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How you can work effectively with CPS during an investigation into your family

While Child Protective Services (CPS) has an open case in your family, you will contact several persons involved with investigating whether or not abuse or neglect occurred to a child in your home. Your CPS caseworker will be your primary point of contact, but supervisors, therapists, counselors, and attorneys will all be working on your case in tandem with one another.

You need to understand their roles in your case and how you can utilize your interactions with each to have your child returned to your home as quickly as possible. You will not have an unlimited amount of time to make an impression on each person. On the contrary, you will have a minimal amount of time to build a good relationship with these people. While they are not the ultimate decision-makers in your case, it is the case that each of them can speak to the judge about the progress you are making.

The importance of building a relationship with your CPS caseworker

The caseworker assigned to work with you and your family from CPS is the most important person in your case, other than you and your child. This person will be the coordinator of any service that you receive (such as drug or alcohol counseling) and will also be the one to arrange visitation sessions between you and your child once he or she has been removed from your home. In addition to these important roles, the CPS caseworker will be present in every hearing before the judge and testify to the progress you are making in remaining sober, becoming a responsible parent, etc.

On the other hand, if you are not going through treatment as you had agreed to in your safety or service plan, are not taking advantage of every opportunity you have to see your child, or are staying at home while you should be at work, the CPS caseworker will need to make the judge aware of this as well. If your CPS case goes all the way to a trial, then your caseworker would be the person who is responsible for testifying as to why your parental rights should be terminated.

Make no mistake, and the CPS caseworker can determine the outcome of your case. Your attorney has a limited opportunity to speak to the caseworker, so do not expect that your attorney will be able to exert a great deal of influence over him or her. Overall, caseworkers are trying to do the best they can. However, do not allow yourself to fall into the trap that your caseworker has a “heart” for your case and is sympathetic towards you or your family. Your caseworker is underpaid and overworked and probably couldn’t identify your case from any of their other cases based on your name alone.

Communication with your caseworker is essential to having a good relationship with him or her. If you can be respectful and attempt to meet your caseworker in the middle (regarding your position and theirs), then you will be better off. I have stood next to caseworkers in hearings before and have seen them look dismissively at parents who are weeping a few feet away. When a parent treats a caseworker poorly, I can see what kind of effect it has in the caseworker's opinion during a hearing. Their body language reflects an attitude that they do not take the parent seriously and will not be willing to provide positive testimony for the parent. Keep this in mind when you get upset and are tempted to say something negative towards a CPS caseworker.

Other people that are involved in your CPS case

In addition to caseworkers, you will likely be exposed to many other people involved in your child’s CPS case. These people who provide you with services like alcohol and drug counseling will often be asked to testify in hearings or trials—their opinions matter. In your case, the services they can provide to you are important to your development as a parent and your ability to provide your child with a safe living environment.

Keep in mind that while your CPS case is the most important thing in the world to you, this is likely not going to be the case for the person working it alongside you. I can almost assure you that the service providers will not share your passion for your child. You may get to a point where you feel that your CPS caseworker is not helpful. It would be best if you did whatever you can to work with this person and show him or her that you are willing and able to be a diligent and hard-working parent.

You are best served to be honest with these service providers and let them know if you think it has been a problem developing in your relationship. You may find that the person shares your opinion and a way to work the problem out. If there is not, you can always ask the person to help you find a person who is better suited to helping you and your family.

Collect information from your caseworker and then communicate

Many of us in today’s world are not good communicators. We take all the different means by which we can communicate for granted and resort to texts and Facebook messages instead of actual phone calls. I have had clients who have told me that emails are too time-intensive for them to respond to. I never thought we would get to a point where typing a few sentences into a box was too time-intensive, but here we are.

With that said, I have found that the following tips and tricks are helpful when it comes to establishing a good relationship with your caseworker and anyone else who is involved in your CPS case.

