Understanding CPS Investigations
When you are contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS),Washington State’s Department of Child, Youth, and Family Services (DCYF), it can feel overwhelming and frightening. Our attorneys have years of experience helping clients navigate these difficult situations. Our goals are to protect your rights and reunify your family.
CPS is required to initiate an investigation whenever they receive a report that a child is being abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated. They will need to “lay eyes on” the children involved and assess for immediate safety within either 24 or 72 hours, depending on whether the case is labeled an “emergent” or “non-emergent” response. CPS can meet with your children without your presence or permission.
The other steps involved in a standard CPS investigation include a home walkthrough of the home(s) where the children live and an interview of each parental figure who cares for the children. In some situations, the involvement by CPS can include law enforcement and can escalate very quickly. If there is an assessment that children are in present danger, there is legal authority to remove the children from the parents’ care. CPS can also put a safety plan into place while their investigation is ongoing, meaning that they can place limits on your ability to see your child.
Once the investigation is complete, CPS will issue findings of “founded” or “unfounded” for child abuse and neglect, or any other basis upon which the investigation was initiated. If you hold certain licensures, such as a medical license or teaching certificate, a “founded” finding may impact that credential.
It’s important to seek legal advice right away if you are contacted by CPS. CPS has a lot of discretion in its decision-making. Depending on the facts of your case, it may be in your best interest to fully cooperate, or if you are under criminal investigation, consider not cooperating at all. CPS investigations, by law, are required to move quickly, and it’s important to have a plan in place quickly if you are contacted by them.
Our office provides full representation in CPS investigations, including any related matters, such as criminal investigations or charges and protection orders that may be sought by the other parent on behalf of your children at the direction of CPS.
Please be aware that in order to avoid conflicts, we can only represent one parent in situations where both parents or guardians are under investigation. In those cases, if needed, we can arrange for another attorney to represent the parent or guardian we do not represent.