Regarding family law cases in Texas, there are probably no more frustrating circumstances involved in a case than you will find regarding Child Protective Services cases. These cases draw out the emotions in every participant, most notably your children. While many CPS cases finish relatively quickly and with little harm done to family travel, others will drag on for some time and can result in significant changes to the makeup of a family. Consider that the result of your CPS case could be the removal of your children from your home and the termination of your parental rights.
The stakes are so high in a Child Protective Services case because the subject matter can be extremely consequential in serious. When you are talking about allegations regarding abuse or neglect of a child, the state of Texas takes that very seriously. Allegations are made against you or your spouse regarding abuse and neglect if one of your children can spell disaster for your family both in the short and long term. Fortunately, there are typically two sides to a story, and you will have an opportunity to present your side both to CPS and to a court, if necessary.
As with any family law case, it is not just you and your children that are impacted. Your entire family can feel the brunt of the CPS case. Not only do people who live in your house oftentimes get directly involved in a CPS case but so do extended family members and even persons who are unrelated to your family. All of these folks have a potential role to play in a Child Protective Services case involving your little one. In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to take some time and discuss with you the role that your child grandparents may serve during a case involving you in your child.
What role do grandparents typically play in a Texas Child Protective Services case?
It is a privilege to work with the well-meaning grandparents of many children in our state. Grandparents act not only as extended family members for many children but also as primary caregivers, emotional support persons, and trusted advisors. Sometimes, a grandparent is first able to identify and report instances of abuse or neglect of children. This can be an awkward and emotionally volatile role but can also be necessary for many families where children are being put in harm's way.
In some cases, when a child is removed from the care of a parent, a grandparent can step in and fulfill the role of primary caregiver even temporarily. Grandparents are usually first in line for family members to step into this role and provide needed stability and consistency for a child. If your child is removed from your home and you are working to ensure safe placement for them temporarily, I would recommend identifying immediate family members such as grandparents who would meet the qualifications of being a temporary caregiver.
In many instances, you as a grandparent would temporarily take on the responsibility of caring for your grandchildren without child support or other monetary support from your child. This can put you in a challenging position to care for your own needs and that of your immediate household and those needs of your grandchild. Hopefully, your child would be able to assume the role of primary caretaker sooner rather than later so that you would not be put in a difficult position as far as needing to care for your grandchildren on an extended basis. This is a responsibility that not many people can take on the burden.
If you are reading this blog post and you are a grandparent, then you should make known to your children whether or not you are capable of caring for your grandchildren temporarily. Reason being that your child will have to provide a list of potential caretakers to Child Protective Services if your grandchild is removed from their home. If you make known to your child that you are willing to fulfill this obligation, then Child Protective Services will perform a background in criminal history check on you and inspect your home to determine whether or not you are a suitable option for temporary placement.
Why are children sometimes removed from their parents’ homes?
At the top of my list for most common scenarios where a child will be removed from their home by Child Protective Services is 1 involving a parent who has alcohol or drug addiction issues. Keep in mind that as the grandparent, you have limited rights to speak into the life of your grandchild and child. Much of the time, you may have concerns that if you speak to your child too honest about their drug or alcohol abuse that you would risk driving your child away and therefore losing any access that you have to your grandchild in the future.
On the other hand, you also have to identify that you are perhaps the last line of defense between your grandchild and potential harm that may befall them due to their parent having an alcohol or drug addiction. If you sense that your grandchild is in harm's way, then you will likely not want to hesitate to bring it to the attention of Child Protective Services or even to intervene yourself if you believe that doing so is in the best interest of every grandchild and is in the best interest of their safety. The best option is likely to speak to your child about their behavior to offer any support or services that you can provide directly.
If it is observed that potential acts of abuse or neglect are occurring involving your grandchild in the child, then a report may be made to Child Protective Services to make them aware of the fact. Child Protective Services will then investigate your grandchild's situation to determine if substantial enough evidence exists to corroborate these reports of abuse or neglect. If the circumstances are severe enough, then your grandchild may be removed from your child's home in order so that your child can complete counseling, undergo therapy or even remedy a potential hazard in the home that provided a risk of harm to your grandchild.
In some cases, you may have already acted as the de-facto primary caregiver for your grandchild. Often, a parent cannot provide day-to-day care for a grandchild, and the responsibility for doing so oftentimes will fall to a grandparent. If you have a bedroom in your home that your grandchild frequently uses, if your grandchild comes to your home after school most days of the week and if you generally perform most of the daily caregiving operations for your grandchild, then you are well suited to be named as a potential caregiver for your grandchild during the Child Protective Services case.
If your grandchild is removed from their home, you may be called upon to act as that child's primary caregiver for a certain period. This can be a tricky situation, oftentimes, because Child Protective Services is providing services for the caretaker of a child who is no longer living at home but is involved in a CPS investigation. Therefore, you must have some knowledge of a CPS case before becoming involved in the life of your grandchild in this way. For instance, it may be best for you to speak with an experienced family law attorney at least to gain some perspective on what a grandparent can and cannot do as a temporary caretaker during a CPS case.
