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Neighbors calling CPS just to harrass us...

post #1 of 84
Thread Starter 

We are new (4 years) residents in a gentrifying neighborhood composed of mostly old-timers who've lived here all their lives and non-English speaking immigrants. We must be doing something to piss the neighbors off, because in the last 2.5 years we've had CPS set on us twice. The reports are obviously vindictive, not a concerned neighbor misinterpreting something. The latest incident was last night - a caseworker showed up and said that they got a call saying that our children are constantly outside naked in November, and that they were seen alone and naked in the car for hours at a time. (UPD: OK, I thought this was obvious, but apparently it needs to be stated - my kids have not been unattended in the car, clothed or otherwise; nor do they go outside naked in wintertime.)

 

The caseworker went through all the formalities, noted that our house is filled with clothes, books, food, and that everything is obviously OK, and left more or less satisfied with the situation. But I am on pins and needles because we don't vaccinate, which means they will be calling my pediatrician AGAIN to confirm that we are not religious nuts who deny our children healthcare. And she made me sign a release with my social security number to check against some city-wide mental health database, which really feels like an invasion of my privacy. And we co-sleep, which meant that I needed to explain about the family bed arrangement and attachment parenting theory, etc etc. As luck would have it, we did have the spare bed set up last night, so I just said that it is where my older child sleeps, but it was still unnerving. And worst of all, the children were actually both naked when she knocked at the door, because we were in the middle of finger-painting. So I am still not sure that I have heard the end of this. And of course, I don't know which of the neighbors called.

 

I feel extremely vulnerable to this kind of harrassment. My pediatrician is not 100% comfortable with us not vaccinating as it is, and if he starts receiving calls from CPS every month or two it could lead to a tense situation. And my kids ARE naked at home a lot of the time - not because I don't let them wear clothes, obviously, but try and explain about toddlers ripping their clothes off every chance they get to a early-20s college grad who just started in a social work job, and has no children of her own yet! Also we don't have health insurance at the moment, and pay for doctor visits out of pocket. I'm sure it's a situation that many families find themselves in, but combined with the no vaccinating and general lack of complaints I'm sure it makes us look like a cooky anti-medicine family. In short, while we are doing nothing wrong, I think we do enough things in an unusual way to make us look strange in the eyes of government agencies, and if the neighbors keep up their calls I am going to go crazy.

 

Has anyone been in this situation? What can I do? I don't even know which of the neighbors it was, and if I did I have no idea how to talk to them without stirring up even more conflict.


Edited by aelial - 11/17/10 at 12:54pm
post #2 of 84

I would start chatting with one of my neighbors and say, "You know somebody called CPOS on me TWICE? they're not supposed to tell me who it is but it was so obvious, I mean, really....." let it hang in the air for a minute and then add, "She told me the next time CPS gets called out here on some bogus bulls*** we can go ahead and take police action and file a complaint against them. Around here you can get xyz months in jail for that, which would be pretty satisfying to me." and then don't bring it up again. If the neighborhood is an old timey as you say it is, then they all gossip, and this will spread like wildfire, enabling you to etiher a) live your life in peace because they're scared to call anymore or b)sniff out the snitch and handle the situation.

 

I have had CPS called on me too and it was a horrible experience, not helpful or peven pretending to want to be helpful AT ALL in any way shape or form. Therefore I have very strong feelings about this and I would not be above going after the person who sicced the gov't on me and my kids.

post #3 of 84

I just have to ask--were your kids really alone and naked in the car in Nov for extended periods of time? Because I'm all about AP and people tell me I'm pretty crunchy, but I would be concerned if I saw that too. Where I live, leaving your child unattended in the car, clothed or not, whatever the weather, is grounds for police intervention.

 

I don't think your neighbors are acting vindictively by reporting unattended toddlers. As far as your vaxing or not vaxing, your neighbors don't have any way of knowing that, nor do they know what goes on inside your home. If I were you, I'd just keep my kids clothed when visible to others outside, which IMHO is just common sense if you've ever checked your local predator database.

 

I'm sorry the CPS visit stressed you out, but it seems easy to prevent them in the future. Now if the neighbors made up the naked-unattended part, wow, that is vindictive.

