, if you can find an honest one who will really do something useful instead of merely taking your money and secretly thank his fellow attorneys in government for creating the CPS monster. Check out this nightmare story of what happened to three families when a well-meaning aunt called CPS about her five nieces and nephew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9VL_HUy_M4
â€œ’He did say this: â€˜Our house is messy and cluttered, but not unsanitary and NOT unsafeâ€™
“Thereâ€™s a small chance he may not be entirely objective.”
There is also the objective information that the CPS worker did not find the home to be unsanitary or unsafe, judging by her decision to leave the children in it.
â€œOur house is messy and cluttered, but not unsanitary and NOT unsafeâ€
I concur with James that this may not be an objective assessment. Many of my cases involve parents who insist that their house is not unsafe for their children despite it being so for many varied reasons.
“It seems to me that the concern in both cases was not about child safety, but rather about appeasing the professionals who made the calls in the first place, by being able to demonstrate that the worker checked the situation out thoroughly before deciding not to open a case.”
If a case worker is coming out repeatedly, a case has been opened. The vast majority of CPS intervention does not result in removal from the home. That doesn’t mean that there is no case. It is just a different kind of case – a family preservation case rather than foster care case in my state.
It appears to me that the case worker is simply trying to improve the home environment for the child. It may, in fact, be an unsafe home, just not an imminent danger. There is a difference.
“There is also the objective information that the CPS worker did not find the home to be unsanitary or unsafe, judging by her decision to leave the children in it.”
Not true at all. CPS workers are required to make all reasonable efforts to maintain children in their home prior to removal. They cannot remove children unless they are in imminent danger. A house can be unsanitary and even unsafe without the child being in imminent danger in need of removal. If CPS can’t identify any other problems with the parents (they are not on drugs or clearly mentally ill and unable to care for the children), they likely will do exactly what they did here – give the parents a chance to fix the mess before they take the kids. In fact, the Court will probably insist upon it.
“If a case worker is coming out repeatedly, a case has been opened. The vast majority of CPS intervention does not result in removal from the home. That doesnâ€™t mean that there is no case. It is just a different kind of case â€“ a family preservation case rather than foster care case in my state.”
Well, in our messy house case, the caseworker said she’d like to come back a second time to see the house again after we’d cleaned it. She also said she hadn’t opened a case. In our state, there’s a difference between an assessment and an investigation, and the worker coming back to check things out didn’t turn it into an investigation.
Again, if the worker had deemed Vexed Dad’s home unsafe the children wouldn’t still be there. So regardless of the objectivity of the parent in this case, that worker’s behavior is an indication that the home is indeed safe and sanitary enough for children to be living there.
P.S. I see that we’ve cross-posted. Suffice it to say that no one, absolutely no one, is completely objective. And as far as whether a place is completely safe, has some risks, or puts people in imminent danger, how each person evaluates this is pretty subjective, too. I would generally say that parents who’ve managed to raise children to the ages of 9 and 11 (the age of Vexed Dad’s kids) have probably done a pretty good job providing them with a safe and healthy environment.
“Again, if the worker had deemed Vexed Dadâ€™s home unsafe the children wouldnâ€™t still be there.”
You keep claiming this to support your argument, as if it were true. You’re seeing a binary choice, when there are, in fact, three possibilities… 1) the home is unsafe, and unsafe enough to justify immediate removal, 2) the home is unsafe, but not so unsafe as to require immediate removal, and 3) the house is safe.
#1 is ruled out, but #2 is not. The magic word is “remediation”.
Once you let go of the paranoia that CPS is out to get you and take your kids, you’ll be able to see it.
Dirty house cases, in my experience, seem to depend on the county. In one county I practice in, the judges don’t want dirty house cases and CPS doesn’t ever bother with them unless they involve other issues. In some other counties, this is different, but I have never seen a case that didn’t involve something like fecal matter everywhere from pets or some type of infestation.
I would add that in the examples I gave, the children were not removed. CPS would typically refer the family to some home-based service that would help with improving the situation.
“Once you let go of the paranoia that CPS is out to get you and take your kids, youâ€™ll be able to see it.”
I don’t see how anyone who’s read my posts on this thread could accuse me of being paranoid about CPS wanting to take people’s kids. Though I didn’t appreciate the invasive individuals who may have wanted to use CPS to harm my family, the feeling I got from the worker’s themselves were that they had no desire to open a case or disrupt my family, but were just trying to do what it took to establish that they had followed the protocol before deciding not to open a case.
Even if a home is deemed safe and clean enough for the children to keep living there, I believe one of CPS’s red flags about deeper problems that are not so easy to detect at first glance can sometimes be a total lack of organization wherein parents simply aren’t able to pull it enough together to clean up a messy house in a few days. I believe the CPS worker who came back to check that our house looked better was just trying to satisfy herself that my husband and I were indeed what we appeared to be.
