This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

Can Relatives Make Decisions for a Child in CPS Cases?

Question from SFeefee, Can Relatives Make Decisions for a Child in CPS Cases?

Answer from AI:

When a child is removed from their home by Child Protective Services (CPS) and placed with a relative, it raises questions about what decisions the relative can legally make for the child. This includes whether they can cut the child’s hair, force them to attend church, or take away their phone. Understanding the legal framework and rights involved is crucial for both the child’s well-being and the relative’s legal standing.

Understanding the Legal Framework

In the United States, when CPS places a child with a relative, the relative often becomes what is known as a “kinship caregiver.” The rights and responsibilities of kinship caregivers can vary significantly from one state to another, as child welfare is governed by state laws. However, there are general principles and guidelines that tend to apply across the board.

It’s important to note that specific legal advice should be sought from a legal professional, as the information provided here is general and may not apply to every situation.

Decision-Making Rights of Kinship Caregivers

  • Legal Custody: Whether the relative has been granted legal custody of the child by a court can significantly impact their decision-making authority. Legal custody typically includes the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.
  • Temporary Care Arrangements: If the placement is temporary and the relative does not have legal custody, their decision-making authority may be more limited. In such cases, CPS often retains legal custody and the final say in major decisions.

Specific Concerns

  1. Cutting the Child’s Hair: Decisions about a child’s appearance, such as haircuts, are generally considered part of the day-to-day caregiving that kinship caregivers are responsible for. However, if the haircut could be seen as culturally or religiously insensitive, it might raise concerns.
  2. Forcing the Child to Attend Church: This issue touches on the child’s religious freedom. If the child is old enough to have expressed religious preferences, forcing them to attend church could be problematic. The relative’s rights to make such decisions might depend on whether they have legal custody and the specific terms of that custody.
  3. Taking Away the Child’s Phone: This decision is generally seen as part of the caregiver’s authority to set rules and discipline in the home. However, if the phone is the child’s link to their parents or is used for educational purposes, there might be limitations on the caregiver’s ability to take it away.

Seeking Legal Advice

Given the complexities involved and the variations in state laws, consulting with a legal professional is highly recommended for relatives who find themselves in a kinship caregiver role. A lawyer can provide advice tailored to the specific circumstances, including the legal rights and limitations of the caregiver’s role.

For more information on kinship care and legal custody, the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides resources and state-specific information that can be helpful.


While relatives who take on the role of kinship caregivers in CPS cases do have certain rights and responsibilities, these can vary widely. The ability to make decisions such as cutting a child’s hair, forcing them to attend church, or taking away their phone depends on several factors, including whether the relative has legal custody. Always seek personalized legal advice to navigate these complex issues effectively.

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