Twenty-year-old Demar Barnes was arrested for Child Abuse and Neglect this week after his step-son received multiple severe burns and Barnes did not seek immediate medical care for the child. According to reports, the child's mother was out of town on business and left the child in Barnes' care. Barnes told police that the child sustained the burns when he placed the child in the bathtub and the water was too hot and that he treated the burns with Peroxide and paper towels.
Child Abuse charges can be investigated by two separate agencies: Police and Child Protective Services. The investigations are separate and the focuses of the investigations may be different. Because there are frequently two different investigations going on at the same time, Child Abuse charges can be some of the most confusing for the families involved.
Law enforcement or police investigations look at whether a crime has been committed and, if so, who committed the crime. Law enforcement's focus is detailed and narrow, and centers on an action or series of actions (called "course of conduct") that constitutes the alleged crime. Because people may be deprived of their constitutional right to liberty if convicted in a criminal case, the criminal charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the highest burden of proof available in any court case.
In contrast, the Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation is broad looks at all aspects of family functioning. The goal of a CPS investigation is to determine whether the children are in need of protection (such that government interference is required) or whether the parents and/or caregivers can adequately protect the children without government involvement.
If the children are deemed to be at risk of imminent harm, CPS may remove them from the home and place them in foster care without the benefit of a prior court hearing or court order. Despite the fact that parents can be deprived of their constitutional right to associate with their children and raise their children without government interference, the burden of proof in a CPS case is "more likely than not" or a preponderance standard. A preponderance standard is the lowest burden of proof available in a court case.
If you or someone you know is the subject of a Child Abuse or Neglect investigation by police or CPS, it is important that you contact an experienced Child Welfare Defense Attorney right away. The Child Welfare Defense Lawyer can assist you in analyzing the facts of your case, developing an appropriate strategy to address the criminal and/or CPS charges, fighting to get your children home and protecting your Constitutional rights to parent your own children without government intrusion.