The fact that Vexed Dad’s caseworker wants to add on an extra visit may simply mean that this particular worker likes a little more time before deciding not to open a case (and yes, as Donna mentioned, I do understand that “opening a case” is not synonymous with “taking the kids,” but in my state at least, there is an assessment phase where the worker decides whether to open an actual investigation), and this could even be because the call came from the child’s teacher and not just some random police officer who met the family one time.
In all of the responses regarding parental responsibility to have a clean and safe environment to raise children, I don’t see any asking why the children didn’t do their part in keeping their home environment clean.
Do children have chores anymore or is it only the adults that clean up messes? More older children do no housework these days which I find baffling because most of the mess comes from the children. Everyone in the family can take part in cleaning and maintaining a home.Kids can do their part, starting a young ages, to clean up after themselves so that deep cleaning for hours doesn’t need to happen.
Unfortunately, since the statues that give CPS their powers are written broadly, I imagine giving specific advice on how to handle it would be difficult.
Donna, how does the 4th Amendment not apply? Is it the “unreasonable” part of the search?
@Beth: I’m pretty sure Elin is just trying to explain in her own words (in her second language) what is a problem under Swedish law (emotional abuse), and gave some additional examples of what isn’t, since Jana made a wrong assumption.
“Donna, how does the 4th Amendment not apply? Is it the â€œunreasonableâ€ part of the search?”
The 4th amendment does apply. CPS absolutely cannot legally come into your home without either your permission or a search warrant. What doesn’t apply, because it is a criminal protection, is the right not to have your refusal to allow entrance to be used against you. So while they cannot force themselves in, a judge can consider the fact that you won’t allow them in as a mark against you at a later hearing.
There is also not a right to remain silent in civil court. You can obviously not be physically made to speak if you don’t want to, but your silence can be used against you.
“Well, in our messy house case, the caseworker said sheâ€™d like to come back a second time to see the house again after weâ€™d cleaned it. She also said she hadnâ€™t opened a case. In our state, thereâ€™s a difference between an assessment and an investigation, and the worker coming back to check things out didnâ€™t turn it into an investigation.”
If the worker came out to your house, I guarantee you that there is a record of it and a file (at least in the computer) which includes the investigators field notes of every interaction with you. If CPS is ever called again, they will pull up that case, see what happened and potentially use it against you. You can call that not having “a case” if you want.
What they haven’t done is formed a case plan, given you a case manager and provided services that you are required to complete if you want to keep your children.
“The 4th amendment does apply. CPS absolutely cannot legally come into your home without either your permission or a search warrant.”
There are a bunch of other exceptions, of which the most significant is probably “exigent circumstances”, in which a government agent can enter your home absent both warrant and permission. As a practical matter, a CPS worker is unlikely to be making use of any of those… it’s not the way they’re trained… but if CPS is accompanied by police or Sheriff’s deputies, well, they get different training.
“I would generally say that parents whoâ€™ve managed to raise children to the ages of 9 and 11 (the age of Vexed Dadâ€™s kids) have probably done a pretty good job providing them with a safe and healthy environment.”
The fact that a child is still alive doesn’t mean that they are in a safe and healthy environment. Many of my cases involve older kids who have either slipped through the cracks for years or who have parents who were once decent, but then took a serious nose-dive for some reason.
Yes, James, but since this is a message board rather than a law school exam answer, the need to spew out all your legal knowledge just to get some perceived value out of that legal education of yours is really not necessary.
@Emily, you’re so right about a good environment for kids not LOOKING good, and vice versa. Years ago I lived near a case where a family day care provider was found to be sedating the children, and one of the parents said “we thought it was a wonderful environment because even though there were a lot of kids there, when we walked in it was so quiet.” It boggles the mind that anyone would find that a good or appropriate environment for small children.
But then again maybe I’m just trying to justify the number of markers and sequins (and probably permission slips) stuffed down the sides of my sofa cushions…
“Yes, James, but since this is a message board rather than a law school exam answer, the need to spew out all your legal knowledge just to get some perceived value out of that legal education of yours is really not necessary.”
Are we back to that crap again? You get really condescending every time you get caught in a mistake.
If you think “There are a bunch of other exceptions” is a law school exam answer, where did you go to school… Rural Southern School of Podiatry, Taxidermy, and Law?
“If the worker came out to your house, I guarantee you that there is a record of it and a file (at least in the computer) which includes the investigators field notes of every interaction with you. If CPS is ever called again, they will pull up that case, see what happened and potentially use it against you. You can call that not having ‘a case’ if you want.”
