The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has underneath its governance a division known as Child Protective Services (CPS). This agency is responsible for protecting children in Texas from abuse and neglect. CPS receives phone calls and anonymous tips regarding instances of abuse and neglect of children and they will then provide services to the families of those children. CPS will conduct an investigation to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred.
CPS works with families in their own homes or can removal a child from their home and placed him or her into foster care if that is deemed to be appropriate. Many times children remain in foster care for years after their removal from a parents' home. In that case, CPS will provide services for that child as he or she ages into adulthood. CPS will also help facilitate the adoption of children who are in their care after the parental rights of the child's natural-born parents have been terminated.
For the purposes of today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to share with you some information about how the Texas Foster Care System works. You may have seen news reports or read articles that have dealt with CPS and foster care. Odds are those reports were not positive in speaking about foster care in Texas. That is for good reason. However, there are instances where things work well for a child in foster care. If you are facing a CPS case then you need to know how these cases work and how foster care fits within the judicial system as a whole.
The Courts in a Texas CPS case
At the top of the court's structure in Texas is the Texas Supreme Court. This court hears appeals from lower-level courts in both criminal and civil cases. If the Texas Supreme Court chooses to hear an appeal on your case then its determination is final. Before your case reaches the Texas Supreme Court it could be heard by one of the fourteen intermediate courts of appeal- depending upon where you live in Texas.
However, the most likely venue for the majority of your interaction with the Texas judicial system is a district court in the county where you reside. These are courts that hear a variety of types of cases in your home county- both civil and criminal. Many times one or two particular courts will hear CPS cases in the larger counties in Texas. If you live in a smaller county, the county or district judge may hear a wide variety of cases.
Specialty CPS courts
Child protection courts were set up in Texas to help the district/county courts described above manage these sort of difficult abuse and neglect cases in smaller counties.
The judges to these courts are appointed by other judges in the area. These courts only hear matters related to CPS investigations dealing with abuse and/or neglect of children.
What is the timeline for a Texas CPS case
So you come home from work one day and find that there is a business card from a CPS caseworker by the door handle to your front door. You're not sure what the caseworker wants but you are worried about what is going to happen next? Did something happen to your child? You haven't heard anything from anyone yet, so you pick up your child and make an appointment with an attorney to see what could be going on.
Your first question may be what a CPS case looks like and how long the case could last for. Here is a timeline for CPS cases in Texas where your child is removed from your home due to concerns about their safety.
The Department of Family and Protective Services is appointed as a temporary managing conservator by judicial order.
Many times CPS will remove your child from your home due to an emergency condition. They will then need to seek a court order that allows them to have your child on a temporary basis. In other instances, CPS will believe that there is sufficient time to obtain a court order that allows them to remove your child. Either way, the case begins once that court order is obtained.
An Adversarial hearing is held. This will likely be the first time that you are in a courtroom with the CPS caseworker, their attorney, the judge and any other person who is a party to the case. This hearing is held to determine whether or not CPS and the DFPS have the continued need to keep your child out of your home.
If it is determined by the judge that the need continues to exist, you will be provided with visitation time with your child as well as a safety/service plan that details objectives and goals for you to meet for the return of your child.
A status hearing will be held about a month and a half after the adversarial hearing. The judge will bring back all the parties to the case to see how things are going.
CPS will have an opportunity to testify as to how your child is doing in temporary care. You will be able to discuss with the judge the progress you are making in completing the goals of your safety plan, and any other persons who are working with your child (therapists, court-appointed special advocates, attorneys ad litem) will likewise have that ability.
The judge will make a ruling as to whether or not DFPS should remain as the temporary managing conservator or if your child should be returned to your home.
A permanency hearing will take place approximately four months after the status hearing. This hearing will provide the court with an opportunity to be provided with assessments as to how well you are doing in terms of achieving the goals of your service plan, your safety plan as well as in the visitation opportunities that you have been provided with your child.
