Brown & Little, P.L.C. » Government Rants » A CPS Nightmare

A CPS Nightmare

The prosecutor scratched the charges because my client was not guilty of the crime. This wasn’t one of those maybe-she-did-it-but-we-can’t-prove-it cases. The sum of information available about what happened should have made it obvious to anyone with half a brain that my client did nothing wrong. She did not assault her daughter.

My client’s innocence notwithstanding, some of the folks over at Arizona Child Protective Services, either lacking half a brain or bored with nothing to do, decided to meddle. “We just want to get your client’s side of things,” they said. I found out about the meeting exactly one business day before it was set to happen.

I don’t represent people in dependencies. I attended the meeting with CPS because I never trust the government to respect my clients’ rights. The handful of lawyers I asked about CPS matters said it was unusual for attorneys to go to those meetings, but my innocent client in a den of wolves less than a day after her criminal case went away seemed like a recipe for a set-up. I wanted to be there to make sure they didn’t put words in her mouth that might resurrect the criminal case.

The meeting was conducted by a woman who proclaimed herself the “facilitator.” She used the term “facilitator” with the kind of frequency I commonly encounter when a person using a word doesn’t quite know what it means and thinks repeating it will make him or her appear smart. She also said things like “matter-of-factly” and “irregardlessly.”

My client, my client’s mother, the assigned CPS caseworker, and I were all in attendance. We each filled out little name cards. The back of the cards featured a list of ground rules. The last one was “no blaming or shaming.” The hearing had very specific rules and a set order. Every document, every meeting, every location, and every concept seemed to have an acronym. This was a TDM where a TCN might issue, attended by the CFT at CPS.

The facilitator, who at times did a fair job of pretending to be impartial, generally undertook the role of grand inquisitress with zeal that would make Mike Nifong blush. When she first started attacking my client, no one seemed to notice my comment that it sounded an awful lot to me like some prohibited “blaming or shaming” was taking place. I don’t think the facilitator thought the back of the name cards applied to her.

My client, a wonderful person I believe to be an excellent mother, explained all she had done for her daughter. She had a steady job, a safe home, and clearly cared about both of her children. I was impressed when she explained the lengths she went to in order to get services for that daughter. Her description of the bureaucratic runaround she got dealing with insurance was met with disbelief by the facilitator and the case worker though. They couldn’t imagine anyone would have trouble dealing with the health care system. When I told them I’ve struggled assisting clients to get similar services set up, it was obvious they thought I was lying. Not their flawless, well-oiled machine!

The facilitator clearly didn’t listen to anything my client said. My client said she’d do anything for her kids, and the facilitator responded with “so you’re unwilling and unable to care for them?” “No,” my client said, “I will do anything.” The caseworker and facilitator stared at my client like she just said “take my kids, I don’t care and won’t do anything to help them.” It was like watching two different conversations.

When it suited the facilitator’s preconceptions, she mixed up the facts. She exaggerated the length of CPS’s involvement, the amount of time it took my client to get services for her daughter, the number of days of notice they’d given, and the severity of the alleged conduct underlying the scratched criminal charges. She was wholly incapable of wrapping her head around the fact my client did not assault her daughter. The caseworker claimed she saw choke marks on my client’s daughter, which the facilitator agreed proved my client assaulted her. I found that very strange considering that the alleged assault was supposedly just three punches.

The facilitator kept telling me, “we have a lower standard here.” Neither she nor the caseworker read the police reports. They didn’t interview the other adult who witnessed what happened. They didn’t talk to the prosecutor. They thought lower standard meant no standard. They assumed my client was guilty and that the charges were dropped for some reason having nothing to do with innocence. They wouldn’t listen to anything to the contrary.

When my client admitted she was open to getting help dealing with her daughter’s issues, the facilitator said CPS couldn’t do anything she couldn’t do herself. I asked the facilitator why CPS would need to take the kids if my client could do everything they could, and I got the kind of reaction I used to get when I said a familiar word more than once to my dog; a look hinting at partial understanding, head cocked to one side.

I’ve never been in a room with people who resented me more. Over and over again, they said the same thing: “maybe we could have done X, but you said you had a lawyer.” It was always followed by a spiteful glance. The caseworker claimed she didn’t interview the person who witnessed what happened between my client and her daughter because my client hired a lawyer. To be clear, my client and the witness are two different people. I guess hiring a lawyer stops CPS from figuring out what happened.

