During a CPS investigation, social workers oftentimes interview children in order to assess the child’s safety and well-being. During a CPS investigation or assessment, social workers are given great latitude in speaking with children, parents and other persons in the community that may have knowledge of the alleged incident of abuse and neglect.
While many parents voluntarily allow for the investigative social worker to meet with their children without being present, some parents object. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects parents within their own homes to object to a social worker interviewing a child without the parent’s consent or without the parent being present for the conversation. The Fourth Amendment holds “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Therefore, DSS should not interview a child within the child’s home without consent from the parent.
However, DSS may interview the child at the child’s daycare or at the child’s school, as these are not private homes, but rather public spaces. Therefore, a social worker that may not obtain consent from a parent may choose to visit the school or daycare to speak with the child. Sometimes, the social worker will simply go to the child’s school to interview the child prior to seeking consent from the parent. In some cases, the social worker will contact the child prior to informing the parent about receiving a CPS report regarding the family.
Depending on the allegations or whether you are a parent that has been accused of neglecting or abusing your child, you may choose to allow DSS the opportunity to speak with your child without being present. However, it is always wise to consult with an attorney prior to making any decisions in order to weight the consequences of allowing your child to be interviewed alone.