During a case that involves Child Protective Services (CPS), you would be excused if you lost sight on the occasion of the fact that despite all the troubles and difficulties that you are going through, ultimately, your child is caught up in much more stress and uncertainty than you are. You can remain in your own home, sleep in your bed and even maintain many of the same routines as you had been before CPS came into your life. Your child's patterns have been altered dramatically. They may no longer be living with you, and that is just the start of their changed lives.
What can you do to ensure that whoever owns your child daily understands what they need and see to it that those needs are met? If your child has a particular routine associated with a medical condition, how would you clarify what that routine is? What about issues related to their behavior, school, or anything in between? Your role as a parent is not put on hold during a CPS case but instead takes on an entirely new dimension thanks to CPS and their involvement.
Repeat after me: Stability and Consistency
In your years of parenting, I'm sure you have noticed that children are creatures of habit. Starting when they are young, a song cannot be sung just once- it will need to be repeated over and over until your little one is satisfied. TV shows on repeat, movies that are recited by heart. The list goes on and on.
Routine is also essential for their schoolwork, extracurricular activities, bedtimes, and a myriad of other daily responsibilities. Teaching your child to appreciate and live in a routine is better for their health and well-being than serving dinner at a different time each weeknight or having no set schedule when homework needs to get done. It may sound boring at first glance, but we both know that a child who can expect certain conditions and adapt to them is better off than a child who does not know what to expect.
You were helping your child achieve stability and consistency in your home life as necessary as your child grew up, and it is still essential now as you and your child go through your most challenging period as parent and child. The act of having your child removed from your home and placed into the care of a relative or a stranger was likely traumatic and something that you would hope never to have to go through again. If this is the way you feel, try putting yourself in the shoes of your minor child.
The most significant transition is quite apparent- your child will be residing in a different home than they are used to. That means different types of expectations, different personalities, and a different physical location. If consistency and stability are your goals when raising a child, then they do not have to be set aside for the duration of your CPS case. On the contrary- these dual goals are more important now than at any other time in raising your child.
Ensure that you provide your child's temporary caretaker(s) with your child's favorite clothes, shoes, toys, blankets, etc., before your child leaves your home. While it's not as if you can physically be with your child in the home of the caretaker, you can create some aspects of consistency that your child should recognize. These reminders of residence may be precisely what your child needs during those first few problematic nights away from you and their home.
Make the caregiver aware of your child's schedule.
Don't just assume that either your child's temporary caregiver will know or your child will be able to tell the caregiver the schedule that your child typically follows either during the school week or on the weekends. This is a responsibility you must take hold of no matter how you feel about having that much contact with the caregivers. Put your sadness and pride on the sidelines for a moment and do something positive to help your child get through these difficult times.
Remember that you have responsibilities as a parent, but your child has them as a student, a teammate, and a friend. If your child has band practice three days a week after school, make sure the caregiver is aware of this. If your child is part of a study group that meets in the library after school and needs a ride home at 4:30, this needs to be explicitly communicated. My rule of thumb would be to over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Worst case scenario, you will have provided too much direction to the caregivers. This beats the alternative of not providing enough, however.
The names and contact information for relatives, friends, physicians, teachers, etc., should be provided in a list format at the beginning of the transition period from your home to theirs. In an emergency, this information will come in handy and will be something that you will be upset at yourself about later on if you do not provide it as quickly as possible.
Again, there is no substitute for you being physically present in your child's life. I cannot state this any other way. All of the above tips are things that you can choose to implement to ease your child's mind during a tough time in their lives. Their perspective is much different than yours will be in all likelihood. Help them get through and do as best as they can during this period, and some of the guilt you will feel may be erased in no time.
What rights do you as a parent have in a CPS case?
With all of that said, the best way to stand up for your child is to know when to stand up for yourself. Did you know that you have rights from the minute your CPS case begins? It may not feel like CPS can run roughshod over your life and your child's life but understand that the Texas Family Code contains these rights that you as a parent maintain throughout your CPS case.
Don't let anyone from CPS try to convince you that your only option is to follow along strictly with what they have proposed. You may be questioning your instincts at the beginning of a CPS case. After all, it was your instincts that may have led you to have a life where CPS is actively involved. With that said, certain parental instincts that you have associated with raising your children mean you need to take a long hard look at yourself and decide to stand up for your rights at every opportunity.
Perhaps the most important of those rights, and the one that we will begin tomorrow's blog post by discussing, is the right to be represented by an attorney in many circumstances.
Questions about a CPS case and how to stand up for your child? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, take seriously the responsibility each of us has to do our best and uphold our clients' rights at every possible opportunity. We represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family.
To schedule a free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact our office today. A free-of-charge consultation is only a phone call away.