While you may feel like retreating into a corner during the initial days of a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation involving your child, I can tell you that this is not a good use of one of your most important resources- your extended family. These people, along with friends, offer a great support network during a difficult time in your life. While I completely understand not wanting to share details and information about your life that are less than pleasant, you should not feel like you cannot talk to anyone about your case even if you do not reach out and talk to your family about the situation CPS is required to do so by law.
The law in Texas is that within thirty days of your child being removed from your home, CPS must notify members of both your and your spouse’s families that the child has been removed and that their active involvement in the case is needed. Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers, and sisters are all extended family that must become engaged in the case if at all possible.
Notifying CPS if any relatives are good candidates to house your child temporarily
Once your child is removed from your home, CPS must ask you to fill out a form that provides them with information on relatives in the area who would temporarily be suitable caretakers for your child. This is a necessary step that will find you before the judge explains why you did not fill the form out. CPS will want to allow your child to return to your home in most cases but first will need to place your child with a relative. They do not want to have to put your child in foster care, despite what other folks may have told you.
CPS relies on your relatives and family as well during an investigation. First and foremost, a place for your child to live needs to be sorted out at the beginning of an investigation. CPS understands that it has caused some trauma to your family in removing your child, but what they have done is usually justified by the risk of potential harm to your child should he or she be allowed to remain living in your home.
Most people, yourself included in all likelihood, would prefer to have their child live with family rather than in foster care during a CPS case, especially if your child is young. That is likely their preference as well.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes for a moment. This is already a difficult time as their entire routine, and sense of self has been torn up from the roots due to their being involved in a CPS case. Now they find themselves being removed from their primary caregiver and forced to live in another location. Wouldn’t you prefer to remain in a family home rather than with strangers? This is why I strongly encourage parents to cooperate with this portion of a CPS investigation.
How CPS decides where your child will reside temporarily after removal from your home
CPS does not have to honor your request to have your child reside with a relative for the length of the case. Your relative must pass a CPS and criminal background check and be able to show that their home is a safe environment for a child. It is not always easy for a family to pass these tests and ultimately house their child. When suggesting names of family members to CPS, think about if the people you are suggesting have criminal records or their histories with CPS. If so, it likely isn’t worthwhile to make their names available as possible landing spots for your child.
Another aspect of the decision of CPS to place your child with a relative is whether or not the relative is likely to follow the orders of a judge regarding allowing you contact with the child. If you can only see your child at a CPS facility, for example, your relative cannot let you into the home to see your child at a random time.
What happens when CPS removes your child
You may have heard horror stories from friends or other people in your life regarding their involvement with CPS and the removal of their children from their homes. All I can say is that every person’s situation is unique, including your own. What happened in one person’s case may not happen in yours and vice versa. Whether or not you can have any contact with your child as they are removed is dependent on your situation and the risk of harm you pose to your child in the eyes of CPS.
Your child can be removed from your home while at school, a doctor’s office, or any location, even if you are not present with your child at the time of the removal. This includes your home. If you are not there when your child is removed from your home, a CPS caseworker must contact you and speak to you regarding the reasons for the removal.
Law enforcement will often accompany a CPS caseworker at the time of removal. If you cooperate with the removal and are calm, usually, you will be able to talk to your child and help them pack up their belongings. If you are belligerent or attempt to impede the removal, you will be kept away from your child and not allowed to say goodbye.
Suppose CPS gets temporary conservatorship rights to your child. In that case, they have twelve months from the date of removal to hold a trial where they seek either permanent conservatorship of your child or outright termination of your parental rights. The clock begins to tick immediately- both for CPS and for you and your family.
Cooperation with CPS is critical.
It is not always the situation where CPS arrives at your house unannounced with a court order allowing them to remove your child from your home. Often you are told in advance of the date and time that your child will be removed so that you can prepare with your child. If CPS believes your child to be in immediate danger, this is not possible, and the removal can happen without much notice or warning.
Nothing you do or say at that point will stop the removal- whether CPS has a court order or not. These emergency circumstances give CPS a great deal more authority than most situations. I’m not trying to tell you that the situation isn’t going to scary or intimidating, or unpleasant. Keep in mind that as scared as you are, your child is likely even more scared. If you act inappropriately or aggressively, this will heighten the sense of fear that your child likely has and create an even more tense situation.
It is better to allow the legitimate removal of your child than to physically or verbally attack a police officer or CPS employee. You will face criminal charges for doing so, which will make defending yourself in the CPS case even more difficult. Let discretion be the better part of valor, and plan to get your child back into your home. You are not quitting on your child or giving up on the situation by doing so. You are simply planning to fight another day- not with violence, but with an attorney through the legal system.
More on removing your child from your home in tomorrow’s blog from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.
I appreciate your interest in this important topic in family law. To learn more about CPS cases and how our office can assist you, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, today. Our licensed family law attorneys represent clients like you across southeast Texas with great successes achieved daily. A free-of-charge consultation with an attorney is only a phone call away.