To get ready for any visitation session that you are provided in your Child Protective Services (CPS) case, your child’s caseworker and your attorney should talk with you before the visit to help you focus on your purpose to see your child. It is not to fish for information from your child, it is not to berate your child’s other parent for getting him or her into this situation, and it is not to encourage your child to give their foster family a hard time.
The purpose of these visitation sessions revolves around your child and your rebuilding a relationship with your child. Your child likely doesn't feel too good about their living situation right now. Their life is up in the air, and on top of everything else, they have an incarcerated parent and cannot fully participate in their life. It is up to you to make these visits as productive as possible.
You can start by reassuring your child that you love him or her. Your child's support is essential to make them feel at ease and stable in whatever living conditions they find themselves in. You can’t determine when their CPS case is going to end. You can’t determine whether or not your child is going to go home soon. You can’t even determine how often you will be able to see your child.
However, you can determine your attitude and how you present your child's circumstances to him or her. Keep in mind that your child doesn't understand everything that is going on in their lives. Your living circumstances are remaining the same. Those of your child has been turned upside down. If you can provide any insight for your child into what is happening and how many people are working to make sure that your child is ok, they will likely feel much better about themselves.
What should your child expect when it comes to visit you in prison?
Visiting with you in prison is obviously different than visiting with you in your home, a CPS office, or even a restaurant. A prison is not exactly the ideal place to meet with your child, and if we are honest with ourselves, it is probably the least hospitable place that anyone could think of when it comes to meeting with your child. However, these are your circumstances, and it is your job to make the best of them.
Your child should be prepared by you, their foster family, the CPS caseworker, and by you about what to expect when it comes to seeing you in prison or jail. Different facilities have different rules about visitation, so I cannot tell you exactly what your child will encounter when it comes to a vitiation session. However, I can provide some advice that I can provide to apply across the board for any child whose parent, like you, is incarcerated.
You can write letters to your child (if you are allowed to do so) telling your child how excited you are to see him or her. It is a big deal when you can see your child while you are incarcerated, and you want to lay the groundwork to make sure your child understands just how happy you are to be able to see him or her. Sending a short, upbeat letter or message to your child is a great idea as long as the court orders and CPS allow you to do that.
For example, your child should be made aware that there will be many people in the visiting area in most facilities. These people will be doing the same thing that your child is doing. Namely visiting their loved ones. It can be loud, distracting, and boisterous in these rooms, even with corrections officers available to keep order. If your child is not used to this type of environment (and hopefully he is not), it will make sense to have your caseworker communicate that your child.
Another thing that is odd for people who are engaging in their first prison visitation session with a child is that there will be a glass partition in between you and your child in most cases. This partition is there to protect the people visiting you and make sure that contraband is not passed between you and your guest.
You may even need to talk on a phone to hear one another, depending upon the visitation area's setup. Even though this will be especially difficult for you, you and your child will not be able to touch or hug. This is probably the biggest thing you will have to prepare yourself before visiting your child.
How will your child’s foster parents react to your child’s visit with you?
One aspect of the visitation session that you shouldn't have to worry about but likely will have to worry about is how your child's foster family will handle a prison visit. If your relatives are fostering your child, then you have less to be concerned with. However, a typical foster family may feel uncomfortable in prison and may be hesitant to allow you to speak to your child for very long. You should address this with your child’s caseworker ahead of time to ensure that nothing stands in your way of getting the visitation time with your child that you are entitled to.
It is natural for your child's foster family to want to protect your child. For one, it is their responsibility to do so. Their ability to protect your child is job number one, as far as the State of Texas is concerned. From this vantage point, it is understandable that they would want to avoid any situations that could lead to harm being inflicted upon your child or even your child becoming upset or irritated.
I have heard from many clients, family members of clients, and CPS caseworkers that children will often feel stressed out, sad, angry, overly emotional, and a range of emotions in between these after seeing their parents for the first time after a CPS case is begun. Remember that children are not good at managing their emotions. If we’re honest with ourselves, many parents are not great at handling their emotions either. Foster parents want to avoid having to deal with your child when he or she is highly emotional.
Your caseworker will need to prepare your child’s foster family for a visit to prison or jail in situations like this. It is natural for your child to feel a range of emotions associated with visiting you. As a result, your child may have reactions before, during, and after these visitation sessions that impact your child’s caregivers.
The caregiver will need to be prepared for this reaction and will need to remember that the primary objective of the visit is to allow the child to see you and further whatever goals are in place as far as permanency is concerned for your child.
What to do if you are hesitant about seeing your child?
What happens if you are not so sure about seeing your child? You may have never had much of a relationship with him or her to this point in their life. Maybe your child’s mother never let you see your child as he was growing up.
Maybe you have spent a good portion of your child’s life behind bars, and you don’t know how to relate to him. Many factors could be present in your life that affect your ability to bond with your child.
Even if you are hesitant about seeing your child, you must do. These visitation sessions are critical when it comes to your being able to maintain your relationship with your child even if you are incarcerated. Your child may be worried about your being behind bars. He or she may have never had an opportunity to come to visit you before this time. Reassuring your child is never a bad thing to do, especially in a time like this.
Once you are released from jail/prison, how can you find a job?
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has a website dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated people like yourself find work. The jobs selected for this website are done with the thought of helping you find work as quickly as possible after you are released from prison or jail.
Your attorney and/or the CPS caseworker involved in your child’s case should review this website and share information with you regarding what resources are out there for you after being released from prison. You can talk to the caseworker and let him or her know what your work background was so that they can help you pinpoint a career area to look into for employment.
In today’s world, private employers are more willing than ever to hire people who have spent time in jail or prison. Indeed, many jobs do not appear willing to hire formerly incarcerated, but that is not true for every single job any longer. Just like you did in the CPS case, you need to explore your options and take action rather than sit back and expect good things to happen to you automatically.
Closing thoughts on handling a CPS case while incarcerated
Nobody will tell you that it is an ideal situation to be involved in a CPS case. Nobody will tell you that it is ideal for you to be involved in a CPS case while you are incarcerated. Those are two unfortunate situations that you may or may not have had much control over. However, if you find yourself in this position, there are options available to you to come out on the other side in a good position to make something of your life and your relationship with your child.
Having an attorney to assist you throughout the process is a good idea. Even if CPS contacts you while you are incarcerated, you can work with your family to find an attorney who can represent you and your interests. Look for an attorney who has not only family law experience but experience working with CPS cases. If you can find a family law attorney with CPS experience as well as experience helping folks in jail or prison, then you have a head start on the game.
Finally, your CPS caseworker will not have much contact with you (compared to your attorney), but their opinion of you is still important. If you are getting out of prison soon and can reintroduce yourself into society fairly well, you will likely be provided with visitation rights after the CPS case ends. You may even put yourself in a situation where your child could live with you if no better option is available.
Regardless, you need to take the bull by the horns and work with your attorney and the CPS caseworker to ensure that you are taking the correct steps towards improving your child's life. Reading this blog is a good place to start.
Questions about Texas Family Law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the article that you have just read, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask experienced attorney questions and receive feedback about your particular circumstances. Thank you for showing an interest in this important topic, and we hope you will join us again on our blog tomorrow.
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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 defense cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, 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.