What do Social Services Look for When They Come to Your House?

What do Social Services Look for When They Come to Your House?

Child and family social service workers check the following issues when they drop by for an inspection or investigation:

  1. Are the child’s basic needs fulfilled?
  2. Is the home environment clean and conducive to the wholesome growth of the child?
  3. Is the home safe and secure?
  4. Is any illegal activity being conducted?
  5. How is the child’s relationship with the custodial parent?

Separated or divorced parents often disagree about matters related to child custody. Some parents, grandparents, or family members, in an attempt to get sole physical and legal custody of the child, may even call Child Protective Services (CPS) and allege that the child is not being treated well in the custodial parent’s house. The common complaints registered are of abuse and neglect – or, that the child is at risk because the custodial parent is abusive or neglectful.

CPS social service workers typically dig deep into the following issues while inspecting the custodial parent’s house:

Basic Needs

  • Is there sufficient food at home?
  • Does the custodial parent have the means and the equipment to prepare nutritious food?
  • Has the custodial parent provided the child with adequate space?
  • Is the child’s space comfortable (for example, is it furnished with a comfortable bed, pillows, blankets, etc.)?
  • Does the child have adequate access to healthcare and is he/she receiving it when needed?
  • Has the parent been taking the child to his/her doctor and dentist for regular check-ups?
  • Who fulfills the child’s basic needs – the parent or a third party like a babysitter, for example?
  • Does the child have unhindered access to a clean and hygienic bathroom?
  • Does the child go to school?
  • Does the child have fun at home (toys, games)?

Home Environment

  • Is the home clean, tidy, and free of pests?
  • Does the child have injuries or any signs of illness?
  • Does the child appear to be happy and secure?
  • Is the child adequately supervised by the custodial parent?
  • Is the home environment such that a child might be exposed to danger?
  • Is the child growing emotionally, socially, and physically in a healthy manner?

Safety and Security

  • Is the home secure and safe according to the state’s guidelines?
  • Are there any loose electrical wires?
  • Are all electrical outlets covered?
  • Are there any rough patches on the floor that can make the child stumble and fall?
  • Are there any other safety hazards at home?
  • Does the custodial parent appear to be a stable and rational person?
  • Can the parent’s actions cause emotional or physical harm to the child?
  • Is the child at risk of being abused (physically, emotionally, or sexually)?
  • Are harmful things kept away from the child, and under lock and key (harmful things include guns, electrical equipment, chemicals, prescription drugs, alcohol, etc.)?
  • Are preventive measures in place (for example, locks secured on the doors leading to the attic, garage, etc., smoke detectors and door alarms functioning properly, emergency equipment functioning properly, etc.)?
  • Are the pets fed, bathed, trained, and vaccinated? Are there signs and smells of animal droppings in the home?

Illegal Activities

  • Is the custodial parent addicted to or dealing in drugs or alcohol?
  • Is the home being used as a gambling den?
  • Are guns or other dangerous products lying around in the house?
  • Are any illegal activities conducted from the house?

Parent–Child Relationship

  • Does the child enjoy a healthy relationship with the custodial parent?
  • Is the child happy when the custodial parent is around him?
  • Can the custodial parent answer basic questions related to the child’s education, extracurricular activities, medical issues, etc?
  • Can the custodial parent describe what a normal day looks like for the family?

The CPS workers want to ensure that the child is safe, has a healthy relationship with the custodial parent, and is well provided for. The parent should be cooperative, truthful, and transparent with the CPS workers, and he/she should not coach the child to bend the truth. Without obtaining permission from the custodial parent, the social workers can interview not only the child (at his school), but also others living in the home and the people the child is in touch with (babysitters, doctors, teachers, etc.).

The CPS agency then sends the parents a report (usually within 30 days) of what it discovered during the investigation/inspection and things can either get resolved or worsen (for the custodial parent) from there on.

All of this said, there are times when parents should seriously consider not speaking with a CPS worker without a child custody attorney present. Having an attorney to consult with prior to speaking with CPS is my usual counsel to people. You’re never sure how a CPS worker will act, and having an attorney help you through the process is often a real advantage to parents.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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