DEMYSTIFYING DEPENDENCY COURT – PRESENT DANGER DEFINED
As many of you may know, the Safety Intervention Permanency System (SIPS) has been adopted by CPS courts across the country and is now accepted as the standard by which CPS/DFS must operate. The SIPS model can feel overwhelming for parent attorneys, children attorneys and even the CPS/DFS employees who are required to use its techniques. As a parent facing the possible removal of a child, understanding the SIPS model and its language is imperative to keeping your children, or if your children have been removed, to having your children returned. This article is part of a series that explains the SIPS model and its components.
When CPS is called to a home for an allegation of abuse or neglect, CPS is taught to look for present danger. Present Danger is defined by the SIPS model as an immediate, significant and clearly observable family condition that is actively occurring or in the process of occurring and will likely result in serious harm to a child. This definition needs to be further explained.
It is important to remember that the event must be significant and clearly observable. Events that are obvious, like a child being beaten is obvious and observable. Another example would be a child being locked in a room or being unsupervised in a dangerous home setting. Again, it is important to remember that for there to be a present danger the incident must be significant and clearly observable.
“In the process of occurring” can mean a number of things. For example, it might mean that an event has just occurred like a child being taken to the emergency room with an unexplained injury. It might also mean that the event is currently happening like a child being left alone, unattended in a parking lot. It might also mean that it is a situation that happens frequently. For example, that young children are left alone for hours at a time at night.
It is important that if you are faced with CPS removing your child that you determine whether CPS has deemed your situation to be a present danger to your child. In analyzing a case on behalf of a parent or a child, the first question that should be asked to the investigator is what the present danger was. In their answer the investigator should respond as to the specific event and explain why it was significant, how it was clearly observable and whether the event was actively occurring. Finally, the specialist needs to explain how the event could cause serious harm to the child.
If you are facing a CPS case, contact an attorney that is experienced in handling these matters.