After what I can honestly say was the most farcical proceeding I’ve ever witnessed, the facilitator and caseworker decided to take both of my client’s children away. In a meeting they said lawyers never attended (and which most lawyers told me they never attended), CPS decided to take not just the child involved in the criminal case, but the child who had nothing to do with anything. It was based almost entirely on an incident that occurred in front of an independent witness CPS didn’t interview and that was described in a police report CPS didn’t read. I explained the facts and made arguments, but they just didn’t care.

I occasionally appear in front of some bad judges in criminal matters, but I’ve never encountered anything like that. In what might be the most frustrating decision of all, they decided they couldn’t place the children with the other adult who witnessed what happened because “she failed to protect the child” during the alleged abuse. That’s the same alleged abuse that by all accounts but one never happened, and which CPS never properly researched

As my client cried her eyes out, the facilitator handed her a pamphlet entitled “Icebreakers” to help her prepare for when she next gets to see her children. The facilitator described CPS’s programs to my client as if she expected my client to give her a hug and thank her. The facilitator and caseworker then decided that my client’s visitation should be at the discretion of CPS; no set hours, just left to the discretion of some bureaucrats. I was disgusted.

My client is now in the hands of a very capable lawyer who does dependencies. Personally, I’m still in shock. I can’t believe what I saw. I can’t believe CPS can take kids based on nothing, can’t believe the facilitator and the caseworker could do something like that to a family, and can’t believe that any human being could be so willing to make a life-changing decision so callously. It’s the kind of thing I’m going to have nightmares about for years to come.

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24 Responses to "A CPS Nightmare"

  1. Ben Tisnado says:

    My story starts off with my ex girlfriend that has mental condition and left with my baby boy Danny. She refused to get treatment and Cps was called to make sure my son was safe. Neatness to say now I am a bad person to and they never came to my house to interview me. The case work Ann Britenmister was always so rude to me and my family and she decided to place my baby boy with a family. I have not got to see him at all. I love my son but she think because I am only 18 I can’t care for him and called me today saying if I don’t comply with her request my son Danny with be place for adoption. There are people my age raising kids and people my age fighting wars, but I can’t raise my son I love. I work to be able to provide for him. I have asked for a new case worker but haven’t got any response. Can someone help me please.

  2. Kim Register says:

    Thoughts and heartfelt prayers coming your way!
    Our family has been in this nightmare for only 10 weeks…
    Please visit FB Saving Caleb. We need your prayers too.
    I’m Caleb’s Nana

  3. kirsten says:

    My story….
    Ive been involved with CPS for two weeks. They came barging into my hospital room saying my baby tested positive for opiates. I said “uh huh…here is my prescription”. The lady said “well this is invalid because its written by your family dr not obgyn we are putting your baby and other 2 children in foster care because you are a drug addict. Long story short…got a lawyer who is in process of getting case dismissed 2 oldest at home…im not allowed to be left alone with them because “i might have withdrawls from my 5mg norcos and shake my babies” i dont even have any parking tickets… No criminal record but im only allowed to keep my baby during the day….under husbands supervision. Since facilitation hearing caseworkers have ignored all my calls regarding what i do next i.e. My drug assessment…when they came to talk to me less than 12 hours after birth i agreed to do anything they wanted so they wouldnt put babies in foster care…i told them at the facilitation meeting i would have admitted to being satan if it kept my children safe…both lawyers expect this to be over before next court date but at this point….i dont trust anyone or anything…im amazed right now that ive been labeled a drug addict for properly using my own prescription….i will never again trust a doctor, hospital, or government agency. This whole thing should have been dropped the second I showed them my very valid prescription. Any advice anyone? This is a freakin nightmare. Ohh p.s. I was called a unique drug addict by judge because my bills are paid 2 months in advance and im the bread winner working 40-65 hours a week…and my car is paid in full…and the only time ive missed work was to have a baby… This is just insane…people keep telling me “this is just part of the process”…..Fuck The Process Give me my baby back!!!!!

  4. Janice says:

    this is happening to my son as well. Cps caseworker is 22 years old, no children or experience with parenting and has come in and even though the child said it was an accident while they were playing she got smacked, she sat up just as he was hitting a ball, they say he smacked her on purpose. They are not interested in the truth, and removed the kids from their mom, and filed neglect charges on her and battery on my son. None of it is true, they have been together for 3 years without one incident, and just had a new baby together, and now the cps told her she can’t have her kids back ever if she don’t brake up with my son. They have torn apart a wonderful family, removed children from a loving home, and my son was arrested and charged with battery. We hired a lawyer and are fighting all this now. The CPS caseworker is not interested in the truth, just about pushing this family around and being dissrespectful and no regards for whats in the best interest of these children. Someone needs to stop these people. They are so corrupt. I am so angry and sad for my son and his family.

