CPS can only take your child away if the child is being abused, neglected, abandoned, or uncared for. CPS equally takes a child away if the child has no parents and it is determined that the child’s mental or physical health is at risk. A messy house is one of the reasons why CPS may take a child away; however, it depends on the degree of mess and whether or not your child is at risk. When the child’s safety is in question, CPS may take the child away, but they can’t usually keep a child for more than 5 days without a court decision.
Therefore, if CPS thinks that your living environment is unhealthy for a child, they can take the child away. If conditions put the child’s safety and health at risk like where there are poops all over the place, there are pungent odors, mold and mildew buildup, dirty clothes, plenty of hoarded products with little or no room for the feet to move about, kids are dirty and unkempt, beer bottles scattered here and there, then it’s certain that CPS can and will remove the child from the environment.
If you’re concerned about whether a messy house could have a negative consequence if CPS calls, the best thing to do is to give your home a thorough cleaning now before it turns into a potential problem. If CPS is involved, you can contact your local legal adviser to help you navigate through the process.
Your home must constitute a danger for the child or be very dirty for CPS to take the child. If your home shows good signs of excessive hoarding, your child will likely be taken from you. While household mess is a common issue, if the clutter is on the extreme side, it is a good indication of hoarding propensity and a serious psychological disorder associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that needs some professional intervention.
So the answer depends on what you mean by a messy home. Thus, if the house is cluttered because the table for breakfast isn’t cleared up until lunchtime, the answer is no. And if on the other hand, a messy house means you have hoarded belongings that have lasted for years combined with pet carcass, drug stuff and pieces of equipment, feces in the house, lack of food; the child is not being attended to and the house lacks freshwater, then, the answer is yes.
The main concern is not the clutter in itself; it’s whether or not the child is in danger in the living environment. Removing a child out of his or her home or separating a child from a family is harmful in itself. Therefore, living in the house must be worst for the child than the removal for it to be justified.
If a child’s life is at risk, CPS can remove the child. What is “messy” can be interpreted differently by different people. Some hoarders do not think their homes are a mess. If there are kids or animal poop on the floor, bugs, and cockroaches in the house, rotten food, etc., CPS will take photographs of these things and remove the kid.
Therefore, if you are expecting CPS for any reason, do yourself a favor by cleaning your home thoroughly as you’d do when you’re expecting an important visitor. You must do this, carefully and painstakingly because CPS will blame you for every little thing they can think of.
While trying to differentiate between a messy house and a house in a poor sanitary condition, the measurement yardstick should always be more about safety than about the clutter.
Additional things CPS looks for include exposed wires, uncovered outlets, or other physical hazards in your home, availability of fire exits, and free access to the exit routes, smoke detectors, and smoke alarms. Do these safety tools work properly? Do you have urine or feces on the floor? If children are crawling or moving: Are there any small objects within the reach of children which can create a choking hazard? CPS can work with you to clean up your home, including requesting heavy duty cleaning or homemaking services. CPS won’t penalize you for everyday messes and dishes in your sink.
What can be considered as Abuse, Neglect, or negligence?
State law defines what is considered abuse or neglect. CPS generally investigates any physical, mental, or sexual abuse during a child’s life. Some states also include an abusive behavior that threatens a child or places a child at a high risk of facing serious harm.
On the other hand, negligence is generally defined as the failure of a parent or guardian to provide adequate care. These may include:
- Not providing food, care, or medical services to children
- Not finding someone or a relative who can take care of your toddler or preschooler when you aren’t available to take care of your kid.
- Not sending your child to school following the existing state or district rules
- Not providing adequate care to children with special needs.
Can CPS pay an unscheduled visit to a home?
Government agents have no legal right to enter your home without a legal permit. Legal permits include your permission or court decisions that allow forced or emergency access.
CPS will not be able to enter your home unless they have a warrant signed by a judge. Also, CPS representatives will not enter a home legally without proof of identity. The only way a CPS can enter your home without a warrant is if you invite them. The U.S. Constitution protects your right to free government search if the investigator doesn’t have a warrant. On the other hand, if CPS has a legal basis to investigate you, they will approach the court for suitable court orders.
When CPS appears on your doorstep, never allow them in for an unplanned visit! They will try to get as much negative information as possible about you and your family and use it against you! Always ask the CPS to return at an allotted time to check your home. You must clean the entire house before they come!
You must make sure there are no cluttered dishes on the counters, no laundry left unattended, and ensure you lock all chemicals inside cabinets. If you have a cat, keep your litter box clean and take it far away from the kitchen.
Clean the refrigerator and store good food, healthy snacks, and more. Tidy up the children’s rooms with good sheets, no leftover foods in the room, and use air fresheners. Do not place candles in the children’s room or where children can touch them.
This is a big issue for CPS workers. It is helpful to be with close friends or family members during their visit. Ask a friend or family member to write a letter stating that they have seen your interaction with your child and that you are not abusing or neglecting your child. Get a photocopy of the letter and hand over the original letter to them.
