Foster Care, Child Protective Services and your Texas family

What does it mean for Child Protective Services (CPS) to become involved with your family? It’s probably become pretty obvious to you that CPS is not contacting you for something good. It’s likely that something has happened with one of your children that is requiring CPS to get in touch with you. If you have never come into contact with CPS in your entire life you have a lot to learn about what a case means with this state agency for you and your family.

Things become even more stressful for you when your child is removed from your home. This can happen for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is that your child can be removed from your home if it is determined that you are not in a position to keep your child safe from abuse or neglect. Sometimes your child can be removed without first having gone to court. This can occur in the event that there is an emergency situation that does not allow for CPS to seek a court order prior to the removal. Most of the time a court order will be sought where a judge will give CPS permission to do the removal?

Where does your child go after being removed from your home?

In many cases, your child will be placed in foster care. If your child cannot be safe at your home (either in the eyes of CPS and a judge) then CPS has the option to place your child into foster care. Your child will be assigned an attorney ad litem who will be representing your child’s interests in court. This may seem a bit unnatural to you but keep in mind that your child’s interests may not line up perfectly with your own. For that reason, the judge will be appointing a separate attorney to speak on your child’s best interests when in court.

The toughest part of this whole process is that your child will be moving out of your home. The home that your child will be moving into maybe with another member of your family (aunt, uncle, grandparent, adult sibling) or could be in a foster home with a family that you and your child do not know. There will be new routines and rules that become implemented in your child’s case in order to ensure that your child is kept safe and that you have an opportunity to visit with your child.

What happens right after your child is removed from your home?

Once your child is removed from your home as part of a CPS case it is normal for you to feel nervous, sad, apprehensive and discouraged. Your child likely feels many of these same emotions as you do. It is not a bad idea for you to be able to seek out counseling or therapy for yourself. Often times your church will have someone that they can recommend that you visit with, including a priest or pastor. Your health insurance many have family therapists or counselors available to meet with you within your network.

Whatever the case, you have the right to feel the way you do about your family. It is extremely jarring and unsettling to have your child removed from your care, whatever the circumstances. Even if you were engaging in behavior that put your child at risk it is very unlikely that your primary intention was to harm your child.

Once your caseworker is assigned to work with you and a court date is set up (called an Adversarial hearing) you will likely be provided with a visitation schedule that allows you to see your child. The main exception to this rule is that if CPS and the judge believe that you are a safety risk to your child or if the goal of your CPS is not to reunify your child and you in your home.

You should be honest with CPS about what your schedule allows for when it comes to visitation. Once your visitation schedule is created you will be expected to stick to that plan. So, if you have things in your life that will prevent you from being able to make a visit, do not agree to have a visitation session on a particular day. These visitation sessions will be supervised by CPS at the beginning of your case so your behavior in each session is very important. Being absent at a scheduled time can be very bad for your case.

What rights do you and your child have while he or she is in foster care?

Your child has the right to be told why he or she in foster care. CPS will not exaggerate or make promises about when or if he or she will be able to return to your home, but an explanation of why he or she is in foster care can and will be provided to your child. CPS will share information on what their plan is for your child- whether that is reunification with you, living permanently with a family member or something different. Once you have a better idea about what is happening with the case it is important that you be able to communicate these goals to your child, as well.

CPS will do everything possible to ensure that your children are all able to live together in the same house. An exception that immediately comes to mind is if one of your siblings was somehow involved in the neglect or abuse that brought about CPS intervention in the first place. If you have a situation like that on your hands then you should be aware that your children will be separated while in foster care to ensure their safety. It will be explained to your child (when appropriate, considering age) why he or she was not able to be placed with all of their siblings.

Your child will also have the right to visit with you during the CPS case. Again, an exception to this rule would be if it is determined that it is not in your child’s best interest to have visitation with you. Safety of your child is at the forefront of all decisions made in the case, and if you are a risk to your child then you will not be provided with visitation.

What sort of life will your child lead while in foster care?

Despite your child living outside of your home, it will be a goal of the foster family and CPS that your child is able to lead as normal a life as possible. He or she will hopefully be able to attend the same school where he or she is currently enrolled. However, if your child’s current living situation does not allow for that to occur then they will be enrolled in a school closer to the home of their foster family. Special attention will be paid if your child needs any sort of special education courses of accommodations while in school.

A concern that many parents have in regard to their child being in foster care is whether or not their child will be able to attend church or other religious services. If that is a concern that you share as well, you can rest easier knowing that CPS will work to ensure that your child can attend religious services while he or she is living outside of your home.

Depending on the age of your child, CPS will do its best to allow him or her to experience activities, extracurricular events, sports, band, etc. that were a normal part of their daily life prior to the removal. If you have equipment, materials or clothing that your child will need to perform in these regards it is recommended that you provide the foster family with these items either when your child is being removed or as quickly as possible thereafter.

Phone calls, emails, letters and other means of private communication between you and your child will also be allowed so long as it is not determined that these means of communication offer a threat to your child’s safety. As far as other private matters, your child will also be provided with personal hygiene materials that allow him or her to maintain their health while he or she is living outside of your home.

Will your child be disciplined while in foster care?

This is an important question to ponder. I think we would all agree that children need discipline. Children who are living in atypical circumstances can sense when there is a vacuum in the normal state of discipline in their lives. Most children will use that vacuum and fill it with less than stellar behavior including some degree of disrespect.

Your child should not be hit or disciplined physically while in CPS custody. However, your child will be disciplined by their foster family if the situation warrants it. In the event that your child is disciplined by their foster family, the rationale for that discipline will be explained to your child.

What information about the CPS case will be provided to your child while in foster care?

Your child will not come into contact with CPS on a daily basis, but he or she will be able to see their caseworker at least once a month in order to go over the status of their case. The caseworker should be providing your child with a copy of the plan that you are working on. That plan covers what needs your child has and what services are available to him or her in order to address those needs.

Your child will also have an idea about what efforts you are making to ensure that he or she can be returned to your home as quickly as possible. Depending on their age, your child will be able to play a role in creating a plan for services through CPS as well as in planning where he or she will be living permanently once the CPS case is done.

What happens when your child is high school-aged?

Children over the age of 14 are told about what services and programs are available through CPS that will be available to him or her after the CPS case has concluded.

Children that are approaching the age of 18 will also be provided with information on programs that are available to help them find work and housing after aging out of the foster care system.

What are some commonly used terms when it comes to foster care and CPS cases?

If you are becoming involved in a CPS case where foster care is playing a role, then you need to be aware of what the main terminology associated with these type of cases.

We have already covered that a family foster home is a family that cares for your child when he or she is removed from your home. When a relative or someone not related to you takes on the responsibility of raising your child for this time period then that is referred to as kinship care. Persons like grandparents, uncles, aunts, family friends and others close to you are the types of people that assist in this type of role.

More information on foster care will be provided to you in tomorrow’s blog post

In tomorrow’s blog post we will detail additional information about foster care and CPS that I believe is important for you to know as you begin your case. Thank you for spending part of your day with us here on our blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we covered today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to schedule a consultation with you here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity to meet with an experienced family law attorney and to be provided with answers to your most important questions.

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