  5. Johnnie says:

    I am currently dealing with CPS and have been the past 5 months going on six. They took my daughter for neglect. I was wrong for using marijuana during my pregnancy. I havent had my daughter since the day she was born. CPS has! In those 5 almost 6 months I have straighten up. I signed myself up for Anger Management, Parenting Classes, Matrix drug Classes and even set up my own Pysch Eval. I graduated my all my things I signed myself up for. Have all my certificates and my Pysch Eval says I have a personality disorder from the trauma I have been through. I have almost 6 months clean and will do whatever it takes to get my baby back. I have missed out on alot with her. And I can not wait until she`s home. But from some reason CPS tells me it`s way too soon to give her back or do an IN- Home Dependancy. I don`t see why I am proving mysel and keep proving myself. I get 7 hours of supervised visits a week. They have an adoption date set for her February 15th 2013. If I am doing everything they want and they still don`t wanna give her back by then. Can they still adopt her out??? This is my first child I don`t wanna lose my baby girl she`s my world…. I miss her soo much. I love all the time they do let me have

  6. Kathleen Brewington says:

    My family and I are involved in a cps case I can prove they have violated two state statues here in Arizona and violated my rights, they have taken my daughters children too and I want to sue them based on the violations of two az laws, need a lawyer for this but cannot afford one, we have a definite case worth pursuing.

    1. Kathleen, I am interested in hearing your story.

      DeeAn GIllespie Strub Attorney

  7. Anonymous says:

    How ironic that I know someone who is dealing with CPS and was again researching all the acronyms when I came across this site. It’s been a long time since I read this being that the case Matt is referring to is mine. After that hellish meeting and both of my children being removed from my care I was forced to go to Anger Management classes, psychatric evaluations, and have a parent aide in my home for almost a year. My youngest daughter was returned after 3 months and my oldest (the one who made the allegations) after 6 months. What I find interesting is that my daughter that made the allegations recanted two months after this meeting (legalized kidnapping) and stated that she had “made it up” to avoid getting in trouble for running away. That is something that was ignored and her caseworkers did nothing. An abuse finding will continue to be on my record for the rest of my life even though the child who made the allegations has repeatedly stated that it wasn’t true. At the end of the case my oldest daughters actions were out of control, she ran away from group home after group home and she was skipping school. Because it wasn’t something CPS wanted to deal with they referred me to the Juvenile court and closed her case. Apparently their idea of “best interest of the child” is not ensuring that their actions are appropriate.

    To this day both of my children are in counseling for PTSD symptoms suffered at the hands of CPS. If you mention to either of them anything that has to do with the CPS case we endured 3 years ago they still cry. My youngest daughter is isolated, won’t leave the house, and rarely has friends over. She’s not the same person. That childlike innocence she use to have is gone and now she lives in fear. When she first came home she was even scared to sleep in her own bed terrified that CPS would come take her again. I don’t know if a day will come when we are all “back to normal”. It’s sad that no one will take steps to restructure this system as it clearly needs done. I’ve sent so many letters through the years and nothing. Children are removed from homes that don’t need to be while we constantly hear stories of young children dying because CPS should have been involved. At some point I can only pray that someone will take on the issue of CPS and get CPS’s priorities corrected.

    Thanks again Matt for supporting me that day. You being there will NEVER be forgotten!

    1. Concerned Grandma says:

      So, who was your capable dependency lawyer? My daughter is in need of one. Her court-appointed lawyer is brain dead.

  8. SCOTT A. says:


  9. SCOTT A. says:


  10. shaky nerves says:

    I’f u have possession of ur kids + cps request u to bring to office. I strongly advise not 2. With or without a lawyer screw the report they’ll write what they want anyway don’t let them in house either. Let them break the doors down + viedo tape it. Protect ur kids and rights! I’m not a lawyer just a victim

  11. SCOTT A. says:


  12. Admiral Lord Nelson says:

    Does this kind of abuse happen often?

    Has no one ever ended such kangaroo proceeding by taking out a handgun and killing his/her tormentors? If not, why not?