 


Edited by newbymom05 - 11/17/10 at 12:09pm
post #4 of 84
Thread Starter 

I thought it should have been obvious that my kids have never been unattended and naked in the car, or just unattended in the car, or naked outside in November. Does that really need to be stated specifically?
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post

I just have to ask--were your kids really alone and naked in the car in Nov for extended periods of time? Because I'm all about AP and people tell me I'm pretty crunchy, but I would be concerned if I saw that too. Where I live, leaving your child unattended in the car, clothed or not, whatever the weather, is grounds for police intervention.

 

I don't think your neighbors are acting vindictively by reporting unattended toddlers. As far as your vaxing or not vaxing, your neighbors don't have any way of knowing that, nor do they know what goes on inside your home. If I were you, I'd just keep my kids clothed when visible to others outside, which IMHO is just common sense if you've ever checked your local predator database.

 

I'm sorry the CPS visit stressed you out, but it seems easy to prevent them in the future. Now if the neighbors made up the naked-unattended part, wow, that is vindictive.

 

post #5 of 84

I'm a little confused by this reasoning.  It sounds like you haven't done anything to bother the neighbors and now they've called CPS twice.  I'm not getting the reasoning behind the assumptions "we must be doing something to piss the neighbors off" and "the reports are obviously vindictive."  Isn't it also possible that they are actually concerned? 

 

Also, like the PP asked, is it true they were naked outside recently for a long period of time and unsupervised?  Have they ever played in the car, unsupervised?  If either of those are true, I wouldn't assume there is some neighborhood conspiracy, but maybe that they are concerned about the kids. 

 

I can tell you that we have some neighbors that are perfectly nice, but one day their little boy was outside, inadequately dressed for the weather, for an hour, and ran into the street repeatedly.  I kept walking him back and banging on the door but no one answered.  So yes, I called the police.  It was absolutely not personal at all, it was because I was worried and didn't know what was going on, or if someone was hurt and unable to get to the door or whatever.  It was done out of caring.  Isn't it possible your neighbors felt the same?
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aelial View Post

We must be doing something to piss the neighbors off, because in the last 2.5 years we've had CPS set on us twice. The reports are obviously vindictive, not a concerned neighbor misinterpreting something.

post #6 of 84
Thread Starter 

This is really blowing my mind. Of course my kids were not unsupervised in the car, or naked outdoors in winter. I wrote about the completely insane thing the neighbors acccused me of doing because it is so blatantly and obviously completely insane that it should be obvious to anyone that it is a lie told to CPS to get them to come out. I'm sorry that you have odd neighbors whose kids find themselves in such a predicament, but do you really think their parents read Mothering magazine and hang out on this forum???
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spring Lily View Post

I'm a little confused by this reasoning.  It sounds like you haven't done anything to bother the neighbors and now they've called CPS twice.  I'm not getting the reasoning behind the assumptions "we must be doing something to piss the neighbors off" and "the reports are obviously vindictive."  Isn't it also possible that they are actually concerned? 

 

Also, like the PP asked, is it true they were naked outside recently for a long period of time and unsupervised?  Have they ever played in the car, unsupervised?  If either of those are true, I wouldn't assume there is some neighborhood conspiracy, but maybe that they are concerned about the kids. 

 

I can tell you that we have some neighbors that are perfectly nice, but one day their little boy was outside, inadequately dressed for the weather, for an hour, and ran into the street repeatedly.  I kept walking him back and banging on the door but no one answered.  So yes, I called the police.  It was absolutely not personal at all, it was because I was worried and didn't know what was going on, or if someone was hurt and unable to get to the door or whatever.  It was done out of caring.  Isn't it possible your neighbors felt the same?
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aelial View Post

We must be doing something to piss the neighbors off, because in the last 2.5 years we've had CPS set on us twice. The reports are obviously vindictive, not a concerned neighbor misinterpreting something.

post #7 of 84

Do NOT let CPS in your house.

Do NOT sign anything they give you.

IANAL, but CPS has no authority to enter your home, interview your kids, etc. WITHOUT A WARRANT. If they think your kids are abused, maybe let them *see* the kids so they know they are in no immediate danger and haven't been harmed. Especially  if you live outside the norm (co-sleeping, extended BF, home school, non-vax, whatever), be ware.

 

People sometimes have nosy and vindictive neighbors, so be proactive in how you handle this next time.

Google "what to do when cps comes," or something like that. Most likely they will be called again.

