DEMYSTIFYING DEPENDENCY COURT – PRESENT DANGER SITUATIONS
In our last article in this series, we discussed the definition of present danger. As you may recall, present danger is defined by CPS as an immediate significant and clearly observable family condition that is actively occurring or in the process of occurring that will likely result in serious harm to a child. This article focuses on examples of present danger situations.
Present danger situations can be broken down into four different categories and include: (1) Maltreatment situations; (2) Parent Present Danger Situations; (3) Family/Other Present Danger Situations; and (4) Child Present Danger Situations. Each category is discussed below.
Maltreatment present danger situations refer to a child being maltreated when the CPS investigator first makes contact with the child. These situations might include a child having serious bodily injuries which are non-accidental in nature. It might also include a life-threatening living arrangement such as living in a home that is falling apart or unsanitary. A maltreatment present danger situation may also refer to bizarre cruelty such as keeping a child locked in a room or keeping a child isolated. Generally, a maltreatment present danger situation occurs when the abuse is deliberate or intentional and it becomes evident to the investigator that parent or caregiver intended to inflict harm on the child.
Parent present danger situations refer to caregivers who are not providing basic care to their children consistent with protecting their children’s safety. These situations must pose an immediate, significant, clearly observable risk to the child. In addition, a parent present danger situation might occur when a parent leaves their child with someone is unable or unwilling to care for the child. Sometimes, a parent present danger situation might occur when a parent has an extreme, unrealistic viewpoint of their child such as seeing their child as evil or deformed and that the viewpoint might lead the parent to seriously harm the child. Other situations refer to parents who may have severe mental health problems, situations where a parent is suicidal or dangerous to themselves or others, and situations where parents are under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that the parent cannot care for their child. Again, the focus is whether the parent’s behavior is an immediate, significant, and clearly observable risk to the child.
A family or other present danger situation might occur when there is ongoing domestic violence in the home or when a parent fails to send a child to school for a significant period of time. Family present danger situations change quickly and should be thought of with other present danger situations when CPS is involved. Generally, the concern with family present danger situations is that the family will flee DFS intervention.
Child present danger situations care thought in the context of leaving vulnerable children alone or unsupervised. A child present danger situation may also occur if a child does not receive timely medical assistance or if a child does not receive routine medical care that greatly affects the child’s health. A child present danger situation may also occur when a child is fearful of a caregiver to the extent that the child is panicked or hysterical.
As you can CPS has wide latitude in defining a present danger situation. However, CPS investigators must assess the situation and present proof that (1) the facts were clearly observable; (2) the situation was significant; (3) that the events were happening at the time the CPS investigator arrived or in the process of happening and (4) that the event could reasonably produce immediate danger which could result in serious harm. If you or someone you know, is faced with having their children removed. We can help.