Parents’ rights

shutterstock_126078917Parents involved with CPS have rights, usually explained in materials (such as a Parent Guide) they receive in their first face-to-face contact with a CPS worker. DV programs should understand and advocate for these rights, some of which vary state by state.

Some rights are federally mandated through legislation such as:

  • Indian Child Welfare Act (1978), which requires CPS to work to keep American Indian children with American Indian families
  • Adoption and Safe Families Act (1997), which requires CPS to make reasonable efforts to prevent removal of children from the care of their parents
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (1964), which requires that government (and government-funded programs) provide meaningful access to services for individuals with limited English proficiency.

Parents have other rights defined by CPS agencies, typically including: to be treated with respect; to keep personal information confidential; to be heard and to help make decisions about their children; and to file an appeal if they are not satisfied with services being offered.

If a child is removed from the care of a parent, parents typically have rights to be represented by an attorney; to be informed about their child’s physical and mental health; to participate in medical appointments; and to visit and maintain contact with their child.


  • Are DV staff trained to understand legal rights of mothers involved with CPS and dependency courts, and on how to assist mothers in exercising those rights?
  • Does the DV program assist CPS in understanding legal rights of immigrant survivors (such as a U-visa) and advocate for CPS to utilize these avenues to safety?
  • Do staff understand CPS and dependency court procedures regarding undocumented parents? Do they routinely explain these procedures to undocumented survivors and survivors whose immigration status is unclear?

Strategies for working together:

  • Train attorneys and interpreters working with CPS and dependency courts on DV issues
  • Promote coordination of legal representation for survivors of DV involved in multiple court systems
  • Jointly define DV “reasonable efforts” to prevent removal of children, and “active efforts” for American Indian children

Cross-train with culturally specific and other community-based organizations so all survivors (whether involved with the DV program or not) understand and know how to assert their rights, and so DV program staff can respond effectively to the needs of all survivors