 

So people don't freak out at me, yeah, CPS sometimes does good things like removing kids from abusive homes, but they also have been known to harass people for all kinds of "abuse" like BF, home schooling, etc. I also know people who were removed from their legitimately abusive homes as young adults and put into more abusive foster care situations. To be fair, I also know amazing parent-of-the-year caliber foster parents and kids who were in great foster homes.

 

Basically, you can't change your neighbors, so protect your family.

post #8 of 84

Your first post was unclear. "Vindictive" does not mean lying, you say that both kids were naked when CPS called, and that CPS wants to run you through their mental health database, and you seemed mainly concerned w/ not vaxing, so yeah, I asked if they were really unattended b/c it was unclear in your first post. No need to get defensive, just edit and/or explain. Based on the info you've sinced added, it's a totally different story from your first post, sorry I misunderstood the first one.

post #9 of 84

What vegankelly said. Stop letting CPS in. Without a warrant, they have no right in your home unless you give it to them. Use your fourth ammendment rights. Find a lawyer and let them do all communications.

post #10 of 84

I don't want to hijack the thread, but when CPS was called on me I tried this --I really DID have a lawyer to call, too-- and the CPS lady told me that if I i didn't let her in OR sign the paperwork that she would have to take custody of my ds on the spot. She threatened to call the cops if necessary to enforce it. And fwiw the entire thing ended up being dismissed as totally unwarranted/unfounded, but they DID call the police because of what I said, even thought I eventually relented and let her into the house. She said it was for "safety" which made no sense to me, as I was 3 months pregnant, extremely sick and not in the position to do any kind of physical anything. So even though I had heard this about them having no rights without a warrant I don't know hat I would count on it actually being effective in a real life situation.

post #11 of 84


I was not trying to offend you.  In your first post you mentioned those things and never mentioned them not being true.  Who knows what you do or do not allow your kids to do, regardless of what magazines you read or where you post.  There is a broad range of APers; it's best not to assume things based on if they post here or not.  Therefore, it might be a blatant lie to YOU but WE do not know you!  I was thinking, maybe your kids snuck outside while you were in the shower and your neighbors saw that you didn't come out right away.  These things happen and are normal but could be misinterpreted. 

 

I don't know what the circumstances were, you didn't give enough information, and you said you did nothing to your neighbors but they were trying to get back at you (being "vindictive"), which just doesn't add up. so I just asked.  No need to be upset about being unclear and someone asking you about it. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by aelial View Post

This is really blowing my mind. Of course my kids were not unsupervised in the car, or naked outdoors in winter. I wrote about the completely insane thing the neighbors acccused me of doing because it is so blatantly and obviously completely insane that it should be obvious to anyone that it is a lie told to CPS to get them to come out. I'm sorry that you have odd neighbors whose kids find themselves in such a predicament, but do you really think their parents read Mothering magazine and hang out on this forum???

post #12 of 84

 

Quote:
I don't want to hijack the thread, but when CPS was called on me I tried this --I really DID have a lawyer to call, too-- and the CPS lady told me that if I i didn't let her in OR sign the paperwork that she would have to take custody of my ds on the spot. She threatened to call the cops if necessary to enforce it. And fwiw the entire thing ended up being dismissed as totally unwarranted/unfounded, but they DID call the police because of what I said, even thought I eventually relented and let her into the house. She said it was for "safety" which made no sense to me, as I was 3 months pregnant, extremely sick and not in the position to do any kind of physical anything. So even though I had heard this about them having no rights without a warrant I don't know hat I would count on it actually being effective in a real life situation.

 

 

A common scare tactic by CPS workers. They will lie to you in order to scare you into getting into your home. 

post #13 of 84

ok but she really did call the police. I guess she must have told them that I was threatening to attack her maybe? I don't know. But I just don' see how else this could have played out. The police came out and everything.

post #14 of 84
Thread Starter 

They don't want to run me specifically through the mental health database, they do it to every family they come out to investigate. Which I think is a disgusting breach of privacy, and seems to be a recent innovation since I don't remember anything of the kind the last time they came around (I hadn't done what I was accused of doing the first time CPS came at me either, in case this needs to be stated as well... sheesh).

