Child Protective Services (CPS) takes its role very seriously in investigating child abuse or neglect reports in Texas. This includes performing home visits when a case is opened or reopened so that CPS can examine the current state of a child’s living conditions.
A CPS caseworker will typically perform a checklist review of the home to help determine the severity of the alleged abuse or neglect. Sometimes, CPS will overstep its bounds to find out more information that they can use against you.
It’s important to understand the signs CPS looks for when performing an investigation to help keep CPS within its boundaries. This way, you can be prepared to defend your family and not give into CPS’ tactics during their home visit.
Let’s explore what a home visit from a CPS caseworker is like and the 15 signs CPS looks for during an investigation.
How Does a CPS Home Visit Work?
A CPS home visit will consist of the CPS caseworker asking questions, looking around your home, and reviewing the allegations in the context of your home environment. A CPS home visit is designed to help confirm the allegations that led to the case being opened. In other words, they are looking to validate the allegations, not disprove them.
This means that a caseworker will look for anything suspicious or unusual that could lead them to recommend removing your child(ren) from home or make another recommendation that could restrict your ability to care for your kids.
Yes, the CPS caseworker is trying to do their job by asking questions and gathering evidence, but the line of questioning could lead you to provide an answer that is not completely accurate and will work against you down the line. That’s why you need to remove emotions from the situation and simply provide straightforward answers without confirming a pre-existing view that the home is not safe for your kids.
For example, if you yell at a caseworker who asks an unnecessarily prying question, that could serve as confirmation that the home is not safe for the children.
One way to remain calm is to understand what CPS is looking for during their visit.
15 Signs CPS Looks For At Your Home
1. Cleanliness. The CPS caseworker will want to ensure that you have created a reasonably clean environment for your children. No, you don’t have to maintain a completely spotless home to qualify as “clean.” However, there should be ample walking and living spaces within the home to ensure that your children can freely move about.
2. Trash. Additionally, CPS will want to ensure that you do not have excessive trash or waste lying around the home that could present health risks to the children. Trash should be kept in a designated trash can or another receptacle.
3. Food. CPS will want to look inside your refrigerator, freezer, cabinets, and other food storage areas to ensure that you have stocked ample food and beverages for your children to be well-nourished.
4. Smells. CPS will take note of any usual smells in or around the home that could point to health concerns. For example, the smell of rotten eggs usually indicates a gas leak in the home. If this has not been dealt with, the caseworker will make notes and ask you questions about what you are doing to address the situation.
5. Interpersonal relationships. The CPS caseworker will want to observe relationships between family members. For example, how do parents and children talk to each other and treat each other? You don’t want to force “good behavior,” as anything that seems unnatural will make CPS even more suspicious. But, you will want to do your best to present a positive family dynamic.
6. Bruises or scratches. CPS will look for any unusual bruises, cuts, or scratches on your children. They will likely ask questions about the cause of the marks to determine whether these marks can be attributed to abuse by another family member or neglect not caring for the safety of your children.
7. Use of drugs or excessive alcohol. CPS will look for signs that there is drug use in the home, and they will also want to know if there is excessive alcohol use in the home that could contribute to violent situations that directly or indirectly impact children.
8. Pets. Are your pets groomed and fed? What kind of behavior are they exhibiting? The CPS caseworker will observe how pets in the home are treated to help them gauge the overall level of care in the home.
9. Insects or rodents. Are there roaches, bugs, or other insects in living areas? Or, are there rodents such as rats or mice roaming around your home? The presence of an unusually high number of insects or rodents could lead to CPS probing further into your living environment.
10. Firearms. Guns should be stored appropriately, locked, and out of reach of children. If guns are in plain sight – especially with the ammunition inside the firearm – then a CPS caseworker will note a concerning home environment.
11. Beds. CPS will want to review current sleeping arrangements to ensure that each child has a dedicated bed or has enough space on a shared bed to sleep comfortably. Additionally, CPS will want to ensure that the beds are properly maintained (e.g., no lice or bed bugs).
12. Chemicals in the home. Are chemicals such as bleach or other cleaning supplies properly stored? CPS will look for signs that chemical products are too easily accessible, leading to a child accidentally consuming these products and becoming violently ill.
13. Notices at the home. CPS will make a note of any notices or overdue bills. For example, if you have a notice on your front door that water will be shut off on a certain date due to a lack of payment, CPS will see this as a sign of being irresponsible to provide basic utilities to children in the home.
14. Pool. If you have a pool at your home, CPS will examine whether you have created a safe environment for children. Or, is the pool too easily accessible without age-appropriate safety features that could lead to an incident?
15. Vehicles. A CPS caseworker may also want to review the inside of your vehicle(s) to ensure that you have proper safety measures in place. For example, do you have car seats appropriate for each child’s age and weight? And are the car seats properly positioned in the vehicle to comply with NHTSA standards?
– When CPS asks questions about each of these areas – and other areas depending on your specific situation – it’s important to answer clearly and confidently. You don’t want to come across as defensive or like you are trying to downplay a situation.
If you believe that CPS is overstepping its bounds or trying to lead you into making an admission that is not accurate, then consider working with a family law attorney such as myself to provide you with legal support.
Fight Back Against CPS During an Investigation
You don’t have to let CPS walk over your family. You can fight back with an advocate on your side. I will help you form a strong CPS defense so that you can protect your parental rights and your children.
If you are frustrated with CPS or don’t believe that CPS has treated you fairly during an investigation, then call me to discuss your case.
I currently help families in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County defend themselves against CPS in Texas. If you live in one of these counties, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for support.
Call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss what CPS can and cannot do during an investigation. I am ready to support your family during this difficult time!