Britney Spears’ Kids – What about Child Protective Services?

Posted on Feb 20, 2008 in Celebrity Justice, Local Issues, National Issues

britneymtv.jpgWell, Britney Spears’ two boys have not seen their mother since mid-January, and it’s not clear if they are going to be able to be near their mom anytime soon.  Reuters reports that the Commissioner (aka judge) presiding over the Kevin Federline – Britney Spears custody fight has denied her request to alter his ruling from last month and there’s not any word on when that bar to Britney having any access to her boys will change.

Still, despite all the news stories – drug use, bipolar disorder, rehab, 5150 stays, reckless driving – where’s Child Protective Services in all this?  Shouldn’t they be involved here? 

Well, first of all, there have been reports that California’s Children and Family Services agency was investigating the Britney Spears situation as early as April 2006, although they have never taken legal action.   No one can say that California’s CPS won’t get formally involved, at some point.

Meanwhile, the boys are with their father, and their wellbeing is being overseen by the Commissioner presiding over the custody fight, in the civil matter filed by Kevin Federline.  At some level, the government is watching over the safety of the two boys.  Rest assured, CPS is watching this case.

What is CPS?  Each state has its own Child Protective Services agency, although not every state’s agency shares that same name.   Some states protect children via a Department of Social Services, or a Department of Children and Family Services, or other label.  California, for example, operates its child protective services as its Division of Children and Family Services which is a part of its Department of Social Services.  To check the state agency for your state, check this online list.

CPS gets involved in situations of abuse or neglect.  What’s that?  Federal law has defined what child abuse or neglect is, at a minimum,  in this country – and states are free to add onto this definition (and many do):

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g(2)).

How does CPS know about these kids in danger?  Reports reach the agency from a variety of sources – yes, they can be anonymous – that a child may not be safe, and the agency begins to investigate.  If the agency finds that there is reason to believe that the child is being abused, or neglected, then the agency will intervene.  Sometimes, that means becoming a part of the family’s life — giving classes, helping them get Medicaid assistance and other support (like food stamps) — and sometimes it means taking the child from their care for a specific period of time.

If CPS takes a child, they can’t keep that child forever, in limbo.  A court will hear the case, and the parents will have the opportunity to fight against CPS’s actions.  The child will also have representation in the courtroom, to insure that the child’s side of things is presented.  The law gives CPS a deadline to prove their case, as well as for the parents to prove the safety of their family.  At the end of that time, the family may be reunified, or the child may be permanently removed from their care – to live in foster care, to live with relatives, or to live with a new, adoptive family.

There are lots of critics of CPS.  They argue that it’s inherently wrong to take a child from his mother or father, and they argue that CPS is a dangerous, unethical agency wielding power improperly.  To read their arguments, check out FightCPS.Com.

So, why isn’t CPS formally involved in the Britney Spears case right now?  Because the boys are safe right now – they’re living with their dad, and not their mom.  Think what you like about Kevin Federline – he seems to be taking responsibility of those two boys just like a good parent should.

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