Make sure that you take down the name, phone number, email address, and physical office location of your CPS caseworker at the beginning of your case. Your caseworker will have a supervisor who will also be involved in making decisions regarding your case. Make sure that you take down their information as well. Then, take the information and put it on your phone. It is almost unimaginable for a person not to have a cell phone in 2019. Use your phone to your advantage. Don’t just put the business card with this information into your sock drawer, never to be seen again. Have it handy in case you have a question or require a status update.

Next, you should work with your CPS caseworker to learn what their schedule is. For example, if your caseworker is always in court for other cases on Wednesday mornings, then you would be wise not to contact the caseworker at these times. Instead of trying in vain to get a hold of the caseworker or supervisor during times when they are not available, you are better off trying to learn their schedule to have a better chance of success in reaching him or her.

Many people do not leave voicemails when they reach the message on their cell phone. I have clients who will call me and then will not leave a message. It is helpful to leave a message when you do not know or recognize the phone number that has called you. I understand not leaving a voicemail on your mom’s cellphone because she probably has your name and number programmed into her phone. However, it is unlikely that your CPS caseworker does. A short message with your name, contact number, and reason for calling will work just fine.

Keep track of every time you reach out to your caseworker and the result of that phone call. If he or she has not called you back in weeks, you can go to the judge in your next hearing and tell him or her about it with some certainty about dates/times. Even better, if you can reach your caseworker’s supervisor, you may be able to convince him or her to assign your case to a different caseworker if you can show that yours has not been communicating with you.

Overall, do not immediately resort to contacting a CPS supervisor, a judge, or anyone else like this if your caseworker does not immediately call you back. Yes, CPS caseworkers do have reputations for not calling people back as quickly as they should. Yes, CPS caseworkers are busy and may not get around to calling you back until a few days later. However, it would help if you addressed these concerns with your caseworker, supervisor, and attorney before speaking to anyone else. You risk alienating your caseworker by bad-mouthing him or her to their superiors or the judge.

Managing visitation sessions with your child during a CPS case

You must be able to have an opportunity to visit with your child no longer than five days after CPS has removed your child from your home and gained a temporary managing conservatorship over him or her. The next step in this process is for CPS to work with you to develop a visitation schedule for you and your child. If CPS believes that you present a risk of harm to your child, then your visitation may be restricted or eliminated until you can show that you do not present a risk of harm to your child.

A judge can intervene and decide that visitation needs to be supervised or unsupervised for you and your child, depending on your case's specific safety needs. The visits that occur, who will be doing the visitation, and who else may be present are important factors in this analysis.

Make no mistake, and your ability to visit with your child during the CPS case is one of the most important rights you will be given. These visits allow you to maintain a relationship with your child during a difficult part of your life. Still, they will also provide you with an opportunity to show CPS that you are capable of loving and caring for your child in a safe environment.

Determining whether your visitation will be supervised or unsupervised

Supervised visitation means that someone will be present with you and your child when you can spend time with him or her. Supervised visitation occurs when a judge is concerned with your child's safety and well-being and believes that it is not in their best interest to have direct contact with you without someone observing that interaction. Your behavior will be monitored, and if the supervisor believes your child’s well-being is at risk of harm during the visitation session, the supervisor will intervene.

Usually, the CPS caseworker will be the one to supervise at least the first few sessions of visitation that you have with your child. A family member or friend may be able to supervise later sessions. It could be that after several positive, supervised visitation sessions the judge allows you to have unsupervised visits with your child. It is not uncommon to have supervised visits for the first few months of your involvement with CPS, so do not be discouraged if you do not gain unsupervised visits for some time.

More about supervised visits will be posted in tomorrow’s blog post.

If you have any questions about supervised visitation, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We will be writing more about this subject tomorrow, but if you have questions in the meantime, please let us know. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to meet with you to discuss your case and address your concerns. Our office works on behalf of people in our community just like you, and we take a great deal of pride in being able to do so.

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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 the 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.

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