Families aren’t always the loving, supportive units they should be — especially where kids are involved.
If you have a family member who keeps calling Child Protective Services (CPS) on you for ridiculous reasons (or outright false ones), you need to know how to protect yourself and your children.
Why do people file false claims with CPS?
There are dozens of reasons that someone might make a false claim of abuse or neglect about you to CPS. Maybe your in-laws simply take exception to your parenting style because you’ve decided to raise the kids in a different religion. Maybe your ex is trying to use CPS as a weapon in a custody battle. Maybe your neighbor made a snap judgment about something overheard or seen out-of-context.
In short, false accusations — especially when they’re repeated — tend to be punitive or harassing in nature.
What happens when false claims are made to CPS?
Here’s the thing: CPS is legally obligated to investigate a report of abuse or neglect, even if it’s false. When the complaints are basically the same repeatedly and coming from the same source, CPS may close subsequent cases without launching a new investigation every time.
Here’s what you can do:
- Ask what you’ve been accused of doing. Don’t accept “neglect” or “abuse” as a broad explanation. Ask for specifics.
- Don’t talk, explain, justify or respond to what you are told. Anything you say could be twisted against you later in a report. Stay calm, stay silent and listen.
- Be polite, but don’t invite the caseworker inside. Unless they have a court order in hand, don’t make the mistake of assuming you have to comply with their request to look around your home or talk to the kids.
- Call an attorney. No matter how absurd the accusations are, CPS tends to operate on the principle of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” They may assume that abuse or neglect is really happening — even if it isn’t exactly what’s alleged in the complaint.
Finally, if you can determine where the complaints are coming from, take steps to insulate your family unit from the problem. This may mean closing down your social media, cutting contact with the in-laws or other drastic measures. The more you limit their information about your life, the better off you and your kids will be.