If you have multiple children that are involved in a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation, then the agency will make every effort to place those children in the same living environment for the duration of the case. Of course, if there are safety concerns with placing the children together then that is a relevant factor to explore alternative living arrangements.
In the event that your children are not placed together initially by CPS, then the caseworker assigned to work with your children will need to make an effort to reunite your children as quickly as possible. Regular visitation for your children with one another is part of the plan during the times in which your children are not residing together.
As a result of the need for your children to visit with one another during a CPS case, a sibling visitation plan will be included within the visitation plan that you have with your children. The behavioral needs of each of your children will need to be considered prior to come up with this sibling visitation plan.
The guidance that may be relevant when coming up with a sibling visitation plan
There are a number of factors that are in play when it comes to determining how best to structure visitation between your children during a CPS case. We have gone over a few with you already in today’s blog post, but I would like to share with you some other considerations that you and the CPS caseworker should keep in mind.
Although you will have very little control over this, you should keep your eye how CPS is able to talk to your children’s foster family(is) about the importance of maintaining those siblings' relationships. Keeping up with the contact that these kids have with one another is probably the most important part of doing this. If CPS can encourage foster families to allow the children to be in contact with each other as much as possible this is a good start.
-the word “therapy” still has negative connotations with many people, but I don’t think that it should. Your children have likely experienced and seen things in their young lives that they have difficulty processing. For this reason, therapy and counseling can be extremely beneficial to your children. You should encourage your children to attend therapy sessions and to do so with an open mind. During these planning sessions with CPS if you have not been able to talk to with the CPS caseworker about the availability of therapy for your children it is a good idea to do so
Things like birthdays, holidays and other life events should be celebrated together if at all possible. Do not underestimate how your children will be able to remember these events as they grow older and rely upon their siblings more and more. Even if you are not able to celebrate all of these events with your kids that should not stop your children from doing so together.
Who else may be able to attend visitation sessions with you?
No matter what level of supervised visitation you have with your children during their CPS case, it is a good idea that you and your spouse work with your caseworker to determine what additional family members (if any) would like to participate in the visitation. For big families, it could mean that there are a handful of people that would be interested in being able to spend time with your children together.
The caseworker will then need to make a determination as to the strength of the bond between your child and that family member. The people with whom your child has a stronger bond will be given preference when it comes to deciding who needs to be present for these visitation sessions. Another consideration that is relevant is whether or not that family member presents any safety concerns in regard to your child. Is that family member named in the CPS investigation as a person who may have been involved in abuse or neglect? Even if that family member's involvement in abuse or neglect was "ruled out" it is still important that your child is kept safe from harm.
The focus of every visitation session with your child is the parent-child relationship that you share. Other people may have good intentions and a sincere desire to spend time with your child. However, if there is a risk that this person’s presence could overshadow the parent-child bonding time then it is likely that this person will not be able to attend the visitation session with you.
What happens if you engage in negative behavior in relation to a visitation session?
Unfortunately, it can happen that you are not able to act in ways that are appropriate when visiting with your child. These are emotional visits and you should take the emotional aspects of the case seriously. Emotions can cause us to feel strange and those strange feelings can cause you to act atypically. So what could happen to you if you do something during a visitation session that is determined to be inappropriate?
Missing visits with your child without first providing notice of your intention to miss the session, making unrealistic promises to your child about when he or she will be able to return home or engaging in behavior that could harm your relationship with your child are just a few examples of behavior that you should definitely avoid. In the event that any of these things happen with your case, there are some factors that CPS will take into consideration.
Your absence from a scheduled visit with your child will be less disruptive to your child’s schedule if the visit can be planned within the normal, natural events that take place in your child’s home life. Visits with your child can occur in the home of one of your relatives where your child can also visit with extended family and friends in addition to you. This way your absence will not be felt as acutely as if the visitation session was with you alone.
Can your visitation plan be changed during the CPS case?
On a monthly basis, CPS will work with you to review the visitation plan that had been created previously in order to determine whether or not it is still appropriate for your family. Dynamics within the case change, your needs change and so do your child’s. CPS cases can last up to one year in length so I’m sure you can imagine that the needs of your family may not be exactly the same from the beginning of the year until the end.
For instance, in addition, to have a visitation plan you will also have a safety plan and service plan that you are expected to keep track of. These plans will outline goals that you are to achieve in order to have your child return to your home, gain more visitation during the CPS case or a combination of the two. Sometimes those goals need to be modified during a case. Sometimes those goals need to be added to if other events arise that were previously unforeseen. The visitation you have with your child can depend in large part on these factors.
If you meet the goals set forth in your safety plan and/or service plan it is probable that CPS will work with you to reduce the level of supervision that you have during visits with your child. Many times you will be able to have unsupervised visitation with your child if CPS does not perceive you to be a threat on any level to your child’s physical health and well-being.
On the other hand, if it is found that you have not made the anticipated progress in developing and learning the actions needed to parent your child safely additional action will need to be taken by you and by CPS. A meeting should be called wherein your caseworker and you can amend the visitation plan to allow for you to continue to work on your goals and to help you better parent your child on a daily basis. The goals that you arrived at in your safety plan and service plan may have to be altered slightly as a result.
Where exactly do the visitation sessions with your child occur during a Texas CPS case?
The visitation environment that you are able to take advantage of with your child should be as close to a home-like an environment as possible. Whatever setting you are placed into it should help to facilitate your ability to interact with your child. That is what these visitation sessions are all about.
The office of your CPS caseworker is one venue that is often utilized for visitation sessions. A public place like a park, library, museum, playground or even a restaurant may work well for you and your child. Or, as we discussed earlier, the home of your child’s foster family may be a good place to consider as well. Finally, if you are able to meet the goals of your case it could get to the point where your home or that of a family member can be utilized for visitation sessions as well.
How often will you be able to visit with your child during a Texas CPS case?
As we have already stated a handful of times in today’s blog post, the main purpose of visitation during a CPS case is to allow you to continue to bond with your child during what can be a long CPS case. Your relationship with your child is a lens through which your child views the outside world. By learning how to form bonds with you as a parent, your child is also learning how to form bonds with people outside of your family.
Depending on how old your child is and what developmental needs she has, you will be able to have more or less frequent visits with your child. As with everything else in your CPS case, the visitation sessions that you are awarded your child will need to be consistent with whatever the permanency goals are as established the court.
Infant and Toddler visitation during a Texas CPS case
If your children are very young it is more likely that they will need to have more consistent physical contact with you in order to maintain a strong bond. Think about the moment that your child was born. The first thing that the nurses likely did was plop that baby down on your chest (if you are the child’s mother) in order to begin that bonding process. That level of connection can be harmed if you are physically separated from your young child for an extended period of time.
The caseworker’s responsibility is to identify those people in your child’s life who are important and to arrange visitation with those people as frequently as possible. Separation anxiety is a real concern when it comes to children that are under the age of four. Keeping your child’s safety in mind the more time the better when it comes to being able to spend time with your child who is of this age group.
Interested in learning more about child visitation during a CPS case? Stay tuned to our blog tomorrow
In tomorrow’s blog post we will pick up where we left off by discussing how older children’s needs are considered in regard to scheduling visitation with you during a CPS case. We hope that the information shared today has been helpful to you.
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 learn about our office and to have our attorneys provide you with direct responses to your questions about your family.