"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." ~D. Thompson
Did you know that in many states, parents may not have been convicted of a crime in a criminal court but may have lost temporary or permanent custody of their children without due process?  Many states have what is referred to as Family Court which is a separate, independent entity from from criminal court.  This information is not a fabricated idea but truth.  One such state is Kentucky where a parent lost custody of her daughter based on a school nurse's and a Child Protection Services (CPS) worker's opinion.  The investigation led to the removal of her child prior to her ever being contacted by the school or a worker.  

The following is a real life scenario minus identifying information
For a moment, let's pretend that you have been reported for child abuse or neglect by your daughter's school nurse.  Perhaps the school nurse examined your 2nd grader and found what appeared to be bug bites on her body and made a report to child protection believing that the bites were the result of fleas or bed bugs and that you have been neglecting your household and therefore your child.  The report is given through the local hotline and the intake worker (person taking the report on the phone) deems it to be important enough to pass along to the investigative team.  Please be aware that this decision may or may not be according to the policy or law.  Next, a worker from the investigative team is dispatched as a result of the report and interviews your child at school based on the allegation by the school nurse.  The worker talks to the child, the teacher, the principal, the nurse and any other party that he/she deems necessary to investigate the report.  She even removes part of your child's clothing and takes pictures of the 'bites'.  This is all done without your knowledge.  One of the teachers tells the worker that your daughter has been tired during class and missed a couple of days last week.  When the attendance lady looks for notes from a doctor visit as an excuse of the absences she is unable to find them on file; something you had turned in the day your daughter returned.  Your daughter does not get off the bus that day and you frantically call the school thinking something awful must have happened. 

Upon calling, the principal is put on the phone and tells you that you will need to call Child Protection for more information.  You are told by a worker that you child has been removed due to neglect and that you will have a court date in the next 5 days to determine what action will be taken.  She provides you no information on why the child was removed and tells you to come in to complete a safety plan. 

When you meet with the worker, you are upset and demand to know why your daughter was removed from your custody.  The worker notes that you have anger issues.  You explain tearfully that your daughter loves to play outside and gets 'eaten up by mosquitos'.  You share that you do not want to put chemicals on her every time she goes out to play.  You explain that you provided doctor excuses every time your child was absent from school and are unsure why the school could not produce them.  You offer copies but the worker declines.  The court date comes around and the judge asks the worker for recommendations. She/he produces physical evidence they gathered from the photos and explains that your daughter has missed 5 days of school which is considered truant in your state.  You are told to cooperate with the Cabinet/CPS and asked to stipulate to charges of neglect during the court proceeding to 'speed things along'.  So, you do this, thinking your daughter is going to be returned.  What you aren't told is that you have just admitted guilt in court (stipulated to neglect) and that the worker has substantiated (found enough evidence to support) the case of neglect against you.  What this means for you is that you will never be able to work with children, elderly or any other vulnerable population because background checks will produce both of these findings in your case.  Not only that but your child is not returned to you during the court proceeding and you are provided a list of things that you have to do (sometimes called a case plan) before a worker will consider recommending that your daughter is returned to your custody.  The worker tells you that you must attend parenting classes, attend mental health counseling because you seem depressed (you cried in her office and in court), that you need to be assessed for anger issues (due to your confrontational behavior when you initially met with the worker) and so on. 

Keep in mind that you still don't have custody of your daughter and in most cases such as in this scenario it can be months before that happens.  Your child may be placed in foster care or with a relative depending on if the cabinet/CPS sees that family member as being appropriate.

This is not made up story. This is a true one and it is not uncommon.  The definition of neglect for Kentucky can be found in a pdf file provided for the Cabinet (CPS) at the following website: 


 If you believe you are immune to this happening to you, please consider that everyday a parent loses custody to 'protect the child'.  Unfortunately, children may be removed based on an allegation prior to any facts being gathered.  I will post subsequent blogs providing laws in various states and stories that will make you think twice about the possibility of this type of thing happening to you.

As an end to this blog, I will say that this woman was never arrested and was never tried in criminal court for neglect or abuse but lost custody of her child nonetheless and in the end it took the mother 13 months to regain custody.  She was never provided due process which is a 14th amendment right in the Constitution because her case fell under Family Court and the CPS system which is not required to adhere to the same requirements as a criminal case.  The woman in this story had to put her daughter in counseling and is now home schooling her daughter because of what happened to her.  The mother is now working with a lawyer trying to have the previous court finding that she stipulated to thrown out since she was never told the repercussions that it would have on her life.  If she is able to overturn the previous decision, there is no guarantee that the Cabinet/Child Protection will withdraw the substantiation (basically, finding her guilty of neglect).    



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    The author is an educator and has extensive dealings with child protection services. She is knowledgable of the laws and policies and hopes to impart some wisdom and information that can assist and elicit change. Please note that none of the information or advice should be a substitute for independent research and/or seeking out legal counsel.


    January 2014