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Foster care examined in the context of a Child Protective Services case

Suppose that you and your family have become the subject of a Child Protective Services (CPS) case and it has been determined that your home is not a safe environment for your child to reside in. As a result CPS has arranged to remove your child immediately and to have him live in foster care. You’ve heard the term “foster care” before but just in a general sense and you have no specific knowledge as to what it is or how it will suit your child. What exactly is foster care and what are the important items to understand about it as you face a CPS case?

When the State of Texas gains custody of your child and that child is placed into the home of another person that is what foster care is. The State of Texas must approve people to be able to care for someone else’s children and these foster parents go through multiple background checks and home inspections themselves in order to house your child during a CPS case. Foster parents are trained by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the same state agency that houses CPS.

As far as your child’s routine is concerned, that aspect of their life will likely be thrown off at least somewhat as a result of your child living in a new home. Your child will attend the school in the community where their foster parents live and may not be able to be engaged in the extracurricular activities that he was participating in prior to the removal.

If a foster family is not available to care for your child immediately upon removal, he could wind up living in a shelter. This only occurs in emergency situations where a foster family or foster home is not available to your child. Usually a stay in a shelter will last for no longer than a month.

Placing your child with relatives is an option

Family and friends of you or your spouse are also potential landing spots for your child upon their removal from your home. Typically what happens is that your CPS caseworker will work with you on coming up with safety plan that will be in place for the duration of your case. The safety plan outlines specific steps that you need to take to meet safety goals that can result in the return to your child to your home.

Often times an agreement to place your child with a relative or friend is a part of the safety plan that you can come into agreement with CPS on. There is not a formal removal requirement as a part of a safety plan. You simply agree that it is in your child’s best interests and their safety to have him or her removed from your home informally and into the care of a friend of relative. However, once a removal has occurred it is possible to have a friend or relative house your child temporarily.

How long does foster care last?

Foster care is not designed to last for years and years. On the contrary, foster care is expected to last only as long as it takes for you to present sufficient evidence to a judge and CPS that you are taking the necessary steps to prepare yourself and your home for the return of your child. Issues that were causing concern regarding abuse or neglect must have been removed during this time period. If you have a relative that is willing to become a full time and permanent caretaker for your child this too can take the place of foster care on a long term basis.

It does happen, however, that children end up staying in foster care until they reach the age of 18. The foster care system in Texas is not what anyone would call good. You need only Google the term “foster care Texas” to read as many articles as you can stomach on the conditions children face living in in our state foster care homes. Foster care families are forced by their own circumstances to move on from foster care which forces your child to move from home to home with some frequency. Kids have a hard enough time as it is making friends and making it through the day. Couple changing schools and friend groups and the foster care system offers specific challenges even to well adjusted kids.

The fact that children are forced to put up with as much as they do while in foster care is a testament to the importance of you being able to provide the information about relatives who are possible hosts for your child during the CPS investigation. You will feel better about the situation and that in turn may help you focus more intently on achieving the goals set forth in your safety plan.

How much will you be able to contact your child while he is in foster care?

Once CPS wins temporary conservatorship rights over your child, you will be given the opportunity to see your son within one week. This goes out the window if you pose a physical threat to your child, as determined by CPS.

As with a single or divorced parent it is possible that CPS will come up with a visitation schedule for you and your child so that you can plan ahead for any trips to see your child. When you do get to see your child you are encouraged to share your feelings with him but do not speak about issues that you cannot guarantee happening. For example, it is easy and feels good to tell your child that he will be home safe and sound very soon. I would caution speaking this way to your child as you do not know exactly what the circumstances are that will return your child to your home.

Reports of abuse or neglect against a foster parent by your child

If your child is being harmed physically by his foster parent then you need to tell your attorney, your CPS caseworker and your child’s attorney ad litem. These are all persons who have a duty to contact law enforcement to make a report of possible abuse or neglect of your child. There is a fine line between believing your child when he tells you something is wrong and the frustrated cries of a small child.

Notification for when your child is moved to a new location

In most situations when CPS removes yorur child from one foster home and places him in another they will have a duty to contact you and give you notice of this change. The need for an immediate move may arise in situations where the foster family can no longer afford to house your child or if there is a safety concern over that foster family in regard to your child.

If there is no emergency situation and CPS has no immediate need to move your child for safety purposes, CPS should work with you on where your child is best placed to continue their care outside of your home. These are surely difficult times for you as you work with CPS to manage your child’s needs and what is best for their safety. Keep in mind that CPS will not always be working towards only temporary solutions but also towards permanent plans on what to do with your child. Ultimately if you follow the safety plan created for your case you will have a good chance to have your child returned to your home sooner rather than later.

Finding your child a permanent place to reside- tomorrow’s blog topic

As your case proceeds through the courts, remember that a judge’s objective is to help find a situation that is in the best interests of your child. In tomorrow’s blog post we will go over the initial steps in the courtroom process for your child in their CPS case. Questions about this topic or any other in family law can be addressed to the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys six days a week.

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