Are you going through a situation where Child Protective Services has contacted you about an investigation that is pending that relates to one of your children? The agency receives thousands of reports made daily regarding potential instances of abuse and/or neglect of children. Much of the time these reports are not investigated after it is determined that little to no evidence exists to prove abuse or neglect. However, in some instances, a CPS caseworker or investigator will investigate the matter and determine that there is sufficient evidence to investigate further.
That is where you may be in this whole process. Your relationship with CPS begins with an agency representative- usually a caseworker- reaching out to you in some way. It could be in person or by phone. CPS will seek to contact you in a non-threatening friendly way. Think of it from their perspective. If they came to you and tried to reach out in a threatening or aggressive manner that you would be much less likely to respond favorably and cooperate with their investigation. No matter how you feel about the investigation or process CPS aims to protect children.
Family violence is often at the center of a CPS investigation
Children who are exposed to family violence have quite different reactions and responses 2 domestic or family incidents that occur in the home. This is not one of those situations where you can paint broad strokes with a brush and say that all children react in certain ways. The reality of the situation is that your children may very well have unique reactions compared to one another. Factors that are unique to your children such as their social skills, self-esteem level, general temperament, and even their intelligence level canal impact how they are affected by family violence.
One of the most important factors when it comes to this subject is the ability of your children to have strong relationships with you or other adults in their lives. Being able to lean on a trusting adult during difficult times can be critical to how they respond. One of the most troubling parts of CPS cases is if you are the adult who is being accused of abusing or neglecting your child. If it is true, that you have been an adult that is a trusted part of your child's life and is also abusing or neglecting him or her this can cut to the core of their ability to trust and lean on other adults.
Additionally, the type of violence that your child witnesses in the home can have an impact on how they or affected over the long-term period for instance if your child unfortunately sees or is a part of abuse that is ongoing and Consistent then it may be that your child comes to believe that these incidents are their fault. Conflict resolution between parents and caretakers is important for a child to witness growing up. This is ultimately how your child will learn how to resolve conflicts in their own life rather than resort to violence. However, working on any issues in the home or even removing persons from the home that cause conflict and violence can go a long way towards helping your child learn how to resolve conflict in better be acclimated to their surroundings.
Something that we as adults I'll come to learn over time, whether it is by necessity or not, is how to cope with stressful situations. If your child has not been able to develop coping mechanisms, whether due to their age or other factors, then it is much more likely that he or she will be impacted strongly by family violence. However, it should also be noted that children who have strong coping mechanisms can still be impacted if the violence is Reg if the violence is regular or significant enough. This is also a situation where the support system and social network of your child are very important. The more adults with good coping skills that a child can be exposed to the better off he or she may be.
Something that I have learned in my time working in family law and on CPS cases specifically is that people who work with children will recommend problem-solving-based solutions to problems rather than emotional ones. For example, consider that your child we'll be better off learning strategies based on problem-solving rather than emotional responses because emotional responses oftentimes lead to other problems. For example, suppose that your child was taught to imagine that they were someplace else or even that the problems going on around them were not occurring. This could lead to issues where your child fantasizes about relationships that don't exist or situations that are fictitious. Ultimately, this does not serve a purpose for your child.
The next part of the discussion that I think has merit is to mention that the age of your child is important when it comes to trying to gauge how he or she will handle issues associated with stress and violence in the home. Many people assume that their younger children may not fully know what is going on when it comes to violence in the home in may be better suited to handle the stress associated with these violent acts. However, it is my understanding that this is not the case. Younger children may have greater problems being able to handle stress, in general, they may react more strongly to acts of violence. This makes sense given that younger children have fewer life experiences and a greater inability to work through issues in their lives that involved violence. Younger children may know instinctually that violence is wrong but may lack the tools to be able to handle what they're seeing in front of them in terms of family violence.
The time immediately after witnessing violence in the home can be the most difficult for children. This is a critical time. Talk to your children about what they witnessed or even seek out help for them if available. Without question, being able to talk to your kids about what they witnessed, answer questions, and reassure them of their safety and lack of fault in the incidents is critical. Otherwise, the stress and anxiety associated with family violence may manifest itself in different areas and negatively impact your child for some time to come.
What is domestic violence?
Make no mistake, if CPS does not determine that violence has occurred in the home or that any abuse or neglect is likely based on the information available to them then the agency will not investigate. However, to get to this point CPS will need to learn more about the family's history of domestic violence as well as decide on the likelihood of abuse or neglect occurring in the future. Unfortunately, this is an issue that carries with it many misconceptions and incorrect assumptions.
The reality of domestic violence is that it can impact men although most cases that CPS works on are ones where women are the victims of abuse. Children are oftentimes victims but can also be affected by exposure to family violence. Domestic violence can be based on a single act of violence in the home but more often is a pattern of behavior that can include physical, verbal, and mental attacks on you or a family member. Although it is possible that domestic violence can be a one-time issue for your family it is more than likely not to be the case.
