Society and, therefore, the government has an interest in preventing physical and emotional trauma to children. Every state has a special government entity whose purpose is to intervene in circumstances that involve abuse or neglect of minor children by their parents or guardians.
In many states, Child Protective Services (CPS) investigates allegations of neglect and abuse and takes action to protect children. However, in Pennsylvania, the name given to the organization is Children and Youth Services (CYS), an organization with agencies operated at the county level.
If someone reports what they believe to be signs of abuse or neglect involving a minor child, CYS will investigate. What rights do you have as a parent if CYS shows up at your door to ask you questions?
Much like police officers, CYS workers want to build a case against you
If someone working for CYS is at your home, they are there because someone made a statement that they felt indicated a credible risk of neglect or abuse occurring in your home. They will likely ask you to let them in the house, just like police do when they arrive without a warrant.
Much like with police, a CYS employee granted access to your house will scrutinize everything they see to determine if the house is a safe place for children. Even if they don’t have evidence that substantiates the claims brought against you, issues in your house ranging from a large number of empty alcohol containers to a lack of food in your refrigerator might provide substantiating evidence for them to recommend services or even try to remove your children from the home.
CYS workers may try to make it seem like they want to help you by offering you access to support services like parenting education. Your instinct to cooperate with them could actually result in their taking action against your family.
There is no obligation to accept services or let CYS into your home
Unless they arrived with a court order or a warrant, CYS employees cannot just enter your home or try to take your children away. You may be eager to put this whole issue behind you, but it is important to do so carefully and with the proper support.
You have the right to have an attorney present with you during interactions with Children and Youth Services Agencies. You also have the right to refuse them entry into your house and to decline the services they recommend. Having support as you deal with CYS and any hearings necessary to defend your parental rights can help you avoid legal mistakes and emotional pitfalls.