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Approaching a Child Protective Services case as an incarcerated parent

The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) investigates situations that involve abuse and/or neglect of a child. If it is suspected that your child has been abused or neglected a person may anonymously contact Child Protective Services and alert them about what they witnessed occurring of what was told to them about your child. CPS will then investigate the allegation. Depending upon what was discovered initially, the investigation may either continue or stop right there.

Parents play a significant role in a CPS case. You are the main source of information for CPS and will be questioned multiple times. Your home will be inspected to see if there are any dangerous conditions present in the home. Persons that live with you in your home with you and your child will also be interviewed. Depending on the circumstances of your case your child may even be removed from your care if it is determined that you, someone in your home or the home itself is a safety risk to your child.

Needless to say, a CPS case is a stressful time for a parent. That stress level only intensifies if you are incarcerated and you come to find out that your child has potentially been abused or neglected. DFPS will work with you as closely as possible throughout the case so that you have a role to play in this investigation and so that your input is gathered as much as possible. Your rights and duties in relation to your child are no different than they were prior to your becoming incarcerated unless a judge has ruled otherwise.

Where might you be staying while incarcerated in Texas?

There are different types of facilities in Texas where you may be serving your sentence. Let’s run through those now:

A Private Correctional Center is a privately operated facility that houses offenders within the Correctional Institutions Division.

A County Jail is managed by the county sheriff in any particular county. The primary role of this type of facility is to hold defendants who are awaiting a trial or those defendants who have been convicted and are currently serving a jail sentence.

Federal prisons are run by the United States government. If you have been convicted of violating a federal law you will serve your sentence in federal prison.

The state of Texas has jails of its own. These state jail facilities are for individuals who have committed felonies like property crimes and low level controlled substance crimes that have maximum prison sentences of two years and community supervision to follow those sentences. Many state jail facilities are privately operated.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is the state agency that manages our state's prison and jail systems. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) operates similar facilities for juvenile offenders. Youth involved in these facilities receive education, drug treatment, and life skills training as well.

When a parent is incarcerated

If you are a parent who has become incarcerated, you face special challenges when it comes to being able to raise your child. If CPS becomes involved in the life of your child the agency and the caseworker that has been assigned to work on your case face unique challenges due to your incarceration.

When your case begins, the caseworker from CPS will need to make a determination whether or not your location is unknown, or if you or your child’s other parent are incarcerated. When the caseworker finds out that you are incarcerated, here are the steps that she will take in order to locate you.

How a CPS caseworker will locate you when you are incarcerated

In order to locate you if you are staying in a TDCJ facility, the CPS caseworker will search for you through a state directory. In the event that you are confined to the county jail, the caseworker will look for you on a county website or by contacting the jail facility where you are staying directly.

Once you are located the caseworker will make sure that you are served with all paperwork that has been filed in your child’s CPS case. In the event that you have not been served the caseworker will arrange for that service to occur at whatever facility you are staying at currently.

Can the caseworker for your child visit you in jail?

For any parent whose child is going through a CPS case, the caseworker is the primary means of providing information and obtaining information about the investigation. Phone calls to the caseworker and the caseworker coming to your home are common means of communication while a case is ongoing. However, if you are an incarcerated parent you will not have these means available to you.

The CPS caseworker is able to visit with you in jail or prison. He or she will need to contact the facility beforehand prior to attempting to meet with you. There may be special visitation times for your facility and/or other rules to keep in mind that are relevant. You may need to have that caseworker added to the list of people that are able to visit you. Be sure to let him or her know about any of these rules before he or she attempts a visit.

Your caseworker will do their best to build a relationship with you just as she would have you not been incarcerated. You will be working with this caseworker to develop a service plan that will allow for your child to either be returned home to their other parent, returned home to you once you are released from prison/jail or will plan for another person to take over the role of primary caregiver for your child. Different CPS cases can have different goals depending on the specific circumstances.

It goes without saying that it can be more challenging to build a relationship with you when you are in jail or prison than it would be to build a relationship with you had you been in a more traditional living environment. It is the duty of the caseworker to keep you as involved in the case as possible. Whatever service plans are in place for you and your child, the CPS caseworker must provide you with copies of those documents.

