One of the more frequently asked questions that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan receive is how a parent knows when their case with Child Protective Services (CPS) is closed. It is understandable to want to put an unpleasant situation like a CPS case behind you and your family. Moving forward as quickly as possible from the case is a reasonable goal to have but the question which you need to ask yourself is whether you can be sure that your case is over within the first place.
An experience that many parents have with CPS and their caseworkers is that communication is not their strong suit. We know this from working with the agency a great deal here with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. One of the main reasons why people choose to work with our experienced family law team is due to CPS is more willing to call an attorney back in most cases than a parent. This is a frustrating reality of a CPS case and is a key reason why parents just like you cannot wait to rid themselves of a CPS presence in their lives. Still, you cannot feel good about putting something behind you until you are confident that the case is done and over with.
With a timeline that may not be made known to you initially, CPS operates according to several factors which can arise in your case. CPS investigates reports regarding abuse and/or neglect of children. If you are being investigated as a person who may have abused or neglected your child, then you have your well-being to be concerned with as well as the well-being of your child. Being able to manage the expectations of parenting, stay up to date with a CPS investigation and then work to prevent your child from being removed from your home are all full-time jobs. I haven't even mentioned the actual full-time job that you have which needs to be maintained throughout all of this.
All of this is to say that you need people in your corner during a CPS case. Friends and family form the basis of your support structure. These are the folks who you are going to turn to you during the tough times of an investigation. When you need reassurance that you are doing the right thing or if you need some friendly advice then your close friends and family are where you are going to turn. Hopefully, you already have people like this in your life but if you do not then now would be a great time to start reaching out to people and building a support structure that can help you and your family create the sort of bonds that can last you during a CPS case and into a better future which does not involve CPS.
Additionally, I cannot say enough about how having an experienced family law attorney can help you during this time in your life. Friends and family offer you the sort of emotional and familial support that you need on many levels. However, what you can also use is a team of trained, experienced legal professionals who can guide you during this time in your life. Knowing how best to approach a CPS case, communicate with CPS employees, and ultimately resolve the issue with your family intact are all skills that we possess. Contact us today for a free-of-charge consultation to learn more about how we can help you.
Navigating the CPS system can take time
The reality of working with CPS is that it can take time to do so. Unfortunately, you may not have the necessary time right now to be able to fight that battle on your own. Sure, you are motivated to protect your child, your reputation, and your family but we only have so many hours in the day. With responsibilities at work and home, adding onto the responsibilities involved with a CPS case can make it seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, this is not the case. You can take on whatever challenges come your way in a CPS case, and we are going to show you how to do this in today’s blog post.
Right off the bat, it is normal to wonder how long a CPS investigation can last. It’s the same question that you could ask yourself at the beginning of a root canal or any other unpleasant experience. Trying to figure out long you are going to be involved with CPS is what can lead to your figuring out how to manage the case itself. If the case can last year’s then you had better buckle up and get ready for anything that comes your way. A one-week investigation is just a bump in the road on your way to the rest of your life. So where does a CPS case fall into that as far as a timeline is concerned?
Legally, CPS has thirty days to complete its investigation. However, this time limit can vary depending on how complex your case is and how the investigation proceeds. A typical CPS investigation begins with a call coming into CPS about possible abuse or neglect having occurred to one of your children. CPS allows for anonymous reports to be made regarding abuse or neglect. An investigation will then be undertaken and a CPS caseworker will make contact with you at your home. He or she will inform you of the basic details of the report and will ask you permission to enter your home, speak to you, and then speak to your child. This is where you will have some decisions to make as far as how you want to proceed.
You can allow the investigator to enter your home and speak to you, view your home, and possibly interview your child if he is old enough to do so and is home. Or, you could even grant CPS permission to speak to your child while he is at school. A CPS interview of your child could take place at school, your home, or even at a CPS facility. These interviews are recorded via audio, video, or both. On the other hand, you can deny CPS permission to speak to your child. However, CPS can obtain permission from a judge to interview your child by having an attorney of theirs go to court and petition the judge to allow for an interview to happen.
CPS will also attempt to speak with any adult with whom your child has a close relationship. Extended family members, adults who live with you and your child, teachers, doctors, etc. What the CPS investigation is attempting to uncover at this point is whether the reported abuse or neglect occurred. If enough evidence supports, the report then a finding will be made. You will be made aware of the finding. This is where your case can take on a couple of different paths as far as a direction that it can go in. Either your child will be allowed to stay in your home or CPS will seek temporary custody of your child from the juvenile or family court.
