The knock at the door is terrifying. Parents usually have no idea that they are being investigated by child protective services and thus they often do not know WHY someone is at their door. Full Disclosure is actually REQUIRED by the Federal law known as CAPTA (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) and any state, including Texas, that is NOT disclosing the full list of allegations is IN VIOLATION OF THE FEDERAL LAW. CAPTA specifically states that allegations of abuse and neglect MUST be disclosed at the FIRST CONTACT with the government agency that is tasked with investigating abuse and neglect. There is no exception here.
For example, there is explicitly NO LEGAL way for CPS to require a face-to-face interaction before letting the parents know why they are being investigated. Even when CPS investigators claim they need entrance into the home, require a meeting at a CPS office, eyes on the children, release of records, signatures on paperwork, or any other request BEFORE they will disclose the REASONS for the investigation which are the ALLEGATIONS, this is NOT LEGAL. However, it happens across Texas and multiple states on a daily basis. (See System Accountability Policy)
Requiring the state to provide allegations in WRITING of ALL accusations against parents would go a long way to provide the due process and accountability that is missing in CPS investigations. The Institute believes this should also include a Miranda-style warning that informs the parent that anything they say may be used against them in either a civil or criminal action and they are entitled to seek legal advice. Furthermore, parents need to understand and be informed that they may be talking to a licensed law enforcement officer that, although not necessarily acting in the capacity of a peace officer while investigating, they are still trained as police officers and this may have color of law implications (TITLE 18, U.S.C., SECTION 242). In Texas, these law enforcement officers employed as CPS investigators are often called “special investigators.”
This coercive and illegal activity that takes advantage of ignorant, unsuspecting parents needs to stop! Requiring the allegations in writing would protect BOTH the agency and parents. It would provide proof for the federal government that the state is following the law and it would allow parents due process in figuring out how to proceed during an investigation. Sometimes parents will need to and should get legal advice before interacting with the agency and these allegations are what the attorney will need to know so that he or she can provide proper legal advice. No parent should ever be facing an investigation ignorant to the reason any questions are being asked, especially considering the possibility of self-incrimination and the gravity of what is at stake in a child welfare case.
No one wants to prevent necessary investigations, but fishing expeditions, especially when based on anonymous reports (see Anonymous Reporting Policy), traumatize families and the very children that the agencies are supposed to be protecting. Hindering parental rights under the guise of a CPS investigations through refusal to disclose the allegations in the first place is a violation of state/federal laws at best and unconstitutional at worst. It must stop!