 

I'm getting defensive because it never occurred to me that somebody on Mothering.com would think I actually leave my children alone in the car for hours. Your comment really took me by surprise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by newbymom05 View Post

Your first post was unclear. "Vindictive" does not mean lying, you say that both kids were naked when CPS called, and that CPS wants to run you through their mental health database, and you seemed mainly concerned w/ not vaxing, so yeah, I asked if they were really unattended b/c it was unclear in your first post. No need to get defensive, just edit and/or explain. Based on the info you've sinced added, it's a totally different story from your first post, sorry I misunderstood the first one.

post #15 of 84
Thread Starter 

Regarding CPS and the fourth amendment:

 

As I wrote, this is the second time we've had this happen. The last time my older (and then only) child was 1.5 years old. When the CPS caseworker came out, I did exactly what some of you here are suggesting - ask for a warrant, and deny the caseworker access to my home when he failed to produce one. I was polite, and offered to talk to him on the porch. My son was with me, and plainly OK. The next day the cops were at my house, battering down my door, screaming. I didn't open the door for the cops either, and politely asked the officer if he had a warrant, and if I could have his name. The guy screamed that they were going to kick my door down and arrest me. I couldn't tell if this was a bluff, and got really scared, so I called a lawyer and jumped in a cab to see him as soon as the cops pulled out. When the lawyer called DHS (department of human services, as the agency is called here in Philly), he learned that they had ALREADY filed a request for a restraining order against me with a local judge. The lawyer said that in his experience, 8 times out of 10 these were granted over the $#@&! phone, and the children were removed into a foster home immediately pending investigation. So while I could, in fact, use the 4th amendment to deny government agencies access to my home, and once the case got to court the judge would likely rule in my favor, my child would be staying in a foster home while the court date was being arranged. I found a database with statistics of children being removed from the home pending a CPS investigation - Pennsylvania was one of the top three states in the country, with something like a ridiculous 75-80% of investigations in which children were removed pending investigation, and only 30% of investigations eventually finding abuse. It looked like the lawyer was telling the truth, so we decided to follow his suggestion and voluntarily make an appointment with DHS to come into the house and do what they needed to do, in return for having the restraining order request cancelled.

 

So it seems to me that the ability of CPS to carry through with their threats varies by locality, with some cities and states being more dangerous than others. Philadelphia, where I live, is one of the most removal-happy places in the country as far as I can tell :(

post #16 of 84

There may be some differences between the states on what I'm about to say, but in the 5 or 6 states where I know the law re: this issue, it is absolutely NOT TRUE that CPS or the police need a warrant to see your kids and, if they deem it necessary, take them.  You have to keep in mind that usually (*not* *always* as we know from many stories, but usually) the urgency of this kind of threat is because of the nature of what was reported. 

 

Because of the nature of child abuse, even a report that initially doesn't sound like requires removal (I don't think naked in the yard or naked in the car immediately, in and of itself, warrants removal if shown to be true), once the ball is rolling with a report of something serious enough to investigate, a resistant parent who refuses to talk to the worker raises the concern and CPS DOES have the right to insist on seeing the child.


I'm not saying this is fair all the time, nor productive all the time, and I know a few instances personally where children were taken for very wrong reasons/judgements and it's damaging to all involved.  But I am also pointing out that the law of many states does allow CPS to take custody of kids who are believed to be in "imminent danger" and the definition of what's "imminent danger" can vary greatly from state to state and even office to office. 

 

While it is absolutely awful when CPS barges in and takes custody of kids for obviously insufficient or ridiculous reasons, I can tell you I can count on one hand the number of times parents have said there was no reason and, when you investigate, there wasn't some serious problem (i.e. actual abuse/neglect).  That's why when the allegations are serious enough (not saying they are in this case, just generally) and the parent resists opening the door, in many states the law weighs on the side of the agency charged with protecting the children.  Because if the parent is hiding because they know something is wrong, that worker may not have another chance to come back and get the child if the problem is serious enough.  That is the scenario CPS is worried about.

