It can feel like you are all alone when you are involved in a Child Protective Services (CPS) case. You can be made to feel like you are the only person to have ever been investigated by CPS and that your child will never be returned to your home. Not only is this frightening, but it is also demoralizing. However, the intent of CPS is not to cause you to feel this way. You have a choice to make as to whether you will allow yourself to fall down this sort of emotional rabbit hole.
The best way to combat these feelings is to rally your family and friends behind you to develop strong and long-lasting support systems. We have all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. If you were left as a single parent early on in your child’s life, it could be that you have fought tooth and nail to be able to raise your child by yourself. Self-sufficiency is a great characteristic to have, but we all need help from time to time when raising a child successfully.
Today’s blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to show you how CPS will work with you to help build up support systems around you and your child. Throughout your case, these efforts will take on different forms, but the end goal will remain the same: to help your child be as safe as possible and help you develop the parenting techniques necessary for him or her to remain safe.
Group meetings with family during a CPS case
The CPS caseworker involved with you and your child will work with you to organize meetings known as Family Group Decision Making meetings. In these meetings, you can invite people to join you and CPS, whom you believe will support you moving forward in time.
There are two types of these Family Group Decision Making meetings. The first can occur before your child is ever removed from your home- a Family Team Meeting. A Family Group Conference occurs after your child has already been removed from your home.
These meetings are basically brainstorming sessions for you, your family, and your friends to figure out ways to help you address any problems that you and your child are experiencing in your home. Your child’s safety is the most important aspect of any of these meetings, and the conversation will be focused on this subject almost explicitly. The thought in bringing family and friends to the table is that these folks know you and your child much better than CPS ever could. As a result, they are just as likely as CPS to be able to come up with a plan that could help return your child to your home and keep her safe.
It is crucial to your and your child’s success that you take these meetings seriously and do everything you can to ensure that they are productive. Some parents believe that they have all the answers regarding raising a child- even after CPS has already intervened in their life. Do not let your pride stand in the way of arriving at practical solutions that can benefit your child’s life.
Family Team Meetings and Family Group Conferences
These are the two different types of Family Group Decision Making meetings discussed earlier in today’s blog post. The purpose of both is the same: to include your family more fully into the decision-making process when it comes to raising your child.
Family Team Meetings
As mentioned before, a Family Team Meeting will occur before your child is removed from your home. At this point, CPS has not yet filed a petition with the court to allow them to do so, and there is nothing that causes CPS to believe that there is an emergency that requires their intervention. The family team meeting is voluntary- you do not have to attend. However, it would help if you kept in mind that these meetings are a great opportunity for you to communicate with CPS about your specific needs and the services that you may require throughout your case.
You can choose to have friends, family, and other people close to you, and your child attends the meeting with you. Your support system can help you and CPS to come up with a plan for how to address any safety concerns that may exist in your home. You do not need to have an attorney with you at this meeting. If there has not been a court appearance yet in your case, you likely will not have had an attorney appointed to represent you. However, if you can afford an attorney, it would be better if that lawyer could attend this meeting with you.
Family Group Conferences
A family group conference is a meeting that will take place after your child has already been removed from your home. Your child may be living with a relative or a foster family during this stage of the case. A family group conference is a bigger meeting than a family team meeting. Family Group Conferences usually have friends, family, neighbors, teachers, and anyone else who is a part of your child’s life. The purpose of this meeting is to develop a plan for keeping your child safe both in the present and in the future. How do you want your home to operate differently once your child is returned home? That can be decided at this meeting.
Once a court case has started, you really need to have a lawyer by your side every step of the way forward. You can ask the judge to appoint you an attorney if you cannot afford to hire one on your own. You and your attorney should meet before a family group conference to game plan for what may or may not happen.
The CPS worker will not be present for the entirety of the meeting. The reason for their absence will be to allow you and your support system to have more autonomy over the decision-making portion. You all will be able to talk amongst yourself to develop a plan that is most feasible to work through the issues that have brought you all to that meeting in the first place. Once you have arrived at a satisfactory plan, CPS will review the plan with you and help fine-tune certain elements of it.
The most important part of this entire process is that you and your family need to hold one another accountable for your successes and failures associated with the implementation of the plan. If you are not supposed to see your child except for specifically designated time periods during the week, and you decide to violate that agreement and see your child during the day, it would be necessary for your mother or father to contact CPS to inform them of this violation.
At the end of the day, CPS allows your support system and you to wield a great deal of power in coming up with your own plan for benefiting your life and that of your child. Their willingness to do so is based almost entirely on a trust that you will do what you agree to in the plan and will not deviate from it. Also, your support system is seen as a barrier between you and potential bad acts. Once it is shown that either you, your support system, or both are either unwilling or unable to follow the plan, the judge will likely be called to make those decisions for you.
CPS Service Plans
A service plan is a written agreement between you and CPS that outlines the services you need to complete to deal with the concerns that CPS has regarding the safety of your child. One of these plans includes supportive services that are intended to help you raise your child responsibly. When talking about supportive services, we are most concerned with drug/alcohol counseling, mental health evaluations, parenting education, and emotionally-based therapy/counseling.
These are the type of services you may have been in severe need of but have just been unable to locate them or pay for them, depending on your particular circumstances. CPS will attempt to remove as many roadblocks to wellness as possible for you and your family. If you cannot take advantage of those services- even after CPS has stepped in to assist you- then you don’t have many excuses at that point.
Keep in mind that as soon as you sign your service plan, it goes into effect, and you will be held responsible for either the successes or failures you encounter with it. You may not be entirely sure what one aspect of the plan calls for. In that case, you should contact your attorney immediately and seek clarification on that part of it. You will be expected to follow the plan. Even if you refuse to attend a service plan meeting, CPS can seek a court order that forces you to attend.
Finally, it should be readily apparent to you at this stage that a CPS case is a lot of work. Success comes about like a crockpot rather than a microwave. That is to say that success comes about slowly after a great deal of effort and time. Not only will you need to follow the service plan during your CPS case, but you will have to make sure that you can visit with your child every opportunity that you are given. While this is not a problem for most parents, you may find yourself with other commitments that come up. Just because you have an active CPS case does not mean that work, school, or other family issues can be put on pause. However, it is worth pointing out that your CPS case will need to be the focus of your life for as long as it endures.
Do not allow yourself to sign up for more in your service plan than capable of handling. It would help if you had a calendar with you while the service plan is being compiled to check your dates/times to ensure that a meeting has not been scheduled for a time that you need to be at work. You will not be impressing CPS by taking on the most ambitious service plan of all time, only to cancel appointments and meetings due to work activities that you had not planned for during the service plan meeting.
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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?
- Can CPS photograph your house and request your child’s medical records in Texas?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas CPS Defense Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it’s important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defense Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our CPS defense lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles CPS defense cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.