Depending on the goals of the case, you will either be asking the judge to have your child returned home to you, or you could find yourself arguing as to why your parental rights should not be terminated.
The goals of a CPS case are often reunification with you in your home or permanent placement of your child with a relative. The other possible outcome could be the termination of your parental rights, but this is usually only sought after in extreme and rare circumstances.
A second permanency hearing will be held at this stage. The purpose of this hearing is similar to the first permanency hearing, with all parties able to testify and address the judge. The major difference between the first and second permanency hearing is that your case is now approaching the one year mark where it will typically stand to be dismissed if no final order is issued.
As such, there is a particular amount of focus at this time in determining whether your case needs to proceed to a trial or if a decision can be reached prior to that date as to where your child will be living on a permanent basis.
From my experience, this is the time period that CPS will be working hard with you and any other persons involved in your case to try to settle the matter. If the goal of the case is to return your child to your home you should have completed all the goals set out for you in your safety and service plan.
Counseling, sobriety courses, anger management, parenting courses or simply updating or fixing a dangerous condition in your home are examples of goals that you will need to meet in order to have your child returned home. If you meet these goals, often times you will just need to have CPS draft final orders for all parties and the judge to sign
(or likely the Monday after): A trial will be held in your case or your case will be dismissed and your child returned to you. The reason that the court has to make a decision within a year is that the judge only has jurisdiction (authority to issue rulings/orders) for one year under most circumstances. The dismissal date of your case can be extended, however, for up to six months.
As you can see, most CPS cases conclude within one year of their beginning, with the remainder concluding within a year and a half. With so much that can go on in that time period, it is especially wise that you are taking the time now to learn about the case and what your role is within that case.
What happens in the event that the Department is named as the managing conservator of your child at the conclusion of the case?
Sometimes your child is not returned to you at the end of a CPS case. That does not mean, necessarily, that your parental rights have been terminated- just that you are not going to be the managing conservator of your child.
That means that CPS will care for your child on a daily basis and you will have visitation rights. CPS would place your child into foster care, place your child in a DFPS facility or even place your child in the home of a relative of yours.
In the event that the Department is named as the managing conservator of your child and your parental rights are still intact, the judge has to continue to review your case every six months after that until your child is either adopted or reaches the age of 18/graduates from high school.
Permanency is the main goal of a CPS case
Throughout the CPS case, no matter what stage you are in, the judge will be keeping an eye on whether or not CPS is making enough effort to achieve a permanent result for your child as far as residency is concerned. A family service plan will be created at the outset of your case that spells out the goal for permanency and what role you have to play in that goal.
You will be required to provide a safe environment for your child at a minimum, and may even need to take classes that will allow you develop parenting skills that it is believed that you are lacking in.
If at all possible, your child will not be removed from your home. It is only when it is determined that your child has no opportunity to live safely in your home that alternative living arrangements will be sought.
Interested in learning how a CPS case actually begins? Read tomorrow's blog post
If you are curious about the initial stages of a CPS case then stay tuned to our blog tomorrow. We will walk you through how a case begins with CPS, what is done in the investigation state and how and when your child can be removed from your home. In the event that you are just becoming aware that CPS is investigating your family, you need to be able to read this blog post to learn more.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we have covered today 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 questions and receive direct feedback from an attorney who practices in the family law courts of southeast Texas.
Thank you for showing an interest in our blog posts and in our office. We invite you to explore our website. We have biographies for each of our employees as well as a run-down of the services we provide clients. We look forward to you joining us tomorrow to learn more about this important subject.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- What you need to know about the Texas foster care system before a CPS case
- Foster Care, Child Protective Services and your Texas family
- Foster Care and its relation to your Texas CPS case
- Foster care examined in the context of a Child Protective Services case
- Family Law Cases in Texas: Examining the steps in a Child Protective Services case
- Managing a Family Law case in Texas
- Texas Family Courts: Child Protective Services, Part Two
- How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case, Part Two
- What to know about Child Protective Services
- Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation
- Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 2
- Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 3
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.