Michigan Child Protective Services Cases

Child Protective Services investigations and cases tend to be very overwhelming. Many parents call us when CPS has contacted them, especially when the case involves sexual abuse allegations or physical abuse allegations. CPS cases and investigations are complicated and sometimes difficult to understand. Below is an explanation of what you can expect after a CPS investigation starts.

Child protective proceedings usually begin with a call to the Department of Health and Human Services or CPS. Someone, a family member, neighbor, or even a stranger, calls CPS and reports an allegation to a worker. The worker must then investigate the allegations within a 24-hour period. During this 24-hour period, the worker assigned to the case will usually conduct interviews with the child and any caretakers, review police reports, and assess the situation to determine the child’s future risk of harm in the environment. If the child faces immediate harm, he or she will be removed within the 24-hour time. If not, CPS usually has 30 days to complete the investigation before other action is required, unless circumstances allow for an extension of this time. In most cases, an extension is typical.

Factors Child Protective Services Considers

There are a series of factors that CPS considers before removing children from the home, but most importantly, CPS seeks removal of those children who are exposed to an imminent risk of harm. CPS must determine whether there is adequate evidence of child abuse or neglect after reviewing reports and files. In this determination, CPS uses the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which is a different standard than the familiar “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Preponderance of evidence is a relatively low standard that only requires a CPS worker to find a 51% chance that child abuse or neglect occurred for CPS to take further action.

Under, MCL 722.628d the investigation is placed in one of five categories after assessment for child abuse or neglect:

Category I: There is a preponderance of the evidence that child abuse or neglect has occurred and there is need or requirement for a petition through the court.

Category II: There is a preponderance of the evidence that child abuse or neglect took place and a risk assessment shows that there is a high chance of reoccurring abuse or neglect.

Category III: There is a preponderance of the evidence that child abuse or neglect took place and a risk assessment shows that there is a low or moderate chance of reoccurring abuse or neglect.

Category IV: Child abuse or neglect is not found by preponderance of the evidence and CPS is required to assist the family with voluntary services, which are determined by risk assessment.

Category V: Evidence of child abuse or neglect is not found, or the family cannot be located by CPS.

Of these five categories, Category I is the most severe as it requires a mandatory filing of a petition with the Juvenile Court. Criminal sexual conduct allegations against a parent, guardian, live-in relative, or a person that lives in the household, requires CPS to automatically place the case in Category I and file a petition through the Juvenile Court for removal of the children and termination of parental rights.

Further, when a case is placed into either Category I or Category II, the alleged abuser’s name is put on to a list called Central Registry. Central Registry (Link to Central Registry Article) is a private list that can only be accessed by some employers, law enforcement, and the court system through Michigan CPS.

Child Protective Services Cases Heading to Court

Except for extreme circumstances where children are removed from the home immediately, a child protective services proceeding begins with filing a petition for either a temporary wardship, or termination of parental rights. MCL 722.637 and MCL 722.638 are part of the Child Protection Laws in Michigan. These statutes explain when the Department of Health and Human Services is required to file a petition with the court. Some of the listed acts include, abandonment of a young child, criminal sexual conduct of a child or sibling involving penetration, attempted criminal sexual conduct, when a child is sexually abused or exploited, or when a child has a life threatening injury.

Not only under these circumstances is CPS required to file a petition, but they must also request termination of rights if the person responsible for any of the acts listed in MCL 722.638 is a parent, or a parent that failed to protect a child from abuse. During this time, the Court would also be able to order the removal of children or suspects from the home, and order the family to use in home services. This step is known as the preliminary inquiry or hearing stage. During this time, wording of the petition will be determined, children are placed with relatives or in foster care, and parents can voluntarily begin services. This will be followed by a series of pretrial meetings.

The next stage in a child protection proceeding is an adjudication hearing. An adjudication hearing is a trial that is held to determine whether or not the child comes within the jurisdiction of the Court, and if one or more of the allegations listed in the petition are proved by a preponderance of the evidence. During the hearing, the Court will also determine whether the child can remain under the jurisdiction of the Court, or be returned home, set forth a plan or services for parents or guardians to follow (known as a case service plan), such as therapy or parenting classes, and determine whether the child should be placed in foster care.

The Court will then enter a dispositional order setting forward all details of the allegations and what is included in the case service plan and when the plan should be completed.

Following the adjudication hearing, the Court will schedule a dispositional review hearing. During the dispositional hearing the Court reviews the progress made by the parent or guardian with complying with the case service plan set forth by the court. At this time, the Court also considers the appropriateness for the child to remain in foster care, or in his or her home.

The Court will also consider at this time whether to modify the case service plan, to enter a new dispositional order, to continue with the current order, or reunify the child with his or her family. If the Court modifies or continues with the dispositional orders, another dispositional review hearing will be scheduled to again check the progress of the situation. As the goal in every CPS case involving children is reunification, Courts can schedule numerous dispositional hearings before moving on to the permanency planning stage.

If there is no need for further dispositional review, the Court will schedule a permanency planning hearing. During this hearing, a Court will determine whether the child, currently in foster care, will return home with his or her family, be adopted, be permanently placed with a relative, or be placed in a juvenile guardianship. Depending on what the Court decides, further hearings may be necessary. For example, in the case where parental rights are terminated, the parent must go through a termination of parental rights hearing, and then the child must go through adoption hearings if he or she will be adopted by another person.

CPS Cases Require a Lawyer with Experience

CPS cases can be overwhelming for parents, especially because the proceedings are different from those you would find in a criminal court, and they can take years to complete. They can further be overwhelming if a parent is facing criminal charges at the same time as the CPS allegations. It is not uncommon, especially when allegations of criminal sexual conduct are involved, for a parent to face criminal charges for the alleged sexual abuse and at the same time face CPS proceedings to terminate their parental rights.

As this article does not include every detail of CPS proceedings, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney about the situation to get the right advice that is tailored to your own situation.

The Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith is experienced in handling CPS proceedings involving child abuse and neglect, shaken baby syndrome, and those cases that involve allegations of sexual abuse. Our office is also successful at representing those parents accused of sexual abuse during their CPS proceedings and simultaneously representing those parents for criminal charges stemming from the same incident.

If you or a loved one is currently facing an investigation with CPS, do not hesitate to call our office.

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