Thanks! I’m so glad I have your permission to write the facts about my own experience.
“What they havenâ€™t done is formed a case plan, given you a case manager and provided services that you are required to complete if you want to keep your children.”
Exactly. So glad to have that all cleared up.
But yes, I understand that there are records kept of everything. CPS even has records on people who know absolutely nothing about ever having been reported to CPS, because they keep a record of every call ever made on anyone, but they don’t notify you about reports that have been made against you unless they happen to deem it worthwhile to follow up on. It can still all pile up and be used against you later, no doubt.
When we got that second visit back in 2011, we were sure that we’d end up with some sort of a case being opened for a while, simply because of the earlier report that my sister’d made in 2008. And I’ve also heard that even if they don’t open a case, if there’s another concern within something like six months, you can end up with an open case where, as you’ve said, you’re then required to do whatever they tell you to do in order to keep your children.
However, we were very pleasantly surprised to learn that the caseworker’s opinion of us didn’t seem to be the least bit affected by the prior report. Apparently as more and more trigger-happy folks are speed-dialing CPS to report all and sundry, the stigma of ever having been visited by CPS is disappearing. They no longer assume anything bad just because they have a “record” on you. I suppose that may be one positive result of the backlog created by all the busybodies. The sad part is all the energy is takes away from the children that really need help.
“You get really condescending every time you get caught in a mistake.”
Actually the only mistake that I got caught in was temporarily agreeing with your incorrect statement. Since CPS is not law enforcement, the exceptions to the 4th amendment don’t apply to them. In fact, they don’t even make sense in the CPS context. They do have the same justification defense against being prosecuted for trespassing or damaging property (if they break something going in) as anyone else on the planet would have if they entered a house to actually aid someone in danger – eg they heard someone screaming “help” while they were standing on the porch – but that is about it. I was thinking of that as exigent circumstances, but it isn’t really since that only applies to law enforcement.
That Susan – My point was that I personally would consider what you had “a case.” The agency opened an investigation, and then required you to do something to get them to leave you alone – as opposed to just ruling it unsubstantiated from the outset – that had you not done would have resulted in further action including possibly the removal of your children. Other people, apparently yourself included, might define “case” differently than I do, but to me that is a case. A short case, but a case nonetheless.
Donna, fair enough, but in my state, it’s considered a formal case when you’ve signed some sort of an agreement to do certain things in order to retain custody of your kids. The only thing I ever signed was their statement that our home was safe and there was no need for further intervention. We simply verbally agreed (during the second visit) that the caseworker could come back in three days, and our statement that we would clean up was also just verbal, and she came at the time that we said would be convenient for us. If we’d said no when she said she’d like to come back one more time, it’s possible that she would have opened a formal case and required us to sign something, with the threat of taking our kids if we didn’t, but that never happened so we can only guess.
And the caseworker who made the first visit in 2008 said this was an assessment, not an investigation. She just casually walked through the house and didn’t even go into bedrooms, bathrooms, or basement, or open cabinets or anything, just kind of glanced around.
The worker who came in 2011 just did the same casual walk-through, both on the first day she came, and three days later when she came back. Since I’d heard of much more intrusive behavior during “investigations,” the casual surface checking seemed more like an assessment just like before. But I’ve no doubt that in both cases, they could have instantly decided to make it an investigation and it could have been really nasty. My understanding, based on things shared by a friend who’s done foster care for years, is that CPS workers in our state have been much better educated about there being different parenting approaches, and also about the harm of reactive attachment disorder. From what I’ve heard about some other states, I feel like we’re living in the enlightenment here, whereas some other parts of the country are still in the dark ages, and toddlers can even be snatched away if social workers think it’s abnormal to breastfeed beyond a year or so.
“Actually the only mistake that I got caught in was temporarily agreeing with your incorrect statement.”
Um… that’s not “you agreeing with me”. That’s “you disagreeing with you”.
Anyways, I like that you seem to have actually gone back and looked up exceptions to the warrant requirement but…
” Since CPS is not law enforcement, the exceptions to the 4th amendment donâ€™t apply to them. In fact, they donâ€™t even make sense in the CPS context.”
Let’s see. The specific “CPS context” is that the some agent of CPS wants to enter your home and gather evidence, but they lack consent, and they lack a warrant, to do so.
However, IF the situation is such that the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement of the 4th amendment applies, THEN what the CPS agent may do is enter the property AND then apply the plain view doctrine (another one of those exceptions that you say has no application) to gather evidence which is used against you in court despite not having a warrant nor permission to enter.
Not exactly sure why you consider not being able to sue them for property damage relevant, but you seem to.
