For the CPS (in the USA) how dirty is dirty?

I’ve seen a lot of stories about the CPS investigating someone, wherein it is mentioned that the person being investigated didn’t keep a clean house. This is points off, apparently.

I’m wondering how bad things have to be in order for the CPS to think there’s something wrong with your parenting.

For example, though most of my house is perfectly clean, I’ve pretty much stopped cleaning my kids’ room at all. Well, maybe once every couple of weeks or so. This is because they completely trash the room so immediately after I clean it I just don’t find it worth the effort. (I will find it worth the effort again someday, but now is not the time.) As a result, their floor is pretty much always almost literally covered with toys, sometimes an old sippy-cup I’ve missed, sometimes some laundry, occasionally some trash I’ve missed. (Never food, just dry trash like paper scraps.) The clothes-shelves are usually in a state of disarray because my daughter insists on pulling them all out on occasion.

Suppose the CPS came by for some reason and saw this room. Would they freak out?

Or rather, is the CPS only freaked out by truly unsanitary conditions–old food, pet feces and so on?

Are they looking for neatness, or cleanliness, is basically what I’m wondering.

You are fine, a messy child’s room is expected and normal. Its filth such as dirty dishes everywhere, pest infestation etc they would look for. It is definitely cleanliness over neatness
So unless things have changed greatly over the years since I retired you are fine

CWN (ret)
20 years of criminal child neglect investigations and used to work closely with CPS

There’s a show about hoarders on cable now, I happened to catch a couple of episodes when I was sick (I don’t usually watch TV, I don’t know what channel it was on or what it’s called).

A couple on that show had lost custody of their children due to filth. From the outside their house looked normal, and it was fairly large. In a nice neighborhood. The people looked normal, slender and fit.

Their house was SO full of stuff, you couldn’t move. No bed was visible in the daughter’s bedroom, it was buried under things. Lots of them were bags of new clothes that had never been opened!

The stairs were covered in papers and shoes and bags and just STUFF, and mouse droppings. The camerman managed to film mice running up and down under the debris.

Dirty dishes on every kitchen counter, the walls on inside of the refrigerator were black with mold.

She and her husband both talked at length about wanting their kids back.

The cleaning crew DID get it straightened up (they all wore face masks and used snow shovels to scoop stuff out). They packed 1,100 boxes of stuff that went to a storage facility. She didn’t fight them as much as some hoarders do, and the place looked good by the end – but in the little epilogue they said CPS still hadn’t returned the kids.

I used to work with a woman who had been taken away from her mom by CPS. The mom had some pretty severe mental illness and was spending all day, every day, cleaning the bathroom while the rest of the house was in squalor. The day CPS came for a scheduled visit, the mom was scrubbing bathroom tiles with a toothbrush and the rest of the house still had a xmas tree, remnants of xmas dinner and wrapping paper all over the living room. This visit occurred in March. She said she was out of the house within the hour.

It was probably Hoarders on A&E (Mon @10). The show pops up fairly often in the CS forum.

In regards to the OP, I knew a women who worked in CPS. She used to complain alot about the animals kept in these types of houses. Cat piss/shit + dog piss/shit in corners, or dogs w/ freakin mange and stuff. She was usually one of the last people to try and help the parents out and bring them up to code so they wouldn’t lose the kids.

A friend of mine had her children removed by CPS for a messy house a few years ago. She was not mentally ill and obviously loved and took good care of her children, so there was no way I, or anyone else, would have suspected anything was amiss until the babysitter reported her and the shit went down. After CPS interviewed my friend and her husband and determined that the children were in good health and not being harmed, they decided to leave the kids with their parents, under the condition that they not be inside the house until CPS determined that it was habitable again. So they spent a week in a motel room, with my friend and her husband taking turns watching the kids and cleaning the house. During this time, I went to her house one day to help clean.

When I went, they had already been working on cleaning for couple days, and the house was still, frankly, amazingly disgusting. I’ll be the first person to admit that I am hardly a neat freak, but I absolutely cannot imagine letting my living conditions reach this level of squalor. Seeing this situation really made me reassess my notions of the situations normal people can get themselves into. If I hadn’t known my friend and had seen this house without any context, I would have assumed it was the product of mental illness. But my friend was perfectly sane and a good mom to her kids.

Her excuse for the situation was that she and her husband were in the process of splitting up, and in their anger for each other and general unhappiness, they had begun to treat the house as a battleground, with neither of them giving ground on who should be cleaning it. As we cleaned, my friend admitted that she was relieved that CPS had intervened and had made them take stock of the situation and get it straightened out. They were also helping them get low-cost plumbing (one of the root problems of the mess was that the plumbing in the bathroom didn’t work) and some new furniture for the kids. So, all in all, the intervention was a positive thing.

So, I don’t know where exactly the line between “acceptable” and “not acceptable” would fall, but in this situation, no one called CPS until the living conditions were really, amazingly bad. If people don’t step into your house and gasp at the squalor, you’re probably doing okay.

FTR, this all happened in Michigan, where I live.

Exactly how bad, Kyla? (I have a horrible fascination with how bad other people would think my house is. I’m here on the Dope on this fine Saturday instead of cleaning it, you’ll notice.)

This was years ago (2003, I think), so I can’t really remember the details, mostly just my feeling of horror that my friend and her children were living like this. There was just…stuff everywhere, and the place was filthy. Like dirty. We did a lot of down on our knees scrubbing, IIRC. The bathroom and kitchen were disgusting. The kids had drawn all over the walls, which, while not a safety hazard, contributed to the effect that no one cared at all about the appearance of the house. There were obvious signs of a rodent infestation. And, like I said, they had already been cleaning for a couple of days when I saw it. I went to her house with another friend, who had also been to help the previous day, and she said that it was already a major improvement over the first time she had seen it, which was a scary thought.

My mother used to have a sampler that said, “Our house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy.”

I suppose some sort of disorder, especially with young kids, is expected. It’s when it becomes a health issue (and I think it’s one of those things that you can sort of tell) that it becomes a problem.

The issue is (or should be) safety, not neatness. Clutter isn’t really a safety issue unless it’s a fire hazard (piles of flammable trash, stuff piled so high it blocks safe exit from the house), or it gets damp and starts to mildew, or it sits so long mice and insects set up house in it. I don’t know if dust is a problem, unless the kids are asthmatic.

The dirt that’s really worth worrying about is spoiled food, dirty dishes, pest infestations, mold and rot, animal excrement, human excrement–that sort of thing. Get rid of that and it doesn’t much matter if there are clothes on the floor.

Conversely, it’s not much use having a neatly organized house if the plumbing malfunctions or the fridge is full of furry stuff. Nor is it much use scrubbing or dusting if you have exposed wiring, unsecured guns, or a meth lab in the basement. Again, the issue is whether the kids are safe.