West Chester CYS Lawyer
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the Pennsylvania Children and Youth Services (CYS) to roll right over the rights of parents, ostensibly as they protect children. If you are being investigated by CYS, this is a very serious situation. You may have received a phone call or letter from CYS, but, generally speaking, the first you hear of CYS is when they show up at your home.
It is important that you respond to such a visit politely, no matter how upset or angry you may be regarding the intrusion into your life. The way you respond now could have a significant effect on the outcome of the investigation. Further, anything you say now may be used against you later, and could be taken out of context or twisted in ways you cannot imagine. The CYS worker may ask to talk to your child or children, and may obtain your child’s medical records.
Remember that if CYS is investigating you, they probably already think you are guilty, so do your best to avoid saying anything which could later be used against you. Remember also, that CYS is bound by the same laws as the police to some extent, meaning they cannot come into your house without your permission, unless they have a court order or a warrant. Having an experienced CYS attorney on your side from the time you know there is an investigation is extremely important for the eventual outcome.
What to Do if the CYS Caseworker Threatens to Take Your Children?
Of course, it is a terrifying thing to have someone threaten to take your child or children. While legally neither the police or the CYS caseworker can take your children—unless they have a court order or your children are in imminent harm—this is not to say that it doesn’t happen. Call your attorney immediately if you receive such a threat, and try your best to stay calm until the attorney arrives.
If CYS removes your child from your care with no court order, the court will review your case the next working day. In all other cases, a hearing will be scheduled within two weeks of when your child was removed. If you are contacted by CYS, make sure you get the caseworker’s contact information and as much information as they will give you.
How Long Does a CYS Investigation Take?
The Caseworker will interview your child, you and the child’s other parent, any alleged perpetrator if the allegation is directed toward another person, teachers, and any potential witnesses to the alleged incident. CYS has twenty-hours from the time an allegation has been made to begin an investigation and see the child in question. If CYS is unable to determine whether the child is safe or not, an investigation will begin, and will typically be completed within 30 days.
If CYS cannot complete the investigation within 30 days, they must fully document the reasons, and complete the investigation within two months. The information gleaned from the CYS investigation will be used to determine whether a case will be opened, closed, with recommendation for services, or closed with no recommendation for service. If you disagree with the CYS findings—you don’t think your child was neglected or abused—you can appeal the decision.
What Happens to My Child if He or She is Removed from My Home?
If CYS removes your child from your home, they will try to place the child in the home of a relative or friend—known as “kinship care.” If there are no appropriate relatives or friends, the child could be placed in foster care. If more than one child was removed from your home, CYS is required to at least try to place the children together in kinship care or foster care, or, if the children are separated, to make a reasonable effort to allow the children to have contact with one another at least twice a month. If, however, CYS can prove to the court that it would not be in the best interests of your children to see one another, then no reasonable efforts to do so must be made. Unless the judge orders that you not be allowed to see your children (rare) you will be allowed to visit them at least every other week.
How Do I Get My Children Back?
Your attorney will be helping you, from the moment you have him or her on your case, to keep your children at home with you. If they are taken and placed with relatives, friends, or in foster care, then the goal will be to get them back in their home. You may be required to complete some type of treatment such as drug and alcohol treatment, mental or emotional health therapy, anger management classes or parenting classes, then you may be asked to demonstrate what you have learned to a CYS caseworker. The more fully you participate in the process, the more likely you are to get your children back as quickly as possible.
What Do I Tell My Children?
Particularly if your children have been removed from their home for no solid reason, it can be very difficult to talk to them about what is happening. It is normal that you are struggling with what is happening and your children are struggling to understand as well. Because the situation is so uncertain, you may be very emotional about not having your children at home, particularly if they have been placed in foster care.
It is important to remember that your children will be using your reactions as a reference for how they will react, therefore no matter how scared and upset you are inside, try to remain as calm as possible when visiting your children. Tell the children they will be living at another home for a short while, and that they will be safe.
Find an Experienced Pennsylvania CYS Attorney
It is vitally important that you have an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney by your side who is well-versed in dealing with CYS. This can make all the difference in how the investigation goes, and whether your children will be taken out of your home or not. If your children have already been taken, your attorney can help you get them back as quickly as possible. Don’t try to face this difficult time on your own—contact a knowledgeable Pennsylvania defense attorney today. For questions or a free case evaluation, contact out office at (610) 692-8700 or call toll free (877) 529-2422.