Yeah, search-incident-to-arrest and stop-and-frisk Terry stops don’t have much application. And “Hot Pursuit” seems very, very unlikely. (Just showing off my legal education, there.)
What can I say, my house was spotless for 3 weeks straight after someone called the cops on my kids in the car. I wasn’t taking any chances. 😛
I would say get a lawyer, but also hire some maids and get the house cleaned up at least one time.
I don’t believe it endangers kids of that age to live in a messy or dusty house (assuming no human/pet waste or rotten food), but since CPS has decided to take an interest, and since I can’t think of any negatives to moderate cleanliness, I’d just do it at this point.
I see advice saying (1) never let CPS into your home, and (2) always hire a lawyer. There are many people who wish that they followed this advice. However it is not very practical advice in most cases. This family is probably better off just hiring a professional maid, and allowing a CPS inspection right after the cleaning.
“It is perfectly legal to raise your voice if you are in a noisy environment, if the child is doing something dangerous and you raise your voice due to being scared and so on.â€
Wait. There is actually a law legislating the exact circumstances under which a parent can raise their voice? So if Iâ€™m in a noisy environment, and I would like my kid to come nearer to me, I CANâ€™T raise my voice to get his attention unless heâ€™s doing something dangerous and Iâ€™m scared?
Who is policing this?”
No, the law is not that exact, what I was trying to explain was that it is perfectly fine to raise your voice to your child in situations where this is necessary or by accident for example but using screaming as a way of putting your child down is not allowed. I am sorry if this was unclear, I thought everyone would understand that these were just examples and not the actual wording of the law. If you were in fact not allowed to raise your voice I would be in deep trouble, I am loud and often yell the loudest of everyone at the playground and many people have indicated that they know my daughter’s name because they have heard me call out for her.
“Formerly we suffered from crimes; now we suffer from laws.”
Tacitus, around 110 A.D.
(rather loose translation)
@lollipoplover — I’m not sure it matters who is doing the cleaning because as the adults of the household, it’s ultimately their responsibility to keep the home safe (defined all the ways it can be defined). Whether they do the cleaning or they make sure the other members of the household do their chores.
It’s not like any parent can say “they wouldn’t clean up” as a reason why the house was in disarray to the point of being a CPS concern.
Donna, thanks for the reply.
It lined up with my thinking, especially the “you must have something to hide” inference that invoking Constitutional protections usually brings.
Nonetheless, I have difficulty in cooperating with someone who begins our relationship in an adversarial manner (which is why police are generally polite to you). But that’s me; my “fight/flight/freeze” response is not optimally calibrated for bureaucratic ambush situations.
” You get really condescending every time you get caught in a mistake.”
James the vast majority of your comments are condescending. Pot calling the kettle black.
We all have phones now that have cameras… any time someone like CPS or law enforcement want to come in to your house, I suggest recording the whole interaction. Nearly everyone tends to behave better when they know they are being recorded.
Warren is correct. Shut up, shut up and then shut up again. I do not think it is wise for you at this point to be on social media. You should, in my very humble opinion, seek out an attorney immediately.
When it is all said and done, you could, at your discretion, post info, redacted of course, about your case.
But the goal here and now is to make it gone.
I wish you luck. When dealing with CPS, I take the following to heart; think like a serpent but act like a dove.
Maggie, while the advice to get an attorney is good, I don’t know whether keeping one’s mouth shut is always the best way to make CPS go away. For example, in the Meitiv’s case, I think the national and even international, attention made the city self-conscious about what interfering idiots their police force looked like to the rest of the world. I also think that without the publicity surrounding Maria Hasankolli’s currently unfolding case, the “machinery” of the law would be a lot more likely to just keep riding roughshod over that woman and her family. I’m hoping that the letters and public support will make the DA there seriously rethink what he’s trying to do.
There may be some situations where publicity can hurt by making a CPS worker more vindictive — but I think the majority of CPS workers, if they know the public is watching, will be more careful about jumping to conclusions and more eager to actually make the case go away themselves, except in situations where there are genuine concerns about a child’s safety.
“Maggie, while the advice to get an attorney is good, I donâ€™t know whether keeping oneâ€™s mouth shut is always the best way to make CPS go away.”
Which is why the advice is to get a (good*) lawyer’s opinion FIRST, and, if there is to be a PR campaign, let the lawyer do it. The advice is “Keep your mouth shut until you’ve consulted an attorney, and afterwards, too, if that’s what your lawyer advises.”
If you run around making public statements, those can be used against you. Your lawyer will help make sure that your public statements don’t work against you.
*Definition of a “good” lawyer… one who is licensed in the relevant jurisdiction, specializes in or is experienced in the relevant area of law, and has taken the time to review all the available information.