Many times, when Child Protective Services initiates an investigation into your family they will do so with a recommendation for your family to engage in family-based safety services. Family-based social and safety services are made available to families like yours to learn techniques that can deescalate potential situations that involve violence. The motivation behind recommending social services for your family is not to be judgmental or to cause any hurt feelings. Rather, it is simply to avoid incidents that may have led to violence in your home previously. These techniques can be personalized based on the needs of your family.
One of the difficult parts of a family law case that involves CPS is in helping people understand that there are circumstances that can be impacted by domestic violence and family violence no matter where they fall on the income spectrum or any other scale. For example, many people assume that it is only women who are poor or otherwise uneducated that can become the victims of domestic violence. The thought goes that it is only the partners of these individuals that perpetrate acts of family violence. As I have seen many times in my career as an attorney this is simply not the case.
While I'm sure you can find a special statistic of some sort on the Internet regarding family violence both in Texas and nationally what you need to understand is that victims of family violence and domestic violence can be found across social classes. Additionally, while more women are victimized by domestic violence and men both genders can indeed be victims of domestic violence. Finally, domestic violence is not limited to lower-income individuals. We hear more about poorer individuals seeking out help regarding family or domestic violence due in large part to their having to seek aid from social services and other government entities. Wealthier people who are impacted by domestic violence have the means to seek private care or other assistance that does not involve the government.
Another misconception that some people have regarding family and domestic violence is that victims bring about the acts of violence through their actions or inactions. This is otherwise known as victim-blaming. The idea that a victim of domestic violence brought about these actions typically is not accurate. Rather, abusers and purveyors of violence seek to act in these ways to control their victims. Likely, he or she would have acted in this way no matter what the victim has done either in response or before the act of violence.
If you have been the victim of abuse at the hands of a spouse or partner, then it could be that he or she has tried to convince you that it is your actions that led to their being violent. If this has been the case, you may have been led to believe that because it is your fault that the violence occurred that there is no use in seeking intervention or other help from the outside. This may have even been a tactic to encourage you to remain in the relationship with the domestic abuser. Before you make a concerted effort to change your behavior or otherwise try to act regarding some issue with yourself you should consider whether or not this message may have been given to you by of violent spouse or partner. The difficulty in making changes in your behavior is that ultimately if you are being abused it is the abusive spouse or partner whose actions more readily lead to a safer environment for you and your children. It is very little you can do to change your abusive spouse or partner without outside intervention.
Remaining in an abusive relationship
From the outside, one of the questions that are frequently asked about people there are in abusive relationships is why do they remain? Unfortunately for you, this may not be a philosophical question but rather one that cuts to the heart of your personal family life. Remaining in a relationship that is dangerous or abusive is not unique To your situation and this is what you are going through. You may have even had people in your life like friends, family, and others ask you how you can justify remaining in a relationship that is dangerous both for you and for your children. It is likely very difficult for you to try to justify your rationale to people who have not walked a mile in your shoes.
The unfortunate reality is that for some people in your position there is a certain degree of financial connectivity that needs to be maintained. In other words, you may rely upon your spouse or significant other for income for a few reasons. For one, you may lack the ability to go out on your hand Ariel living for yourself and your family at this moment. Another may be that your spouse or partner prevented you from going and completing a degree previously or even working a small job. If you oversee childcare for your family or do you not have a way to get to work other than a vehicle provided to you by your partner or spouse, then you may be unable to work and earn income independent of him or her.
Even in non-abusive marriages, this is oftentimes a reason why some spouses in your position will delay a divorce for months or even years. There is Sumption is that once they file for divorce their spouse can immediately cut them off from any income or bank accounts thus leaving them in a dangerous position. While it is normal to be concerned with the welfare of yourself and your children you should note that at least in a divorce scenario, temporary orders will be put in place that likely bars your spouse from doing things like this. At the same time, you can begin to at least plan a divorce or separation that makes the transition into a divorce case that much simpler.
How can abuse and violence impact how you parent?
Being in a violent or abusive relationship can also impact how you parent your children. It is almost undoubtedly true that if you are being abused by a violent spouse or significant other that your life is full of stress. This stress will impact the way you interact with other people including your children. Rather than concerning yourself with the needs of your family and those around you will be preoccupied with avoiding violence in the home. Well, this is sensible it will still impact how you raise your family and even interact with your children on a moment-to-moment basis.
What kind of behaviors may your spouse or significant other be engaging in?
Identifying certain behaviors that are common in domestic abusers can be important for you if you may be in denial or otherwise trying to convince yourself that your spouse or partner is not engaging in a piece of behavior towards you. As we talked about earlier in today's blog post the most important goal for an abuser is to control their partner. The physical abuse itself as well as any verbal tactics that go with it are intended to put you in a position where you are being controlled by him or her. Think for a moment about the language that your spouse or significant other uses towards you. If he or she degrades you, belittles you, and especially does this in front of your children's stand this is a fairly clear sign that power is at the root of this person's language and actions.