Let’s assume that CPS goes to court and is granted a temporary order which allows them to take custody of your child. This temporary order grants them conservatorship rights over your child- the rights and duties that are typically reserved for you and a co-parent shift to CPS. You are still the legal parent to your child. You still have that legal relationship as well as certain rights and duties in most cases. However, the primary decision-making authority rests now in CPS’s hands. They can place your child in a foster family or with a relative or friend which you recommend to them.
This recommendation comes from a list of people. Absent any concerns about your case, if you provide CPS with a list of people with whom you would like your child to stay, the agency must grant your request. You will need to provide contact information for these folks and an interview will be conducted which allows CPS to investigate their home and determine if the person is an appropriate caregiver. Background checks will be conducted to make this determination, as well. The best interests of your child are what drive CPS in searching for the safest and most appropriate place to house your child.
Or CPS may allow your child to remain in your home. The specific circumstances of your case will matter most when it comes to whether the agency attempts to remove your child from your home or not. If you have specific questions about how CPS can remove your child and whether that is a likely outcome in your case, then I recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. The information which we provide to you in today’s blog post can help you but only to a certain extent. You need to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can consider your specific circumstances and offer their thoughts on the possibility that your child may be removed from your home.
If your child is removed from your home, then a hearing will need to be held within 14 days of that removal to allow you to present a case to the judge as to why the removal is not necessary. The first hearing before the judge where the temporary conservatorship rights were granted in CPS did not allow for you to present any evidence. Now, you can do so. On top of that, the burden of proof is on CPS to justify the continued removal of your child. If CPS cannot sustain this burden and there is insufficient evidence showing that your child’s best interests are served by the removal, then your child will be allowed to return to your home.
A CPS investigation continues while the agency attempts to work with you to remedy whatever issue is causing problems in your home. Sometimes the issues revolve around the home itself. There may be a condition in the home that is dangerous and result in your child being injured. Broken steps, electrical wiring, which is faulty, an animal in the home who has bitten or otherwise harmed your child. These are examples of dangerous conditions which could be remedied easily. This is to mention nothing of a pool or other hazard which your children may need to be protected from. Whatever the case may be, do not underestimate how simple a fix on a CPS case may be. Listen to the CPS caseworker, consider what he or she is telling you, and then work with your attorney to remedy the problem.
Or a person may be living in your household who poses a threat to your child in the estimation of CPS. For example, our office represented a young father in a child custody case a few years ago. This young man had two little girls who he had been sharing custody of with their mother. At a certain point, the mother wanted to have more time with the girls and the way she went about accomplishing her goals relates to the information which we just finished discussing. This mother contacted CPS and expressed concern about the children being able to live in the same home as their father and his uncle.
His uncle, you may be asking, is someone that we had known nothing about when this case started. Asking questions about your client and each of their extended family members is not something that usually is relevant to a family law case. However, in this situation it was. Our client’s uncle was a registered sex offender, and the opposing party knew about this. She used the status of his uncle who lived with him against him. Usually, these reports to CPS were anonymous but we figured out quickly from talking to her attorney that she was the one who made the report. This could have been a tricky situation and a bad one for our client.
What ended up happening is that our client was able to talk to his uncle about moving out of the home and finding a new place to live. For what it's worth, this uncle had never done anything inappropriate with the children that we were aware of but there is an obvious risk to a situation like this when a parent cannot be certain of the safety of his children in their own home. From our perspective, it was an especially dangerous one for our client given that the children had options as far as where their primary residence could be. A home with their mother and no registered sex offender is a much more desirable place for a child than a home with their father where a registered sex offender lives.
I mentioned this story today to help you understand the importance of full disclosure with your attorney. It is not enough to tell your attorney half of the truth or only what you think is relevant. There may be skeletons in your closet or other information that is not something you want to share with your attorney but is something that you ought to share. As a result, the difference between telling your attorney the whole truth and hiding some information can be dramatic.
Getting back to our subject at hand, if you have questions about your CPS case then you should reach out to the investigator, or a caseworker assigned to your case. You can ask him or her if your investigation has been closed. Typically, a letter will be sent to you and any other person named in the report to notify you about the open or closed status of your case. If you have not received a letter like this, then you should contact CPS and ask them for one to be sent to you.
While an investigation is ongoing, however, you can work with an experienced family law attorney to help you develop a strategy for having your child returned to your home or to prevent your child from being removed in the first place. We hope that the material shared in today's blog post has been helpful and look forward to your joining us in the future for additional blogs related to Texas family law.
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