When your child is removed as a part of a Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) case and placed into foster care, it would be natural on some level to view the foster family as something of an enemy. These are the folks who are welcoming your children into your home after they have just exited your own. You do not know their intentions because you do not know them. You may not even find out their names and likely will never know where they live. All you are left with is an assurance from CPS that they will be caring for your children for an extended period of time to the best of their ability.
Parents that I have come into contact with that have had their children placed into CPS cases will frequently want to know whether or not the foster family will make an effort to speak to them (when possible) about how to better care for their child daily. Another concern that I have heard from parents in your position is what efforts will be made by the foster family to ensure that their children can participate in extracurricular activities through their school or other organizations.
What I can tell you is that CPS will assure you that they judge their foster families on their ability to do these sorts of things in addition to other daily care activities associated with your children. Foster families must be able to avoid problems that the agency has faced before.
I will not detail the foster care system’s specific problems, but a simple Google search will reveal what I am alluding to. This is all the more reason you seek out family members to act as foster care providers for your children, rather than leave it up to CPS to appoint a family to care for your children.
What happens if CPS believes your child’s foster family is not living up to this standard?
Problems can arise if your child’s foster family is not facilitating visits with you, sharing information with you or CPS, and generally seems hostile to the idea of you being able to share in the reunification process. If this situation presents itself, CPS will take action on behalf of your family. You can expect the action it takes looks like the following.
If your child’s foster family has a different view of their role in your child’s CPS case or doesn’t understand what it can do to help your child in their feelings of separation anxiety, the CPS caseworker will work to make sure that training is available and received by the family. This is a significant gap in knowledge that the family needs to remedy immediately. Besides, caseworkers will frequently consider holding meetings with you and the foster family to make sure that you all have an opportunity to build a relationship.
Some foster families are more flexible than others when it comes to the “disruptions” that come with visitation with parents and foster children. Your child’s foster family should be aware that these visitations can and will happen at abnormal times, depending on the schedule of your child, your child’s foster family, and you. However, in some instances, the foster family will be less flexible than you or CPS would like. They may even become resistant to working with you all to facilitate the visits.
What can be done if this happens in your situation? CPS will meet with the foster family to determine the cause of the issue regarding visitation problems. Is your child expressing negative emotions about visiting with you that he has not made known to you or CPS? Or is the foster family needing to be trained to understand your case’s goal better? Whatever additional support that the foster family needs to make sure visitation occurs without a hitch will be provided to them.
What happens if you are incarcerated for all or a part of the CPS investigation?
If you are in jail or prison for at least a portion of the CPS investigation, then you will need special arrangements set up to help facilitate your visitation with your child. In some instances, you may even be incarcerated due to issues related to your child’s abuse.
The impact of any contact that you have with your child due to this incarceration will need to be looked at in greater detail. Typically, a therapist or child counselor will assess the situation and make recommendations to CPS after meeting with your child and their caseworker. Before you are prescribed any visitation, those recommendations will need to be addressed.
Next, we will need to consider what the goal of your CPS case is. Some goals range from the reunification of your child with you in your home, permanent placement of your child with a relative, permanent placement with the Department of Family and Protective Services (foster care), and adoption. If your case’s goal is to reunify you with your child in your home once you are no longer in prison, then every effort should be made to allow you to have visitation with your child.
How will that visitation occur while you are in prison? Some people have concerns about their child visiting the prison to visit with you. However, most people in prison experience that it is not as grim and violent as you may have been led to believe that it would be.
On the contrary, many prisoners visit with the family regularly while they are behind bars. Consider that if your child is initially apprehensive about visiting with you in prison, it may just take one visit to put him into a different mindset. The future of your relationship can depend on it.
What sort of visitation planning occurs if you are incarcerated?
First, the prison where you are staying will need to be contacted to speak to the administration about what procedures and arrangements are in place to help get the process started. Your child’s foster family and the CPS caseworker will speak to your child about the extent of the contact you will be able to have with him or her. What sort of information can be shared with your child is an important consideration in this regard. Work with CPS to prepare your child as best as possible before their first visit.
Your child should know ahead of time, for example, that it is probable that he will only be able to see you in a small room in the jail where there will not be toys or games or friendly reminders of home. It will feel like you all are visiting one another in jail. If this does not seem like the most hospitable place in the world for a visitation session to occur, you would be right.