Violence and abuse in the home are more about control over you and the other members of your family by a perpetrator than anything else. The ability to dominate a spouse or partner is at the root of family violence. What abusers want is control and they will seek control by any means necessary. You can expect that the abusive spouse or partner will learn the most effective methods to control you and then take advantage of those methods time and time again.
Importantly, the threat of family and domestic violence is not limited to physical interactions. There are financial ways to abuse I spouse or partner that these individuals can take advantage of. For one, it may be that violent individual attempts to control others by not allowing them to complete a degree or even seek work. This puts you in a position where you are having to ask for money simply to do everyday tasks like going to the grocery store or paying bills. The feeling of making you come to him or she for financial resources can be empowering and can show just how controlling your spouse or partner is.
Why do people engage in domestic violence?
There are likely many causes of domestic violence that include psychological factors as well as economic and social ones. Many times, domestic abusers have witnessed their parents or caretakers engage in violent behavior while they were children. As his violence was modeled for them as appropriate, he or she may have taken on those lessons and unfortunately taken part in violence as an adult. Some cultural influences may play a role in domestic violence. this would include being exposed to violence in media, acceptance of violence in the home, and mother issues specific to various communities.
Responding to domestic violence in the home
You may be asking yourself how you and your family can respond to domestic and family violence if it occurs in your home. Certainly, every family is unique in the needs of your family are different than any others. Since children do respond to violence in different ways then it would follow that the response by agencies like CPS would need to be different depending upon the needs of the child in question. Certainly, this is a tall task for Child Protective Services as they begin to unravel what goes on in these families such as yours where violence may be suspected.
On the community level, working with an experienced family law attorney in a CPS case can be a great advantage for you and your family. For instance, a CPS caseworker may be someone that you have some difficulty trusting. This would be understandable given the ramifications of a CPS case that oftentimes involve the threat of removal of your child from your home even temporarily. The truth is that there are some circumstances in which CPS involvement in family life is necessary. Otherwise, extreme violence or neglect could occur on an ongoing basis without intervention.
We also must consider whether substance abuse and mental health difficulties exist in your home. If this is the case, then these are two heightened factors that may lead CPS to believe that it is necessary to remove your child from your home to help ensure the safety of your child. It may also be the case that your child is being exposed to threats of harm from adults who live in the home that are not related to him or her. We see this, especially in situations where partners and significant others of the extended family are also living in the same home as a child. Some situations can lead to potential sources of harm for children that you as a parent need to be aware of and cast a critical eye towards.
How would CPS respond to reports of violence in your home?
CPS efforts to ensure the safety of her child can occur even before a formal acknowledgment of abuse or neglect has been made. This is especially true in situations where the danger to your child is an immediate one or where abuse or neglect has already occurred. The idea that there are exigent circumstances in the making where your child's risk of harm is seriously increased due to violence is one where CPS will likely not hesitate to act if the well-being of your child is at issue.
CPS will seek to talk with persons in your home, including you and your spouse, who may have information about the abuse or violence that had been reported to them. This is a critical stage in the case where the information you can provide may lead to or more extensive investigation or may end the investigation outright. Many times, CPS will attempt to work with parents only to find that parents are unwilling or unable to share with them details of what had occurred in the home. Sometimes there is merit to taking in this position, especially if doing so allows for apparent to hire an attorney or otherwise prepare for a difficult conversation with CPS. However, many times I case could be closed outright if parents such as yourself would be willing to speak to CPS about a misconception or other issue with the report that had been made.
Family-based social services are oftentimes recommended in families where violence has occurred. A CPS case would be opened but for the most part, the family would work with social services to remove dangerous conditions from the home or improve upon communication skills and de-escalation techniques. Unfortunately, many times the situation will be one where it is apparent that violence has been the main means for a family to solve issues and de-escalation techniques are either severely underdeveloped and parents or missing completely. Just learning simple communication techniques can be a great skill for families to learn. All the wild, your child will be able to remain in the home and the threat of removal will be taken out of the picture as long as social services and their resources are taken advantage of by your family.
The benefits of hiring an attorney for your CPS case
While CPS will likely not reach out to you via text message to initiate an investigation, CPS will likely reach out to you in person soon after receiving a report of alleged abuse or neglect in your home. This is especially true if it is apparent that there is an immediate risk of harm to your child because of this abuse or neglect. With that said, you need to be able to act quickly to decrease the risk of harm to your child as well as the risk of him or her being removed from your home.
Working with an experienced CPS attorney can go a long way toward helping you conclude the case and prevent the removal of your child. An attorney who has worked on CPS cases can help you to navigate a case, create goals and ensure the accountability of the agency. CPS cases can be extremely difficult but the decision not to hire an attorney for the duration of your case can make the situation even more difficult for you and your family.
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 contained 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 are a great way for you and your family to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.