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Can Child Protective Services take action against you for abusing drugs or alcohol?

Some of the more frantic and concerned people that I have the opportunity to meet with as an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, are those parents who have recently been contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS). A phone call completely out of the blue or a visit from a CPS case investigator has caught these people off guard. Their worry is so thorough that they seek the advice of an attorney as a result of those interactions. By the time these folks get to my office, the concern is visible on their faces, and questions come to me in a rapid-fire fashion regarding the power of CPS and the ability of the organization to remove their children from home.

What does CPS do- besides scaring people out of their wits? We may know people in our personal lives that have been contacted by CPS in some capacity or have seen a movie or television show where CPS was responding to an allegation of abuse or neglect of a child. That's all fine and well, but unless you know what CPS does in "real life," you will not be better off.

Today's blog post from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will introduce the topic of CPS and their role in protecting the safety and well-being of Texas children. As someone who has probably had little to no interaction in your lifetime with CPS, it's understandable to have many questions about what CPS can and cannot do regarding the makeup of your family. We will discuss the organization's motivations and how they can impact you, your spouse, and your children.

What is the objective of CPS?

CPS is an entity under the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Their work is done to create environments and ensure the safety and well-being of Texas families and the communities they reside in. CPS will tell you that their goal is to work within the framework of the caregivers, parents, and families that are already in place for your child. CPS also will get in touch with other adults in your child's life to help educate and impress upon them the importance of helping to maintain a safe and healthy environment for your child.

Substance abuse and CPS involvement

Unfortunately, substance abuse exists among parents in our State. You may engage in substance abuse yourself despite your attempts to curtail your usage of these substances or efforts to help yourself get better. This does not mean that you are an evil or immoral person. This does, however, mean that you put yourself and your children in a position when you use these substances where your and their healthy being is in jeopardy. Your decision-making and parenting skills are compromised if you use and abuse drugs or alcohol.

CPS will intervene in a situation where it is reported to them (through anonymous intake phone calls) that your use of drugs or alcohol is either placing your child into a dangerous situation or where you have abused your child. These reports may well be false, or at the very least misleading. However, CPS is duty-bound to investigate and intervene in these reports to ensure your child's safety.

CPS will not take any responsibility for your actions or your recovery/efforts towards sobriety. You are the caretaker and conservator of your child up until a court intervenes and says otherwise. To that end, you will need to take charge of your well-being and work towards getting better physically and mentally. Along with these physical and mental improvements, you will need to involve whatever support system you have available to you so that your child is not continually in harm's way during any CPS investigation.

How a CPS worker will engage with you and your family

Upon their initial contact with you, a CPS caseworker will attempt to be respectful and professional in their approach. They are taught to understand that this is not an easy process for you and that no matter what allegations have been made against you, you deserve respect and patience as a parent.

A CPS caseworker will explain who they are and what they are investigating and will provide you with their contact information. Without the input of you, your spouse, and other adults in your child's life, there is little chance for a successful resolution of your case. Above all else, your caseworker will look to engage with you and your spouse towards solving whatever problems are associated with you and your child. The initial interactions between you and your caseworker can set the tone for the entire relationship.

How CPS will engage with your child

Unfortunately, children in our State reside with parents with substance abuse issues if you count yourself among those parents who abuse substances, even recreationally, know that if CPS begins an investigation into your family situation that it does not pay to be anything less than truthful.

Know that your child sees, hears, and has likely attempted to intervene in your situation to stop you from further abusing drugs or alcohol. Your child may have even had the misfortunate to see the aftermath of your drug or alcohol abuse and, as a result, may have been mistreated in some way by you even if you did not intend to do so or remember the event specifically. Such is the effect of a person in the throes of a drug or alcohol addiction.

When speaking to your child, CPS will talk to your child to learn whether or not your child views substance use as a way to celebrate or cope with the stresses of life. From seeing and hearing you abuse substances, your child will likely formulate their own opinions on its appropriateness in their own life. If your child gives the impression that they are comfortable or knowledgeable of the effects of drugs and alcohol use, this will show a CPS caseworker that you are pretty open about your usage at home.

Factors that CPS will consider when interviewing a child

If your child is to be interviewed by CPS, know that your child's age, developmental stage, and sense of self-awareness will be evaluated to determine what sort of questions are appropriate to ask. The caseworker will attempt to gain your child's trust to allow them to feel safe enough to open up about their experiences in your home.

What CPS caseworkers and investigators are keenly aware of is that your child's behaviors, while seemingly muted or minimal, all have meaning. Your substance abuse may have led to a certain level of trauma that CPS can identify. If your substance abuse has compromised your child's safety, then their relationship will be harmed. CPS workers ask questions in an attempt to gauge the strength of your child's relationship with you to allow them to gain a window into the extent of your substance abuse.

How CPS will engage with your child and with you- tomorrow's blog post.

If you have found today's blog post informative, we hope you will come back tomorrow to read more about CPS and their motivations and techniques to intervene in your family life. Should you have any questions about this subject or any other in family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week where one of our licensed family law attorneys can answer your questions and discuss the services we can provide to you as a client of our office.

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