You are going through a tumultuous divorce and to make matters worse child protective services (CPS) becomes involved. The first thing you need to do is contact your divorce attorney. Your attorney should be present for all interviews. Additionally, your attorney should be involved with anything that involves child protective services, including all paperwork. You want to make sure you are getting the protection you need as anyone can make a report suggesting that your children are being mistreated, abused and or neglected. Any person who believes a child is being abused or neglected in good faith should make a report to CPS or to the police. If your soon-to-be ex has made a false report, the first offense is a Class A misdemeanor. False reports thereafter are a Class D felony. Once a report is made, Arkansas law requires that the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or the Arkansas State Police Family Protection Unit must assess the report. It is crucial that you work closely with your attorney during this process.
The first thing that will happen is that CPS will want to talk to you, your children and other people that may have important information like doctors, teachers, daycare workers, etcetera. The law authorizes CPS to investigate any reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. Keep in mind that CPS does not have to tell you before they interview your child and does not need your permission. The child will be interviewed at a location that is convenient and comfortable for the child. For example, at school, daycare or at home. Only after your child has been interviewed will you be notified. Additionally, CPS and the police have the authority to photograph the child as deemed necessary to document the child’s physical condition.
After the interview process, CPS will conduct their investigation. The investigation will entail an assessment of family strengths and risks to the children. If the investigation reveals abuse and or neglect, the police will most likely get involved to place the child in protective custody. If the social worker does not feel the child is in danger, he or she may continue to visit your home to talk about any problems you are having regarding your child and offer help to assist you in making things better for you and your family.
If the report is found to be true, DCSF will notify you and you will have 30 days from the day you receive the notice to request an administrative hearing. This hearing will be your opportunity to appeal the investigative determination. If you do not request the hearing within the 30-day timeframe, the judge will decide the true determination and it will remain a true finding, you name will be placed in the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry.
If the report is unsubstantiated (not true), you can request a copy of the report. The report will not tell you who made the report. You must send a written, notarized request, along with a check or money order for $10 to get a copy of your report. The request must include your name and address and the names of the children involved. The request should be mailed to:
Arkansas Department of Human Services
Division of Child and Family Services
Central Registry Unit
P.O. Box 1437, (Slot S566)
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-1437
All hard copy records of unsubstantiated reports are destroyed at the end of the month in which the determination is made, so you must act quickly to get a copy of the report.
If you are a parent of a child involved in an investigation, but you are NOT the subject of the report, your request must include a statement attesting to your legal relationship to the child.
During the investigation and proceedings, if required, it is the goal of the court to get help for the children and the parents so that they can be reunited and the children can live safely with one or both parents.
If you find yourself in a situation such as this, let Kevin Hickey Law Partners help you gather all of the necessary information and consider all of your options before deciding how to proceed.