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What can you do if your child is harmed while in a Texas foster home?

It can be a helpless feeling if your child is in someone else’s care and is harmed in some way. When it occurs in conjunction with a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation it can be especially frustrating. For one, you already feel that you have harmed your child due to the allegations being made against you. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong you can be made to feel that you have just by virtue of the fact that you have been accused of having committed some neglectful or abusive act.

Next, if those allegations have led to the removal of your child from your home then you can experience the worst of all circumstances. At that stage, you have no choice but to acknowledge that you have work to do, on some level, when it comes to your home. Maybe you have some anger management issues to work out with a therapist or counselor. Or, it could be that there is something specific to your house that needs to be remedied. Either way, the removal of your child from your home offers you some degree of relief in that you can actually work on those problems.

All of that can come crashing down if you have problems with the placement of your child into the home of another family. When a family becomes a foster family they may only do so after being approved by CPS. Background checks, interviews, and inspections of their home occur in those instances. Sometimes, however, people are approved to host children who should not have been.

What would you do if you found out from your child that he or she was harmed while in the care of another family? Would you know how to react? Who would you talk to first? What legal recourse would you have? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will address that topic with you.

What to do if your child tells you that he has been harmed by his foster family

It is ironic that a foster family could be accused of abuse or neglect against your child but that is sometimes the case. Once you find out information from your child that is suspicious you need to speak to your attorney, the CPS caseworker, their supervisor, and your child's attorney. These people are required by law to make a report to CPS about abuse or neglect of any child. Obviously, if you believe that your child is in immediate harm's way you should contact the police.

Keep in mind that depending on the age of your child, he or she may simply be worried or scared of their new home or the people within it for no real reason in particular. It is difficult to be able to determine if those outcries are legitimate or not so you should use your best judgment when making a determination. In situations where you believe the complaints are merely more about your child being uncomfortable in a new place, you may want to brainstorm ways with your child and with your CPS caseworker as to how to make your child feel safer or more comfortable. Time may make the situation much better, but there may also be more immediate tips that you can give your child to help him adjust to a sometimes-awkward situation.

If your child has to be moved to a new family will you be notified beforehand?

As a general rule, CPS will let you know if and when your child needs to be moved to a new foster home. It does happen that you may have to be moved quickly and you will not be provided any advance notice as to the move. An example of why this may happen is if CPS learns of a reason why your child may not be safe in their current foster home and a move is necessitated as a result. Your caseworker must notify you as soon as he or she is able to do so.

For the most part, if CPS plans to move your child the caseworker involved with the move must speak to you about the move and seek your input on whether or not to make the move. As we discussed in yesterday’s blog post you can always recommend persons from your own life to be able to have your child reside with, instead of a foster family.

Moving on to the courtroom portion of your CPS case

Once CPS files a lawsuit, your role within your child’s CPS case expands. On top of adhering to any safety plans created by you and CPS, you are now responsible for attending court dates and updating the judge on the progress made in your personal life. Your end goal is to be reunified with your child. CPS will begin their lawsuit with that same goal in most cases, but you must be able to maintain your progress levels in order for that to continue to be the case.

A courtroom appearance is known as a hearing. These hearings involve the judge bringing together all of the people in your child’s case so that he can communicate messages and collect information from the parties in order to make decisions that are in your child’s best interests. How your child is doing in foster care, what steps you are taking to improve the safety of your home and what CPS is doing to help you reunite with your child will all be discussed at these hearings.

Big picture aspects of courtroom hearings in a CPS case

Above all else, you need to be present at every hearing. If you hire an attorney, he or she should attend with you. After all, much of the benefit you get from hiring an attorney will be seen in courtroom hearings. However, even if your attorney cannot attend you need to be present. It is preferable to speak to your attorney before each hearing so you can have an idea of what will be discussed and what arguments your attorney will present.

It is best to ask questions before a hearing rather than after a hearing. I can tell you from experience that there is not much an attorney can do with your questions after a hearing. Ask them beforehand so that they can have a positive impact on your hearing the following day.

At the end of every hearing, the judge will sign a court order that lists out the orders that you need to follow as far as improving your life for your child. Your attorney should seek out a copy of these orders and provide them to you. If this does not happen you need to ask her to do so. A copy can be obtained from the court’s clerk if you are not able to get a copy from any other source.

As I mentioned a moment ago in regard to questions, you need to ask your attorney questions about any aspect of those orders that you do not understand. There is no excuse for failing to follow the orders as set forth by the judge. It is assumed that you understand every word of those orders and if you do not it is your responsibility to learn them as best you can. The judge will check up on your progress in the next hearing and you do not want to be in a position where you have to tell the judge that you violated a court order because you did not ask a question that you ought to have.

Finally, if you are the sort of person who casually walks in church, the dentist or an appointment with your attorney fifteen minutes late that is a habit that you should break, at least when it comes to going to court. The reason I say this is because your hearing will start without you if you are not present. The judge will likely have dozens of hearings he has to make his way through on any given day and the court will not hold the line up for you.

How long will your CPS case take?

Under the Texas Family Code, your child's CPS case must wrap up in twelve months or less. CPS can ask your judge to dismiss your child's case at whatever time it wishes but it will usually happen that your case will be completed after at least four or five hearings. The judge will sign orders in your case that dictates what you can and cannot do in conjunction with your child.

On top of courtroom appearances, you will attend Permanency Planning Meetings with CPS and other parties to the case. Important topics like where your child will reside during the case, and whether you are meeting the goals of your safety plan will be discussed. The judge will not be present in these meetings. Regardless, you need to attend each one.

Now that we have covered the basics of the legal aspects of each CPS case let’s get into each part in greater detail

Adversary Hearings

This will be the first hearing that you attend in conjunction with your child’s CPS case. Once a court has given CPS permission to have your child reside with a foster family you will attend an adversary hearing.

These hearings take place within fourteen days of the removal of your child from your home. This is arguably the most important hearing that you will attend until a final trial so it is crucial that you have an attorney with you to prepare for the hearing and to advocate on your behalf while in the hearing. A lawyer may be appointed for you in this hearing but only if you qualify economically.

In this hearing, CPS will have to tell the judge why your child has been removed from your home. You and/or your child will be able to tell the judge why CPS's allegations are without merit or not based on the facts and evidence available. Or, it could be that what CPS is alleging is accurate, but you still have a good reason why your child should be returned home to you. It is up to the judge to make a determination as to whether or not CPS has provided sufficient evidence to allow your child to remain living in another home. The judge can dismiss CPS’ request to continue to allow for the removal of your child. If CPS did provide enough evidence to the judge then it can name CPS as a temporary managing conservator of your child.

The order that the judge signs at the conclusion of the hearing will include information on where your child will live in the coming months or weeks, how much child support (if any) is to be paid and what visitation scheduled has been put into place. If you need to be drug/alcohol tested or undergo any type of counseling then you will be ordered 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 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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