In Washington and throughout the country, juvenile law and Child Protective Services (CPS) often intersect. If a police officer wants to enter and search a private home, he or she must produce a validly authorized warrant or gain entry with consent from the homeowner or person living there. As a parent, if a CPS official comes knocking at your door for “juvenile justice” reasons, you are free to deny entry if there isn’t a validly authorized court order giving permission to enter.
Many parents are unaware of their rights in such circumstances. Hundreds, if not thousands of parents and guardians mistakenly believe that they must allow a CPS agent to enter and search their home, even if they have no legal documentation granting them the authority to do so. Often, these impromptu searches occur because CPS suspects that child neglect or abuse is occurring in the home.
Unwarranted CPS searches usually do not reveal child endangerment or abuse
Less than 4% of the thousands of warrantless searches that CPS conducts each year produce evidence of child neglect, endangerment or abuse. In the meantime, gross civil rights violations have often taken place without parents even knowing it. It’s critical to research the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects your right to privacy against unlawful searches or seizures.
Has a minor in your home gotten into trouble with the juvenile justice system?
There’s often a link between juvenile crime and domestic violence. The juvenile justice system has minors’ best interests in mind when adjudicating cases where teens are facing criminal charges. CPS workers often provide helpful services to minors and their parents or guardians, helping them navigate the system in the least stressful manner possible.
That doesn’t mean that a CPS worker has a right to barge into your home, search the premises or talk to your children without your permission or without a warrant to do so. Unless the agent believes a child inside your home is in imminent danger, he or she must obtain legal permission to enter. You cannot incur penalties, such as a child being removed from your home, for refusing a CPS interview or denying a worker entry to your home.
If your child needs assistance from CPS
Don’t hesitate to reach out for support from CPS or other government agencies if your teenage son or daughter is facing legal problems due to criminal charges against them. If your child has a condition that has exacerbated the situation, such as a diagnosis of depression, autism or other mental illness, a social worker can provide much-needed support to your family.
Just be sure that you’re aware of your parental rights and know where to seek support for help in defending those rights if the need arises because of the actions of a CPS agent.