Communicate more through email or text messages with CPS staff. This way everything you say will be documented. Check out the state laws for audio recording. It’s illegal to use the audio recording in some states.
Know your citizenship and constitutional rights. Select your words cautiously and put your fingers crossed. You can discuss certain facts with your attorney to find out what legal options you have.
When does CPS remove children?
CPS only removes children from specific situations to protect the children from the abusive and violent and negligent environment. This means that no attempt is made by the parent or the guardian to ensure the safety of the child. Such actions must be taken following the court’s decision to ensure that your child is being taken away from an unsafe home.
What happens when the CPS starts investigating?
Several steps are taken when reviewing the report. Social workers can start by interviewing children who may be left unattended. Such interviews must be recorded-audio or video in some way. The obtained report is then discussed with guardians to provide an accurate explanation for any injury caused, safety issue, abuse, or issues of negligence. If a parent or a guardian is accused of abuse or neglect, the criminal history is checked.
Other things the social worker can do include interviewing other kids who may be at home. Children may be physically examined for correct indications or signs of abuse or neglect, such as malnutrition. They will equally interview someone else who was equally accused of abusing the child.
They will also interview people who are aware of the said abuse or neglect and who can confirm or explain the damage caused. They may equally access records of the child’s mental health, that of the guardians, and perpetrators of child abuse. They can also access the home of the child for evidence of such abuse.
What if I ignore the CPS?
You have no legal obligation to speak with CPS staff. The parents have the right to deny access to the investigator. However, denying access to CPS will not put an end to the investigation. If CPS is notified about a possible danger for a child, it reserves the right to ask the court for a relevant court order and this would require you to grant them access. The CPS must inform you if they plan to do so, and in a situation like that, you are eligible to participate in the court hearing of the case. In emergencies, CPS may turn up in your house with the police without a court order.
If you are convinced that there are no threats to your home, you can allow entry. This is because, if you deny entry, the CPS would see it as you do not want to cooperate.
Even when it’s essential to refuse them entry, the manner with which you approach it matters a lot. You can say “I’d love to discuss this problem later” or “I want to discuss the matter when my husband is here.” Suggesting rescheduling the visit at a future date can be very helpful at building respectful relationships.
How long can the investigation take?
The investigation is usually completed within 30 days. This gives the social worker ample time to determine whether the child is abused or neglected, or whether the child is at risk of future abuse or neglect. It also helps the CPS worker to determine the overall safety of the child.
If they think that the child is suffering from abuse, they will equally check whether or not the parent needs services to reduce the risk or abuse, or if the best option would be to remove the child from the CPS facility.
Is CPS required by law to investigate complaints?
The CPS must investigate all charges of child abuse it receives, whether it is just or not. These investigations can range from simple conversations to complete investigations. The staff will contact you within 72 hours of receiving your complaint.
What transpires when CPS removes a child from a family or home?
You can participate in a hearing where you can tell the judge your story within 14 days after your child is removed. If social workers and CPS staff believe your child is facing immediate risk of physical or sexual abuse, they can remove the child without your permission or court order.
How do I close a CPS case?
You have no legal obligation to cooperate with CPS except when they have provided a court order. However, if you want your case to end soon, your best bet is to cooperate with a CPS agent. Things you can do include:
- Providing required documents
- Allowing the CPS to inspect your home
- Providing answer to questions they ask
If you want to end your CPS case fast, do all in your power before they take the case to a juvenile court.
It should be remembered that CPS employees are just doing their job to ensure the best interest of children is protected. This means that they don’t want children to be separated from their parents except it’s highly essential.
When does the Court Gets Involved?
Social workers can file a petition by contacting a city attorney if they believe that the child is at immediate risk from emotional or physical abuse. The judge will review the petition and decide whether to move the child.
If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you can take the case to court. At the hearing, the judge may decide to do one of the following:
- Ask parents to work with social services to find a solution.
- Ask the alleged abuse perpetrator to leave home
- Order the child to be removed and put with a custodial family member or other relatives
- Order the parent to pay the child’s support to the person who has custody of the child.
- Dismiss the case.
State law determines how and when trials are held. However, in most cases, the judge will have to find clear and substantive proof before they can terminate parental rights.
CPS can take a kid away from a messy home. However, the mess has to be serious or extreme conditions like feces on the walls, bugs everywhere, pungent and unhealthy odor, and a lot more. If you’re expecting a CPS for any reason, clean your home before CPS arrives. Seek advice from a local attorney.
CPS can visit your house if they are invited by your neighbor, but they can look around and say the charges are unfounded. If the house is very dirty and constitutes a risk to your child’s health, CPS may win a case against you. However, if the issue is only a messy house and there is no evidence that you are neglecting your child, then you could win the case.
Many child welfare agencies are cautious about what they do because judges get upset when CPS crosses their legal boundaries, particularly when it has to do with parents with good lawyers.