Parents Rights in a Pennsylvania CPS Investigation
If you do not have an active case with CPS, we unfortunately cannot help and kindly request you do not call our law offices.
At all times during an investigation by the Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF), often called child protective services (CPS), you have the right to legal counsel. A Pittsburgh CPS attorney can explain the investigation process, potential outcomes, and your parental rights during a CPS investigation. You may want to have an attorney present with you during interviews with the caseworker.
If you are going to be interviewed by the police, it is highly recommended you have an attorney present to ensure you do not incriminate yourself in some way. To learn more about your rights while you or another adult is being investigated for child abuse, contact Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC at (412) 471-5100.
Your Child Can Only be Removed in Limited Circumstances in Pennsylvania
Your greatest fear is that your child will be taken from you. However, Pennsylvania CPS does not always have the right to take this drastic action. Removal of a child from their home is an extreme measure and only allowed under specific circumstances. For a CPS employee to take custody of your child, they must have a valid court order based on evidence that the child is in immediate danger. However, the police, a doctor, or the director of a hospital or medical facility may have the right to take your child into protective custody without a court order if there is evidence of imminent danger or pursuant to your or another adult’s arrest.
If your child was immediately taken from you after a report of child abuse, call Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC right away. We understand the difficulties of this situation and will review whether the child’s removal was lawful and the legal actions we can take to have your child returned to you.
You Have the Right for Your Child to go to a Friend or Relative
If your child was removed from your home, the first option should be for your child to go to a capable relative or close friend’s home. This is known as kinship care and it is usually regarded as the best thing for the child. In Pennsylvania, CPS must make a reasonable effort to place your child in a kinship care relationship, and you have the right to advocate for your child to go to a grandparent, aunt or uncle, cousin, or close friend’s home. You should provide CPS with possible adults’ names and contact information.
If kinship care is not possible, your child will be placed in foster care or a residential facility. If multiple children were taken, CPS needs to make an effort to place them together. If the children are separated, CPS must make a reasonable effort for visits between them – at least two per month – unless it is not in the child’s best interests. Also, CPS should place the children in a foster situation that enables them to attend their same school, unless it is not in their best interest.
You Can Appeal Your Child’s Removal in Pennsyvlania
You have every right to appeal the decision to take your child away from you. If your child was immediately removed based on an emergency and without a court order, then there must be a court hearing held within 72 hours. If your child was removed via a court order, then a disposition hearing must take place within 20 days. Whatever the process for removing your child from your home, an attorney will ensure that you appear in court at the appropriate time and have evidence to support your child returning home.
You Have the Right to See and Talk With Your Child
When your child is placed with a family, friend, or in foster care, you have the right to see them unless a judge is presented with evidence that it would not be within your child’s best interests. Usually, you will be entitled to scheduled visits at least one per week. These visits may require supervision, such as by the adult providing care for your child or a CPS caseworker. You should also be allowed to speak with your children on the phone on a regular basis while they live somewhere else.
You Can Appeal the Final Pennsylvania CPS Decision
If the child abuse allegations are determined to be founded or substantiated, you have the right to appeal. Up to this point, you may not have had an attorney. You may have simply followed CPS directions and done what you thought was best. If you have not worked with a lawyer, now is the time to call and seek legal advice. You are most likely to successfully appeal a CPS decision with an experienced CPS attorney by your side.
You Have the Right to Fight to Get Your Child Back
Even if there was a negative outcome to the CPS investigation and your appeal, this does not mean you lose your child forever. You have the right to work with CPS to develop a family service plan (FSP), which outlines the steps you will take to improve the home environment and your interactions with your child. This may include completing parenting classes, anger management classes, drug or alcohol treatment, or therapy. Typically, you have one year to show that you have made positive changes and that your child should return home.
Contact a Pittsburgh CPS Attorney for Help
At Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC, we understand that a CPS investigation is your worst nightmare. You may be horrified by allegations that you abused your child or shocked to find that another person may have hurt your child. It is difficult to cope with this sudden intrusion into your life and even more painful to put on a brave face and cooperate. We are here to help. We know the ins and outs of CPS investigations and can protect your and your child’s rights at all times. We will fight day and night to keep your child out of foster care.
Call us today at (412) 471-5100 to schedule a confidential consultation and learn more.