Of all the different family law cases you and your family could go through, I think the most frustrating and often disheartening is a Child Protective Services case. That does not mean that the case’s result will be worse than the end of a child custody, divorce, enforcement, or modification case. It’s just that hey Child Protective Services case tends to have many more questions than any other family law case in my experience. The primary reason families are left asking more questions regarding a Child Protective Services case is that the process is less clearly outlined than during a divorce or other family law case in Texas.
One of the primary reasons a Child Protective Services case can be so hard to wrap your arms around is that the pace in the case structure is predetermined due to one of the parties involved being the government. Once the case is underway, you understand that there are many moving pieces, and so much of the case depends on factors beyond your control. The best you can do is be as informed as possible, patient with the process, and willing to take the advice of those who have been through similar processes before. Do not underestimate how tedious your case can get due to your lack of control.
Who is Child Protective Services?
Before we go any further, I would like to take some time and explain to you who Child Protective Services is and what its function is for our state. Child Protective Services is a state agency run through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The stated mission of this Department is to protect vulnerable populations, specifically the elderly and children. To further this mission, the Department of Family Protective Services employed persons whose job is 2 investigate potential cases of abuse or neglect involving minor children. That state agency is Child Protective Services.
In a large state like ours and with limited personnel working for the form, you may be curious about how Child Protective Services would even come to learn about allegations of abuse or neglect of a child. The answer would be that the state of Texas has options for people with information about possible instances of abuse or neglect to call, write, or email the form to discuss potential problems involving minor children. Those problems typically revolve around information having to do with abuse or neglect of a child.
Child Protective Services employees whose job is to receive these reports of abuse or neglect of a child and then determine whether or not there is sufficient information to warrant an investigation. Suppose Child Protective Services believes that there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation. In that case, it will send investigators and caseworkers out to the location described in the phone call or email and begin collecting hard evidence. Note that if a report is made to Child Protective Services against you or your spouse, the Reporter is kept anonymous throughout the process. You will not be able to learn who made the report against either of you.
What does it mean to be investigated by Child Protective Services?
Having an investigation started against you by Child Protective Services does not mean that you will have your name sent to the police or have your child removed from your home. An investigation merely means that there is a reason for additional information to be obtained to determine whether or not abuse or neglect has occurred. Child Protective Services are not police officers, and they cannot enter your home without a court order. First, I should point out that you do not have to participate in an investigation and do not even have to answer the door.
However, the agency can obtain a court order that mandates your participation in the process or your willingness to allow them access to your home. It would help if you spoke with an experienced family law attorney before making any decisions about how to proceed, given your specific circumstances. However, you can participate in the process and allow the agency access to your home in many events. If there is little to no information that corroborates or substantiates the report made to them, your case will be closed out, and an abuse or neglect finding will be ruled out.
Another possible outcome of a Child Protective Services case is that the investigation could yield insufficient evidence to carry on what they claim. This means that despite the best efforts of job active services, insufficient evidence may have been available to make a decision one way or the other. This means that potentially your case could be closed but may be reopened in the future if additional evidence comes to the forefront.
Finally, a reason to believe Child Protective Services may set up finding if they think there is reason to think that a B string neglected to occur after an investigation was completed. This means that substantial evidence was found to corroborate and substantiate whatever Child Protective Services received an allegation of abuse or neglect in the phone call or email made initially. At that point, Child Protective Services could set into motion a plan to remove your child from home or work with you on developing a safety plan to allow your child to remain in the house while you complete steps to remove whatever risk of harm is apparent to your child.
Who will Child Protective Services speak to during their investigation?
It is common for Child Protective Services to speak to any adult in your household, including you, your spouse, your partner, relatives of your child, and even adult children of yours who are not involved in the allegation of abuse or neglect. Their responses to questions will be utilized as evidence in a case against you or your spouse. These interviews can essentially happen at any location, including your home; if you permit them or a person over the age of 18, gives them permission who lives in your house.
Your children who are the subject of the investigation may also be interviewed either with your permission or at school without your consent. Typically, however, your child will be interviewed only after you give your permission or know the intent to interview your child most of the time. Keep in mind that your child cannot be removed from your possession without your consent unless a court order is obtained, giving job Protective Services temporary managing conservatorship over your child.
When it comes to being interviewed by Child Protective Services, you do not have to answer any question or consent to any interview. Again, however, depending on your case’s circumstances, it may be in your best interests to do so, however. When it comes to cooperating with the requests of a state agency and in a situation where your child can be removed from your house, I would undoubtedly want the advice of an attorney before giving consent in any of these areas.
What does a CPS case timeline look like?
As I said before, CPS cases follow a timeline but do not have much control over it. This is a surprising component of these cases for many people considering that in a divorce or child custody case, there is a great deal that a party can do to influence how quickly or slowly a lawsuit proceeds. However, there is little that you can do two dramatically speed up your case in a CPS case. Fortunately, there is a timeline that your case will follow that you should become familiar with before going to court or participating in any of the steps.