Sometimes you will be in a larger room where there will be multiple families with children, extended family, etc. In other instances, your child may be able to talk to you face to face, but contact will not be allowed between the two of you. You need to find out whether or not your child can bring you things like mail, food, gifts, or things like school artwork. Depending on where you are staying, that may be contraband and not allowed.
How does family violence work within this process?
If your child was removed from your home and out of your custody due to family violence concerns, then an assessment will be done by CPS to determine how your child experienced that violence and what its impact has been on him. Children experience traumatic events in different ways. It cannot be assumed that your child will experience these situations in the same way that another child would.
Furthermore, our expectation as adults of how a child will experience trauma will differ greatly from how we would experience trauma as adults. A determine will need to be made regarding what safety concerns and other steps need to be taken to put your home in a safe condition before visitation re-starting. Drop off and pick up locations removed from your house are just a few of the ways that you may be able to mitigate future risks of harm to your kids.
What if your children were victims of sexual abuse?
In cases where your child has become the victim of sexual abuse, there will need to be significant assessments done to what risks are presented to your child about being able to visit with him or her. Even if you were not the person who committed the acts of sexual abuse against your child, it could be that your neglect led to another person being able to do so.
Your child will be set up with a therapist to talk to about the incidents of sexual abuse (age-appropriate discussions). The court will likely set up rules that surround your being able to contact your child during the case, outside of any visitation sessions that you are allowed. If you are found to have abused your child sexually, any visitation allowed between you and your child will be closely supervised with a readiness to cut the visitation short if signs of abuse are observed.
What if your child has physical or developmental needs?
The last thing I would like to discuss with you regarding the topic of visitation during CPS cases is the subject of children with special needs. Your caseworker will need to make visitation accommodations in many cases to allow you, your children, and your child’s siblings to participate in meaningful visitation. CPS employs specialists who work with caseworkers and parents to arrange visits for children who have special needs of various sorts.
For example, does your child have mobility issues that make it difficult or impossible for him or her to go upstairs or ramps? If so, alternative or mobility accessible locations may need to be sought after hosting your visitation sessions. If your child cannot physically get to the location for visitation purposes, all your efforts to get visitation sessions scheduled will be pointless.
It would help if you discussed these issues with CPS and guided what your child needs to have meaningful sessions of visitation with you and your family. Even though your child is not living with you currently, you still have a role to play in their lives. Your input is needed, and you should offer it to your CPS caseworker even if it is not requested.
Final thoughts on CPS cases in Texas
If you have been provided visitation opportunities with your child in conjunction with a CPS case, make no mistake that the most important thing you can do is go to see your child. Nothing can make up for missed visitations. It will hurt your case, and even more important, and it will hurt your child.
See to it that you move heaven and earth to get your child for these visitation sessions. Don’t feel sorry for yourself- feel sorry that your child is in the position that they are in and then do something about it.
Questions about Texas family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
The attorneys and staff at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan thank you for spending time with us this past week as we discussed this important topic in Texas family law. If you would like to speak to one of our attorneys about your particular situation, please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week where one of our licensed family law attorneys can directly address your questions.
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- In what circumstances could your child end up living with your relative during a CPS case?
- What can a CPS investigation into your family mean now and in the future?
- What to do if your spouse is being investigated by CPS in Texas for abuse or neglect of your child?
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Bryan Fagan, a native of Atascocita, Texas, is a dedicated family law attorney inspired by John Grisham’s “The Pelican Brief.” He is the first lawyer in his family, which includes two adopted brothers. Bryan’s commitment to family is personal and professional; he cared for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s while completing his degree and attended the South Texas College of Law at night.
Married with three children, Bryan’s personal experiences enrich his understanding of family dynamics, which is central to his legal practice. He specializes in family law, offering innovative and efficient legal services. A certified member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, Bryan is part of an elite group of legal professionals committed to ongoing education and high-level expertise.
His legal practice covers divorce, custody disputes, property disputes, adoption, paternity, and mediation. Bryan is also experienced in drafting marital property agreements. He leads a team dedicated to complex family law cases and protecting families from false CPS allegations.
Based in Houston, Bryan is active in the Houston Family Law Sector of the Houston Bar Association and various family law groups in Texas. His deep understanding of family values and his professional dedication make him a compassionate advocate for families navigating Texas family law.