Updates will be provided to you on a regular basis. CPS caseworkers will never be accused of communicating too frequently with parents, so do not expect to receive letters, emails or visits from your caseworker every day or even every week. However, if there are major updates to report or court appearances upcoming you can expect that your caseworker will make those events known to you.

How meetings with you will occur while you are incarcerated

Your CPS caseworker will meet with you face to face as often as possible. If the caseworker herself cannot make a particular visit, another CPS employee will attend in her place. It is important that you be able to have face to face contact with your caseworker so that you have a chance to develop a relationship with this person. You are in a situation where you need to feel like you trust this caseworker to do what is best for your child since you are not able to participate as fully as you might like in the case.

Another thing that faces facing meetings will allow you and your caseworker to accomplish is that you can engage with one another and to allow you to provide and receive information that is relevant to the case. The more involved that you feel with planning the case and helping to determine particular outcomes for yourself and your child, the better you will feel and the more peace of mind you will have.

Face to face meetings is ideal if you are an incarcerated parent of a child facing a CPS case. However, if a face to face meeting with you is not possible the CPS caseworker will send you letters and seek responses back from you in order so that your opinions and wishes for your child can be taken in.

When communicating with you, the CPS caseworker will give you as much specific information as is possible regarding the investigation. Why your child is being investigated, what is being alleged to have occurred, and what are the immediate plans for the housing and care of your child. Whatever concerns for your child's safety the agency has will be explained to you as well. The goals and objectives of the case and your role to play in the case will also be discussed.

Finally, the caseworker will explain to you their role in the case. Your caseworker coordinates all communication in the agency regarding your child and makes recommendations to the CPS attorney about what should happen with your child on a permanent basis once the CPS case has closed. Needless to say that you need to be able to take advantage of the opportunities you have to communicate your own goals to the CPS caseworker when she is with you in jail or is communicating with you via the mail.

The role of a safety plan in your child’s case

A safety plan is created for your child (with your input and that of your child's other parent) at the beginning of the case. The purpose of the safety plan is to create a set of circumstances that will allow for your child's best interests to be attended to while also addressing any safety concerns apparent in the home of your child and in the relationship that your child has with you or their other parent. Both parents will have goals that they need to meet in order to have the child returned home.

Your CPS caseworker will discuss the safety plan with you and will discuss with you the effects that the safety plan will have on you and your child. If you have any questions about this you should address those questions to the CPS caseworker in person or by letter. If you have an opportunity to address those concerns in person with the caseworker you should absolutely do so. You do not know the next opportunity you will have to see him or her personally.

Do not lose sight of the fact that you are still the parent of your child even if you are incarcerated. You should do your best to learn as much as you can about your child’s living situation. Do not take a backseat in this case just because you are incarcerated. Your child needs you to be as involved as possible and to take advantage of every chance you get to provide your input on the case.

Finally, you should ask the caseworker to give you a list of upcoming court dates. If you have an attorney who has been appointed to represent you, or you have hired a private attorney, you should work with that attorney to make sure that he or she is able to represent your interests fully in court.

Want more information on what a CPS caseworker should be doing when you are incarcerated? Head back to our blog tomorrow

We will pick up where we left off today by discussing with you what a CPS caseworker will be doing in order to help you stay involved in your child’s case while you are incarcerated. Keep in mind that your child needs your input in order to achieve the most desirable result possible in their CPS case.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the information that we have shared in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your particular circumstances. We invite you to come to our office to find out more about the services that we can provide you with in order to help you and your family.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Family Law Cases in Texas: Examining the steps in a Child Protective Services case
  2. Managing a Family Law case in Texas
  3. Texas Family Courts: Child Protective Services, Part Two
  4. How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case, Part Two
  5. What to know about Child Protective Services
  6. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation
  7. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 2
  8. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 3
  9. 16 Steps to help you Plan and Prepare for your Texas Divorce
  10. How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case
  11. Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case
  12. Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
  13. Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
  14. The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas CPS Defense Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defense lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our cps defense lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles cps cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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