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Family Court: Child protective services initials Part 4 in a series

child protective services initial responses and first court
child protective services initial responses and first court

This again is a review of a question, which is illustrated in a case that happened not long ago in Iowa news because the case has a quick profile from a couple of colloquial sources. This is not a professional paper, legal review or like. Merely consideration of a topic that has distilled as a question for this writer.

So. One group calls these cases "outrageous child custody cases", where there is some seeming protective issue or risk, and data lined up, typically has no method to be documented in a matrix or some meaningful way that looks at lethality risk.

The first court as noted by news, was some version of a CPS/Family Court which made a decision about 2 girls living and visitation arrangements following a child protective services report made by a family member that appears to be substantiated, or supported as true by the court, under HHS/CPS validation.

So a state/county agency of child protective services under Health and Human Services, said that the report of the family member combined with reports of many other people, designated a truth and instilled structures.

Most parents are given a handbook on investigations, a business card of contacts and name of the supervisor of the investigator, if the initial matrix says a child case should be retained and investigated.

Every state has a different process to rank child abuse, neglect or child sexual abuse within a family, on a matrix. Abuse by a non-family member is solely managed by the police, typically. Abuse by a family member is managed by CPS/HHS.

Not clear if non-family member abuse is mandated to report. There is no hotline only 911 and if the abuse is reported to a third party, the parents of the child are responsible for reporting the abuse to the law enforcement, in most states due to that split. Have to check your own state for accountability critical pathways on that.

Medical evaluations for forensic questions, like sexual assault or comprehending developmental levels or function or determine a baseline medical status may happen with the general pediatrician, SANE ( sexual assault nurse examination) an emergency room doctor or even a medical inpatient review by a team of providers. These services are possibly sought by a parent, or community provider... but most often ordered by CPS/HHS staff, or a judge, dependent upon protocols for each state or county/district/parish.

So mathematically, the substantiation (citation BY the CPS/HHS) that either there is enough concern to set limits on visits or require counseling or restrict contact. Every case is different, but should require some version of a review guided by a policy applied by a trained professional, and if under CPS/HHS care as a case, the whole situation should be guided by a verbal explanation of a written plan.

The written plan is called a Case Plan, or there abouts, and it should include identification of the issue of concern, by statute ( so what is the issue) and then by some terms used by the CPS/HHS, and then that should sift through the worker assigned to the family for discussion of WHAT it says the family must do as adults, or for the child or in interaction with the child.

So in an approximation, this happens.

Documentation of the inbound report to a hotline is typically first. So an operator sits with a screen of questions, and fills out the report. All states are required to give an identifying case number for the inbound report, which is to be kept by the reporting party for any additional data or for the right to follow up and discover who the case was assigned to, or if it was ruled out. ( if it will or will not progress in an investigation).

That report is then reviewed typically by the person who supervises the intake phone line and it is accepted or not or put into some advanced review. It may not be accepted or refused until it gets to the county or parish or province that will manage it.

The report is then tipped to whatever jurisdiction it belongs to. Reports must be made to the State hotline where the abuse happened. So if the child was on vacation when abused, that report goes to the vacation destination. Typically, home states (where the child resides permanently can advise any reporter if the hotline CPS/HHS staff in the home state will manage all that, or if the reporter is to dually report to the home state and the other location.)

In any case, in the Iowa case... it went through some version of a court process and the children ( because that is who the case is regarding) were granted some version of right to structured contact with the other parent who was noted to be a risk on some level for interactions that were unhelpful, if not unhealthy and unsafe for the children.

Issues with CPS/HHS process there appears to be little required as to how they arrive at decisions..... Oklahoma for instance has a rule that LPC counselors or under supervision licensees are not supposed to be used for child custody cases, but OKDHS does this often, as do other states. Any testimony, assessments or statements for where or how a child will be placed are child custody issues, and state governance of same requires a certified child custody assessor and specific system be used.

Dependent upon the severity and nature of the abuse, testimony from a licensed medical doctor or a licensed psychiatrist.

Board specialization is unfortunately not required for these latter players, so one does seemingly not have to be a seasoned, licensed expert to be a CPS/HHS case manager, counselor or medical/psychiatry provider.

The Iowa case, had some map of a process like this, and CPS/HHS was involved with family hired attorney(s)? and the state attorney general ( prosecutor for the juvenile/family court) representative. Case was substantiated on some level, and structure applied.

Oklahoma has a process where the parent, if called to CPS/HHS court is seen by an attorney who sits and is dressed as a judge, but who isn't a judge. That person profiles the case, with the CPS investigator presenting the problem list and the parent or parents reply and then the prosecutor ( SAG representative) responds and the person who has been appointed to be the child's attorney by the state responds. The attorney in the lead then determines if the case will continue, and parties may return to that same arena for further instructions, may be dismissed or may be told their case is formally advancing to a full judge process.

In Oklahoma, there is a paid court reporter allowed ONLY for the parent to get documentation of their share of words in the court. The child abuse investigator has a reporter for their words, which may also include the parents words. The court recorder, if purchased by the parent is only assigned to type the parents words, and not the investigator, attorney/judge, GAL, SAG or anyone else.

Allegations of any kind may be used to "substantiate".

Oklahoma opens all case paperwork for full court judge with the plan the case will be open 2 years, irrespective of the issue or question, and that the state is calling to terminate the rights of one or both parents if non- compliant.

In Oklahoma there is no public defender for parents at this phase. ( called a conflicts attorney because the child gets a public defender in the guardian ad litem who is a state attorney. Conflicts attorney is available later, through an application process. GAL for the child will be appointed for these sessions only, has not me the child. This person will be a different person if the case goes on to full judge court. Or if the parent pays an attorney privately.)

In Oklahoma, these sessions are not recorded by video or audio, for the whole proceeding to be captured in real time, for review by anyone later.

In Oklahoma, noone else accompanies the parent, but two parents if not on opposing sides, might enter this room together.

CASA workers, people who have said they want to help note child situations or voice for a very young child, but are typically not truly trained in law, interventions, medicine or mental health. This type of supportive worker can be appointed by the Judge, but that doesn't happen until a full judge court action, and usually a ways into the case, if at all.

The Iowa case had a process that substantiated structures, and the families lived like that for a while, but it doesn't say how long. The Iowa case did not relate in social media if medical examinations were suggested, performed or at all considered before, after or during the first or second or third court.

Establishing a baseline of 'normal' status is a shifting topic in these situations, which typically generates frustrations for some judges, families, workers and kids. What determines normal, what determines problems and who has a right to say that, anywhere is part of the hot spot in the Iowa case, and all complex child custody issues. finale, 7th in the series

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