 

Again, in this case, it sounds like the initial report is silly although is serious enough to need to be followed up on.  Sounds like the workers realized quickly and appropriately that the kids were fine.  I think it's very messed up that neighbors would blatantly make up stories about a family for any reason, but I also understand why CPS gets even more concerned if parents refuse to open the door or allow contact with the kids, even though I also get why in your situation you'd want to keep them out.

post #17 of 84

Get some better curtains so your neighbors can't see your naked kids in the house.

post #18 of 84

Everything LROM said. Social workers see a lot of crazy, scary stuff. Having worked in the field, you never know what you will find when that door opens. You could have a lovely smiling mom in a nice house telling you how all is well and the door opens up to things you can't *unsee*. And when some little thing you are ready to "check out and cross off" turns into "get a warrant" 1.) There is not way I could see *not* getting a warrant/calling the police because the issue still stands and I have no additional information to discredit it. 2.) I get really nervous because I have *no* idea why I am being barred- Is it a boyfriend on the couch who has been skipping parole? Is is some other horrible thing? Or is it a concerned and educated parent exercising their rights? I don't know why, but it's my job to see the kids are safe, so I'm going to do what I need to for the door to open. 3.) Social workers have their own experiences that shape their ideas. So, you remember the child where you missed the signs. You remember the lovely mom you interviewed after "bogus" claims to find horrible things later. And it makes you promise to not let that happen again. So "get a warrant" sends up a million feelings that are not entirely related to what is going on with you (which, you don't really want).

 

In short, I could not *imagine* if someone said "get a warrant" that I would *not* do that and most likely, call the police (who CAN come in if there is reason to believe that the children are in danger).

 

So, while it may be within your rights, I would use that with great seriousness.

post #19 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexsam View Post

Everything LROM said. Social workers see a lot of crazy, scary stuff. Having worked in the field, you never know what you will find when that door opens. You could have a lovely smiling mom in a nice house telling you how all is well and the door opens up to things you can't *unsee*. And when some little thing you are ready to "check out and cross off" turns into "get a warrant" 1.) There is not way I could see *not* getting a warrant/calling the police because the issue still stands and I have no additional information to discredit it. 2.) I get really nervous because I have *no* idea why I am being barred- Is it a boyfriend on the couch who has been skipping parole? Is is some other horrible thing? Or is it a concerned and educated parent exercising their rights? I don't know why, but it's my job to see the kids are safe, so I'm going to do what I need to for the door to open. 3.) Social workers have their own experiences that shape their ideas. So, you remember the child where you missed the signs. You remember the lovely mom you interviewed after "bogus" claims to find horrible things later. And it makes you promise to not let that happen again. So "get a warrant" sends up a million feelings that are not entirely related to what is going on with you (which, you don't really want).

 

In short, I could not *imagine* if someone said "get a warrant" that I would *not* do that and most likely, call the police (who CAN come in if there is reason to believe that the children are in danger).

 

So, while it may be within your rights, I would use that with great seriousness.


But police have to have probably cause, and third party "Someone called and said ....." doesn't constitute probably cause.  Yes, they would probably try to get a warrant, but that requires going in front of a judge and asking for one, and then you might get one, or you might not.  The CPS call on me was about "she doesn't respond to the baby's cries when someone else is holding him"  Ummm...I DO NOT think a judge would have granted a warrant based on that!

post #20 of 84


Do this, seriously, my grandmother and her friends are like that. I really think you should deal with passive aggressive behavior this way. It would be very affective.

 

I seriously doubt that you are doing anything that would even begin to warrant a call, but I do agree that maybe invest in some better curtains, I HATE nosey neighbors. I'm fortunate that my crazy neighbor is actually anti police. I've been waiting for the call when CPS shows up from some bogus thing and I have to explain that we are approved foster parents. I've been careful to make sure I've gone to the ped just to have record of medical intervention even though we don't vax. I wouldn't have put it past my MIL (out of 'concern' of course) but she also doesn't yet know we aren't vaxing.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by waiting2bemommy View Post

I would start chatting with one of my neighbors and say, "You know somebody called CPOS on me TWICE? they're not supposed to tell me who it is but it was so obvious, I mean, really....." let it hang in the air for a minute and then add, "She told me the next time CPS gets called out here on some bogus bulls*** we can go ahead and take police action and file a complaint against them. Around here you can get xyz months in jail for that, which would be pretty satisfying to me." and then don't bring it up again. If the neighborhood is an old timey as you say it is, then they all gossip, and this will spread like wildfire, enabling you to etiher a) live your life in peace because they're scared to call anymore or b)sniff out the snitch and handle the situation.

 

I have had CPS called on me too and it was a horrible experience, not helpful or peven pretending to want to be helpful AT ALL in any way shape or form. Therefore I have very strong feelings about this and I would not be above going after the person who sicced the gov't on me and my kids.

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