What we in the family law world see very often is that abusers are master manipulators. These people will typically show one side of themselves to you in private and a completely different side of themselves to the world. This may even include your children. Do not be surprised if your children, no matter their age, have a completely different set of views about your spouse ship partner than you do. This is not your fault. Your spouse or partner likely plans out much of their actions in an attempt to gaslight you to think that you might be someone who is losing their grip on reality. This is an especially harmful tactic to use and one where you need to especially lean on your support system and social circle as much as possible.
If you have discussed the abuse or violence in the home directly with your spouse or partner and he or she fails to acknowledge the nature of their actions, then you are witnessing another common tactic deployed by many abusers. In fact, in their mind, the actions that they take against you and your children may be justified based on any number of circumstances. There is no limit to which an abusive spouse or partner may attempt to rationalize surrounding what they have done to you. It is impossible to minimize domestic violence. If you are in a situation where your spouse or partner has attempted to do this about the actions taken against you then you should know that you are very likely in an abusive relationship and one that you need to exit as soon as possible for your good in that of your children.
Look at how your spouse or partner parents your children
In many cases, an abusive spouse or partner will be extremely tough on their children. Many times, you will find that your spouse or partner has a very well-defined set of rules for the children to follow. If those rules are not followed, then there could also be significant consequences for the child and you. Many times, we see unrealistic expectations of children by abusive parents. If your child believes that the love of your spouse or partner is dependent upon their following the rules and acting in a certain way, then this can begin to degrade their sense of self and safety.
Otherwise, in the day-to-day life of your children, your spouse or partner may feel like their role is to provide a minimal amount of supervision. Many abusive partners and spouses believe that it is your job to care for the children in their day-to-day lives. Their needs are always greater, in most cases than the children's needs. Do not be surprised to find that your abusive spouse or partner attempts to override discipline that you attempt to enforce with the kids. It is common to see that parents in this type of situation are frequently not on the same page and differ greatly in how they discipline and raise children. Your authority as a parent may be continually undercut as you attempt to raise your children.
Family-based social services and your family unit
The reality is that if you are facing abuse or violence in the home then Child Protective Services will have to take a multi-faceted approach to care for your family. At the same time, CPS may encourage you to attend counseling and violence prevention-type classes while also helping you to get connected to family-based resources regarding your children. It can be difficult enough when there are children who are victims of abuse or violence. However, given that your family is one where there are both adult and child victims this causes CPS to have to deploy almost every resource available to them to properly care for your family.
The CPS caseworker will understand that you have been attempting to do everything you can to protect yourself from harm throughout this process. It would make sense then that you may not have been able to be intelligent about your children during this time. One of the most important lessons that you should be able to gain from working with Child Protective Services is that the safety of your children is linked directly to your safety. This means that you cannot protect your children until you can protect yourself. Many times, parents in your position will be so focused on helping them that they will not take basic steps to focus on their safety.
I have worked with families in your position where a non-abusive parent has hesitated to contact CPS out of fear that the children will be removed from the home. Rather than take steps 2 to protect themselves and their family, parents will instead withstand abuse at home out of fear that children will be put into CPS custody. This is I concerned that need some explanation. If it becomes clear to the CPS caseworker that you are a non-abusive parent who seeks to keep your children safe, then there is little concern regarding CPS ultimately removing your children from your home. You may find that CPS not only recommends children stay in your home but can help you to secure resources to remove an abusive parent or partner.
When CPS first reaches out to you they will likely begin to ask questions that will help them determine the nature and severity of the abuse going on in your home. CPS caseworkers are taught to ask questions about abuse and violence in the home in their initial screening of their family. Remember that CPS may have an incomplete picture of the situation in your house and legitimately will have questions for you about the nature of the actions that your spouse or significant other has taken against you or your children. Be prepared to answer questions about police involvement with your family, trips to the hospital or doctor regarding violence, or whether a weapon has ever been used to abuse your family.
From there, a CPS caseworker or investigator will perform a criminal background check on you and your partner. This is especially important regarding looking for violence in a history of violence in the person's record. Things like violating probation or restraining orders or even having confrontations with police or other authority figures will be viewed as important information or evidence against your spouse or abusive partner. If your spouse or partner has a history of domestic violence, then this will be an extremely important bit of information to take into account for the CPS caseworker.
Understanding your spouse or partner's history with law enforcement as well as their propensity to choose violence as an option it will inform how they go about recommending things like family-based social services as well as help to determine whether they will recommend CPS take temporary custody of your children. No matter what position a CPS caseworker ultimately takes in your case you need to have skilled and knowledgeable representation throughout the process.
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