  13. Maggie says:

    I couldn’t help but to comment more. Concerning that “Facilitator” you mentioned; in my state, CPS facilitaors must have a Masters in Social Work. I have met same (presumably with Master’s degrees) who have been as insipid and as ‘uneducated’ as the very one you had encountered.

    I too nearly lost my cool when encountering said individials. It’s their arrogance and the lack of liability (the immunity they possess)that enable them to do the things they do.

    I do hope your former client prevailed. I have a feeling she may have thanks to your diligence and concern.

    CPS is a bloody nightmare. Although statutes and protocol exist, CPS does not follow same. They make it up as they go along and unless there is an attorney present to call them ontheir actions, they steamroll families, often destroying said families entirely.

    I actually had one CPS worker say to me that she did not need to abide by the 4th Amendment as she was a state employee……………….

    There have actually been Federal Court decisions reminding CPS that, “hello”, you must abide by the 4th Amendment.

    Absolutely incredible.

    1. Kaylea says:

      The same happened to me. My ex-mother-in-law called and claimed that I “spend all night on the computer and sleep all day while the baby is awake”, which firstly, is not true, and second, I live alone and generally keep to myself, so no one would have ‘known’ if I was. When CPS came to my door, she demanded to come in and I asked her nicely if she had a search warrant. She said she didn’t need one, and she needed to come into the house, to make sure I wasn’t asleep, I guess? I know she didn’t need to come in to see the baby, who I was holding in my arms and who had just gotten out of the bathtub and was happily chewing on a cracker. The worker told me that if I did not let her in, that she would call the police, which is exactly what she did. The police showed up, and the officer told me that CPS didn’t need search warrants if they had “probable cause” (although they didn’t), and I had to let her in or I would be arrested. I let them in, and an hour later my daughter was placed in my ex-mother-in-law’s temporary custody. Thankfullly, my daughter is home now after going to court a few times, but I’ve wondered about that also. Even the FBI needs a search warrant, correct? So what gives CPS the power to enter a person’s home with no good reason?

      1. talina says:

        Acctually that’s called illigal search and seasure look at this web page Google How CPS buys and sells our children.the social worker and the police officer violated you 4 the and 14 the amendment rights and your child’s that’s a law suit alot of people are suing CPA and the police for this plz check it out

  14. Maggie says:

    Family Team Meeting. I think CPS nationwide employs same.

    Attorneys are often told Not to attend. CPS does not like attorneys.

    I worked on a few cases similar to the one you described. That is; nothing happened. There was no crime, no abuse, no neglect -yet CPS does not care.

    It seems that their goal is to get as many people into the system as possible.

    Now, there is more. Even though nothing happened, if a CPS worker thinks something did happen, and it seems that many CPS workers are schooled to think that there is abuse everywhere, the parents’ names will still be put on a state child abuse registry. No trial. No opportunity to be heard and at least in California, the names stay on the list for life.

    I bet if you hadn’t seen this with your own eyes that you would never have believed it.

    The Constitution thrown right out the window.

  15. SCOTT A. says:


  16. Adrian says:

    I’ve had similar issues with CPS. I have a theory about CPS and similar agencies. If you stick a CPS worker into a given geographical area, that CPS worker is going to take away at least X number of kids per year. I’m guessing CPS workers, like almost all government bureaucracies, are evaluated based on comparisons to surrounding CPS offices. I’m sure some baseline expectation, written or unwritten, exists that in a given population a worker should be expected to have X number of cases per year that requires removal of a child from a home. Maybe I’m completely in left field on this but I feel compelled to figure out why some clients lose temporary custody of their children for seemingly no good reason.

  17. Matt Brown says:

    Mike, I completely agree. The whole time thoughts kept popping into my head about previous clients who didn’t care or actively tried to harm their children and either got CPS to leave them alone or ended up with in-home dependencies.

  18. Mike g says:

    It’s even worse when there are clear signs of abuse – cigarette burns, bruises, and a two year old kid saying he’d been sodomized, and CPS does nothing.

    I never could figure that one out.

  19. Chris K. says:

    This has become my response to all instances of too much government largesse or improper actions by actors under the color of authority:

    “Tall trees, short ropes”

  20. Bryan says:

    You didn’t mention it explicitly, but it sounds like the meeting took place at the client’s home, or possibly CPS.

    In retrospect, it seems a good idea to only hold such a meeting in a venue where a video recording is taken. Like your office!

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