Suppose you are a parent facing a CPS investigation due to an addiction to drugs or alcohol. In that case, there is specific information you should be aware of as you begin to map out a plan for yourself and your family. You are likely aware that your ability to parent and keep your child safe while addicted to drugs or alcohol is significantly impaired. Your decision-making skills are severely impaired due to your addiction, and you cannot be expected to care for a child in that condition. If you find yourself disagreeing with that statement, that should indicate that you have a substance abuse problem.
Even if you are not a habitual, everyday user of drugs or alcohol, it could still be (and likely is) true that your ability to parent your child is constrained at the very least and, at worst, is wholly eradicated. You may be telling yourself that your addiction does not affect your kids because you never “use” in front of your children. However, as we are about to discuss this, this is not true at all, and that line of thought can be extremely harmful to you and your children.
Exposing your children to risks associated with drugs and alcohol
Perhaps the most common scenario where your child is put in harm’s way due to your addiction to drugs or alcohol is that you are impaired during the hours you are caring for your child. Suppose your child gets home from school, and you are in an altered state due to your addiction. In that case, you cannot possibly protect your child from dangers that include wandering away from your home, playing at home with dangerous items like household cleaners or electrical outlets, or using kitchen appliances for cooking meals when you are not able to.
You are who you hang around with. These were the wise words that my grandpa would tell me growing up. Please take a look at your life and the people who populate it. If you are a drug abuser, you will likely spend time with other drug abusers.
This is not a moral judgment or anything close to it. Instead, it is an observation that I feel prepared to make as a family law attorney. These drug abusers can present dangers in and of themselves if you bring them around your child and into your home.
Finally, the addict’s mind places supreme importance on getting high or drunk before taking care of their child or household. If you can hold down a job and earn an income, your earnings are likely spent first on acquiring your drug of choice, with any remaining money spent on necessities for your home and child. People with addictions tend to have impulse control problems as well. This means that if you do not watch out and seek help, your alcohol addiction could lead to an addiction to gambling and other destructive behaviors.
What does a CPS service plan look like for a parent with a substance addiction problem?
The service plan for a parent like yourself with a substance addiction problem will not consider problems that you may experience in the future (like relapsing after being sober, other health issues, or accommodations needed at home based on these issues). Whatever programs or support you believe you need should be communicated to your CPS caseworker so that they can work with you to get these set up as soon as possible.
It is your responsibility to make sure that you meet the standards that our state has set forth regarding your ability to keep your child safe and to have them returned to your home. Do not assume that just because your caseworker speaks sweetly to you and has seemed helpful, they will go out of their way to help you.
They will not, most likely. They are overworked and overburdened and cannot be expected to do the work for you. Take care of yourself and your child by speaking up about the help that you need.
How drug and alcohol addiction can play a role in your case
Speaking of those CPS caseworkers, these folks will ensure that the addiction you have is front and center in your investigation. For example, drug or alcohol abusers’ parents will need to consent to and allow for random drug tests that can often date back for six months. Your caseworker will act as a counselor in talking to you about the effects of your addiction on your child and your family at large. Hopefully, this will not be fun but will be a way for you to focus on what is most important in your case. To get your child home with you, this is a necessary step.
At the beginning of your case, a caseworker from CPS will meet with you and go over an assessment designed to help you learn what you need to focus on to win back your child from the temporary custody of CPS. Whatever recommendations come out of that assessment will be your marching orders for the duration of your case. It will be expected that you honor those commitments to living a clean and sober life.
Finally, supervised visitation will be the norm until proven that you can lead that sober life. CPS will not allow you to put your child into harm’s way by exposing them to you in an uncontrolled environment. Your caseworker will use the supervised visitation sessions as an opportunity to look at the progress you are making and to determine how much longer you need to be involved in the supplemental programs. Suppose you arrive at a visitation session intoxicated or in an altered state. In that case, it can cost you time with your child and possibly even your parental rights if CPS were to make a motion to terminate your parental rights.
Is it a guarantee that your child will need to reside outside of your home while you receive treatment?
In all likelihood, yes. A lot depends on the type of treatment you are scheduled to receive, but if you will be out of the house and suffer physically because you abstained from drugs or alcohol, you will not be in a great position to parent your child during this time. Unless there is availability in the county where you live for you and your child to reside at a drug treatment facility together, your child will likely reside with a relative of yours or a foster family.
Either way, speak to your CPS caseworker about what options are available to you. You never know until you ask what is available for a person in your position. Overall, use this time to focus on yourself and your child. Expect setbacks- mentally and physically- and do not assume that you will be able to complete your coursework as quickly as you would like.
It takes time, but the reward can be the return of your child and the end of the CPS investigation. Your pride should not be a primary concern of yours. Accept the help, complete the courses and report back to CPS. Your child will thank you.
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