Should I sign a CPS release for
my child’s medical records?
Many times during an investigation of child abuse or child neglect, Michigan Children’s Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers ask parents to sign medical releases. These are used to gather information on children and parents alike. A standard CPS release is very broad and will allow access to both medical and psychological records. Parents often feel compelled to sign these releases because of the intimidating presence of a CPS worker showing up on their doorstep, at school, or the hospital. Many parents sign CPS releases without reading them. Faced with the threat that CPS will try to remove the children from the home, most parents would sign anything that they are asked to sign.
As aggressive CPS defense attorneys, we are often asked whether signing a medical release for CPS is required by law. We would never recommend anybody sign anything from CPS without the advice of their attorney. As with all legal matters, parents should make informed decisions.
The first question asked should probably be, “What is in the records that CPS wants to obtain.” Very few people know what is in their records because they have never seen them. We find that clients are often shocked, surprised and amazed at the information contained therein. Medical staff has a way of documenting their files to protect themselves. We are often asked if there is a way of correcting misinformation in medical records which puts parents in a very bad light.
You have the right to your medical records and your children’s medical records. Giving those records to someone else when you don’t know what is in them is certainly not best practice. Also, many records contain a large volume of information that informs CPS about sources of records that they would not know about otherwise. A general release would allow them to gather up all of those records as well.
It is common in our practice to limit the release to specific records, specific care providers and, in some instances, to specific periods of time. Under certain circumstances, CPS may gain access to information without your consent, but limiting the consent to the issue at hand is often the best practice. Again, none of these decisions should be made without counsel.
As always, knowledge is power, and the more information a parent accused of abuse or neglect has, the better position they and their attorneys are in. Thus, it would be a good idea for parents to have copies of all relevant medical records, so they know what types of statements have been made by medical professionals about the child.
If a parent has already signed a medical records release for CPS, it may be appropriate to revoke it. This is something that we consider often. Sometimes revoking a release that you recently signed is seen as provocative. For this reason, we do not recommend this until the case has been thoroughly evaluated by the attorney who will be helping you.
If CPS is asking you to sign anything, your attorney should review it with you. If you are signing documents at the request of CPS without having your attorney review it first, you may be endangering your parental rights. Our team of experienced child protection attorneys is available to review your case with you and help protect your parental rights.