If a Child Protective Services worker finds a danger of harm to your child in an immediate sense, the agency may come and remove your child from your home. This is not always done in CPS cases or anything close to the norm. CPS must have a reasonable belief that you cannot keep your child safe from harm and that the agency also believes that there is nothing else that could be done to keep your child safe other than to remove them from your home.
Typically, your child would only be removed from your home after a hearing in front of a judge where you would be able to present evidence and defend yourself from any allegations or accusations made by CPS. However, suppose CPS believes that there are emergency circumstances in play. In that case, the agency can come in to remove your child, usually with the assistance of a police officer, and then hold an emergency hearing no more than three days after your child is removed. In this hearing, the judge would determine whether or not the emergency circumstances are still in place and justify the continued removal of your child from home.
At that point, your child would remain in the temporary custody of CPS until an additional hearing is held. Typically, this further hearing is held approximately two weeks later in what is called an adversary hearing. At this point, the judge would either enter temporary orders regarding your child, which outlines possession to be maintained by CPS in the state, or see to it that your child is returned to your home. At this stage, a return of your child means that the conditions that necessitated your child’s emergency removal have either been remedied or obliterated.
Just like in a child custody or divorce case, at this hearing, issues like conservatorships, Visitation, child support, and other steps that you need to take for your child to be returned to you can all be instituted by the judge. Often, steps like attending anger management classes, undergoing rehabilitation for alcohol or drug abuse, and periodic drug tests are a part of the requirements for your child to return to you. After two months of your child being in the temporary custody of CPS, an additional status hearing will be held where your progress will be reviewed, and a permanent plan for your child will be considered as far as either returning your child to you or keeping your child in possession of CPS.
At this stage, the steps in the process become more spaced out. At approximately 180 days after removing your child from your home, another hearing will be held regarding the permanency plan created by you and CPS. If the court believes that you have met this permanency plan’s guidelines and there is no additional risk of harm to your child in your home, then the child will be returned to you. In the alternative column, your child could be placed with a relative of yours while you work on the permanency plan and doing what it takes to keep your child safe in the home. Generally speaking, if you have complied with the temporary orders and done your best to remedy the problems in your home and with yourself, it is possible that your child could be returned to you at this time.
Three months later, or about 270 days past the date your child was removed from your home, another permanency hearing will be held. Essentially, the same type of events will occur in this hearing where your child will be able to be returned to you if you have been able to meet your temporary orders’ standards. Your attendance at counseling, improvements to the home if there is a defect or condition that is unsafe for your child, and the judge will consider things of this nature. Your willingness to participate in the process and follow the safety guidelines outlined in your temporary orders and permanency plan is critical to having your child returned to you.
Finally, approximately one year after your child’s removal, a trial will be had in your case for most Child Protective Services cases. Just like in any other family law case, an attempt will seek to create final orders regarding either returning your child to you or granting managing conservatorships to another person in your child’s life, like a relative or another family member. CPS could also be assigned as the permanent Conservatory for the child, and your parental rights could be terminated if that is believed to be in your child’s best interest. Typically, this would only happen if you have not engaged in your permanency, safety, or temporary orders.
What can you do during a CPS case to increase your chances of having your child returned home to you?
Even though your stress levels will be high, and you will understandably be concerned with the outcome of your CPS case, that does not mean that you can or should neglect your health. It would help if you had someone in your life that you could talk to about your case. Often, friends or family members fill in this role for people, but you may also be seeing a therapist or counselor through your CPS case. It would help if you leaned on these folks during your case so that you have an outlet to express your frustrations, hopes, and concerns.
There is so much with a CPS case that you cannot control. However, it would help if you did not focus on those things precisely and instead look to those areas of the case that you have direct and immediate control over. Most specifically, you have control over your attitude, your ambitions, and your future. Remember that some changes you will want to see happen take time in that progress is not always as immediate as we may like. Things like finding steady work, removing drugs and alcohol from your life, cleaning up your home, and solidifying your living situation can take time but are also things you have control over. Do not disregard the little things you can control, and then be patient with the big picture concepts you have less control over.
In closing, learning as much as you can about your rights within a CPS case is probably the most crucial step in this entire process. I can tell you from experience that those who come into a case with no knowledge of the legal system and precisely with no understanding of CPS cases or at a significant disadvantage. If you could understand the basics of a CPS case, what your role in the case is and how your actions can influence how quickly your child is returned home to you, then you will be better off.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material in today’s blog postcontact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services that our law practice can provide to you and your family as clients of ours.
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- Family Law Cases in Texas: The final stages of a CPS case
- When can CPS remove your child from your home in Texas, and what can you do about it?
- What to do if you no longer like your CPS service plan?
- 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 CPS is investigating your spouse in Texas for abuse or neglect of your child?
- Can CPS photograph your house and request your child’s medical records in Texas?