Can Child Protective Services take action against you for abusing drugs or alcohol?

Some of the more frantic and concerned people that I have the opportunity to meet with as an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are those parents who have recently been contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS). A phone call completely out of the blue or a visit from a CPS case investigator have caught these people off guard. Their worry is so thorough that they seek the advice of an attorney as a result of those interactions. By time these folks get to my office the concern is visible on their faces and questions come to me in rapid fire fashion regarding the power of CPS and the ability of the organization to remove their children from the home.

What does CPS do- besides scaring people out of their wits? We may know people in our personal lives that have been contacted by CPS in some capacity or have seen a movie or television show where CPS was responding to an allegation of abuse or neglect of a child. That’s all fine and well but unless you know what CPS does in “real life” you will not be better off.

Today’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will introduce the topic of CPS and their role in protecting the safety and well-being of Texas children. As someone who has probably had little to no interaction in your lifetime with CPS it’s understandable to have a lot of questions about what CPS can and cannot do in regard to the makeup of your family. We will discuss what the organization’s motivations are and how they can impact you, your spouse and your children.

What is the objective of CPS?

CPS is an entity under the auspices of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Their work is done to create environments and to ensure the safety and well being of Texas families and the communities that they reside in. CPS will tell you that their goal is to work within the framework of the caregivers, parents and families that are already in place for your child. What CPS also will do is to get in touch with other adults in your child’s life to help educate and impress upon them the importance of helping to maintain a safe and healthy environment for your child.

Substance abuse and CPS involvement

Unfortunately substance abuse exists among parents in our State. You may engage in substance abuse yourself despite your attempts to curtail your usage of these substances or efforts to help yourself get better. This does not mean that you are a bad or immoral person. This does, however, mean that you put yourself and your children in a position when you use these substances where your and their well being is in jeopardy. Your decision making and parenting skills are obviously compromised if you are using and abusing drugs or alcohol.

CPS will intervene into a situation where it is reported to them (through anonymous intake phone calls) that your use of drugs or alcohol are either placing your child into a dangerous situation or where you have abused your child. These reports may well be false, or at the very least mislead. However, CPS is duty bound to investigate and intervene into these reports to ensure the safety of your child.

What CPS will not do is take any responsibility for your actions or for your recovery/efforts towards sobriety. You are the caretaker and conservator of your child up until a court intervenes and says otherwise. To that end, you will need to take charge of your own well-being and to work towards getting better physically and mentally. Along with these physical and mental improvements you will need to involve whatever support system that you have available to you in order so that your child is not continually in harm’s way during any CPS investigation.

How a CPS worker will engage with you and your family

Upon their initial contact with you, a CPS caseworker will attempt to be respectful and professional in their approach. They are taught to understand that this is not an easy process for you and that no matter what allegations have been made against you, that you deserve respect and patience as a parent.

A CPS case worker will provide you with an explanation of who he or she is, what they are investigating and will provide you with their contact information. Without the input of you, your spouse and other adults in your child’s life there is little chance for a successful resolution of your case. Above all else, your case worker will look to engage with you and your spouse towards solving whatever problems are associated with you and your child. The initial interactions between you and your case worker can set the tone for the entire relationship.

How CPS will engage with your child

Unfortunately, there are children in our state that reside with parents with substance abuse issues. If you count yourself among those parents who abuse substances, even recreationally, know that if CPS begins an investigation into your family situation that it does not pay to be anything less than truthful.

Know that your child sees, hears and has likely attempted to intervene into your situation in order to stop you from further abusing drugs or alcohol. Your child may have even had the misfortunate to see the aftermath of your drug or alcohol abuse and as a result may have been mistreated in some way by you even if you did not intend to do so or remember the event specifically. Such is the effect of a person who is in the throes of a drug or alcohol addiction.

When speaking to your child, CPS will talk to your child in a way as to learn whether or not your child views substance usage as a way to celebrate or to cope with the stresses of life. From seeing and hearing you abuse substances, your child will likely formulate their own opinions on its appropriateness in their own life. If your child gives the impression that he or she is comfortable or knowledgeable of the effects of drugs and alcohol use this will show a CPS case worker that you are fairly open about your usage at home.

Factors that CPS will consider when interviewing a child

If your child is to be interviewed by CPS know that your child’s age, developmental stage and their own sense of self awareness will be evaluated to determine what sort of questions are appropriate to ask. The caseworker will attempt to gain the trust of your child in order to allow him or her to feel safe enough to open up about their experiences in your home.

What CPS caseworkers and investigators are keenly aware of is that your child’s behaviors, while seemingly muted or minimal, all have meaning. Your substance abuse may have led to a certain level of trauma that can be identified by CPS. If your substance abuse has compromised the safety of your child then their relationship will be harmed. CPS workers ask questions in an attempt to gauge the strength of your child’s relationship with you to allow them to gain a window into the extent of your substance abuse.

How CPS will engage with your child and with you- tomorrow’s blog post

If you have found today’s blog post informative we hope that you will come back tomorrow to read more about CPS and their motivations and techniques in intervening into your family life. Should you have any questions about this subject or any other in family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week where one of our licensed family law attorneys can answer your questions and discuss the services we can provide to you as a client of our office.

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