Are there any issues that pertain specifically to grandparents during a CPS case in Texas?
One area that I would recommend he began thinking about more in detail before becoming formally involved in a CPS case involving his grandchild would be your source of income. I realize that it may sound trite to you to think about money during a time when your child's and your grandchild's well beings are at stake. Still, I can assure you that your income will be a crucial factor in your ability to succeed as a temporary caretaker of your grandchild. Especially if you are no longer working full time, your income may be stretched to its limit while your grandchild stays with you daily.
For instance, I have seen grandparents on a fixed income, such as living off of Social Security or a pension, struggle to make ends meet when one, two, or even three grandchildren come to live with them on a full-time basis. When you cannot easily go out into the workforce to supplement your income, the fixed income that you receive begins to feel less and less money as time goes by. As I mentioned, support from the state or even from your child may not be available at all. Therefore, before you volunteer your time at home for your grandchildren, you need to make an audit assessment about whether or not you will have the wherewithal to financially provide for themselves and you during the pendency of a CPS case.
Another issue that I have seen in Child Protective Services cases involving grandparents is whether or not both grandparents are capable of caring for their grandchildren from a physical perspective. By this, I mean, are you suffering from an ailment or physical impairments of some sort? What about your spouse? I would ask both grandparents to consider their help from an honest perspective to determine whether or not it is feasible for you all to perform the day-to-day caretaking responsibilities for your grandchildren. There is nothing wrong with making an honest assessment that you are incapable of doing so and then providing other services or care to your grandchildren, considering your health problems.
Another realistic concern that many grandparents have as they begin to engage in a Child Protective Services case is the needs of your grandchild. Much like I just recommended you think about the specific needs of yourself and your spouse, I would ask you to honestly consider whether or not your grandchildren require care that is above and beyond your capabilities at this point in your life. If your grandchild Has a physical or mental impairment, then your ability to care for your grandchild may be stretched to its limit. Even if your heart is in the right place as far as wanting to care for your grandchild, you should not commit to doing more than you are capable of. It would be irresponsible for you to bite off more than you can chew as far as your grandchildren are concerned.
Another issue that you must be aware of is that grandparents have limited rights when it comes to becoming a primary conservator of their grandchildren after a CPS case; by the same token, if you're a child and their spouse do not want you to have contact with your grandchildren, then there is nothing under the law that allows you to force your way in without first filing a suit affecting the parent-child relationship or attempting to intervene into one that is already filled. The state of Texas gives parents the right to make decisions for their children, and that means who their children can come into contact with. You need to have a firm grasp of your relationship with your grandchild's parents before you start to make mental preparations for becoming the caretaker of your grandchildren.
How can a grandparent best proceed about ensuring the well-being of their grandchildren?
As I just mentioned, while U as a grandparent has limited rights to become a primary caretaker of your grandchildren after the conclusion of a CPS case, you can put yourself in that position if you either file your own so affecting the parent-child relationship or intercede into one filed previously by Child Protective Services. Your position will be further strengthened if you have been the primary caretaker for your grandchildren. Lasting at least six months before the beginning of your Child Protective Services case.
Filing an intervention into a previously filed CPS case is another option you may wish to take advantage of. In an intervention, you would ask for permanent custody of your grandchild rather than simply making yourself available to be a temporary caretaker for your grandchild during the CPS case. Two issues arise in a CPS case that relates to an intervention.
First, CPS cases oftentimes involve the termination of your child's parental rights about your grandchildren. Until you get to the point where your child's parental rights are terminated, they still hold the authority to decide custody, visitation, and other issues for your grandchildren. If you believe that your child is not fit to be a parent to your grandchildren, then the first step in the intervention process would be to show that your grandchild is at risk of serious harm if your child’s parental rights are not terminated.
As soon as the CPS case reaches the point where your child’s parental rights are terminated, then you will need to work with CPS to have your grandchild placed in your home. To do so, it must be shown that it is in your grandchild’s best interest to do so. Typically, grandparents who have shown a history of being there for their grandkids as a consistent source of care are best positioned to have this occur.
Sometimes, a CPS caseworker will present arguments against naming you as the primary conservator of a child due to your age, lack of resources, or other minor issues that may be apparent. For this reason, I recommend that you hire an experienced family law attorney to advocate for your rights during any intervention into your grandchild's CPS case. Having someone in your corner who can provide advice and support is invaluable.
Questions about the material presented in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material presented in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact 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 can go a long way towards helping you learn more about your particular circumstances and the services offered by our attorneys and staff to our clients. We are in the family courts of southeast Texas every day advocating for our clients. I appreciate your interest in this blog post, and we hope you will join us tomorrow.