I have recently had the opportunity to sit in on some Child Protective Services interviews related to custody cases I have been working on. Even for people who have been model parents, CPS interviews can be scary, because their findings can lead to people losing the fundamental right to raise their children.
Keep in mind the reason why CPS is there, to act in the interest of the child, and the interviews CPS conducts with children and parents are first and foremost to see if a child makes an outcry about abuse. The interviews with parents are to allow investigator an opportunity to ask questions and ‘check on things,’ with the inquiries often being very direct, limited, and brief.
A lawyer can be present for a CPS interview of a parent. For clients who I am working with on custody cases, I think it is a good idea for myself or another attorney to be present, and if in case you are concerned it does not raise a red flag to a CPS investigator that your lawyer is there, nor does it suggest guilt or that you have something to hide. It simply shows that you know your rights and you are exercising them.
When I am present in a CPS interview, it is primarily to make sure that my client stays on task during the interview. I coach my client to listen to the question being asked and to answer that question, simply, directly, and that specific question. When people get nervous, some will talk to help fill in what they perceive to be awkward silences. But it is fine to just answer each question as it comes. In fact, it is better than fine! It is what you should do!
The advantage to our firm working extensively on custody cases in Bexar County and surrounding counties is that we know a number of the CPS caseworkers doing the interviews. That knowledge helps us prepare clients–we know who they are, how they are, if they come off as friendly or stern, and how they conduct an interview. While we prepare all of our clients for interviews, we bring that personal experience in when we can. It is just one more facet of our firm where we strive to prepare clients and make sure getting through these interviews is not a terrifying ordeal of unknowns, but another benign part of the child custody process.