Some of the most frustrating and sad cases that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC work on for our clients are those that center around Child Protective Services (CPS) investigations. If you are a parent then you can feel a certain sense of anxiety and dread when it comes to thoughts concerning other people coming into your child’s life and dictating how their life is led. We can take for granted the ability that we have as parents to have rights and duties in relation to our children. When CPS becomes involved those rights and duties are put in jeopardy- both in the present and in the future.
Why does CPS come into some families’ lives? What could you have done that caused CPS involvement? These questions and more will be the topics of todays’ blog post as we seek to find answers and provide context for this important area of family law in Texas.
What causes CPS to become involved in your and your child’s lives?
CPS is a part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and seeks to protect the children of our state. Specifically, the agency provides a toll free hotline for people to call in the event that someone has information about potential abuse or neglect of a child. An anonymous tipster can call in to the hotline and speak to a call center representative who will then notify CPS caseworkers in the area of the state where the alleged abuse or neglect has occurred.
CPS is obligated to look into the veracity of every single allegation of abuse or neglect of a child that is made to them. Whether or not a full fledged investigation will occur is an entirely different story, but if there is any indication that abuse or neglect did occur you will likely be receiving a visit from a CPS caseworker.
How CPS will make contact with you and possibly your child
In the course of the investigation into the abuse or neglect, CPS will likely come to your home and speak with you directly about the purpose of their visit and what is being alleged. Do not expect CPS to make known to you the specifics of what is being investigated but it is likely that the worker will want to see your child and assess whether or not something is visibly wrong.
It is your decision as to whether or not you will participate in their investigation. You do not have to open up your door to speak to a CPS caseworker. You do not have to allow the caseworker access to your child when your child is at your house. If, however, your child is at school and you are not there, a caseworker does not have to seek your permission to interview your child at their school. Nor does their school have to inform you that an interview took place on school grounds.
How to avoid having your child go into the temporary care of CPS
One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive in regard to CPS investigations is what can be done to avoid having your child go into CPS care as a result of an allegation of abuse or neglect. This is the truly intimidating parts of a CPS case- the concern that parents like you have regarding the potential to lose control of your children as a result of an anonymous tip made to CPS.
If CPS were to take possession of your child and exert temporary conservatorship rights and duties over him or her, it would be based on either a court order that has granted CPS this right or on emergency circumstances that justified CPS intervening. To avoid this situation you should cooperate as fully as you are able with the investigation. The fact is that CPS will need to determine that the risk of harm to your child is low if he or she were to remain living with you. If there is doubt about this, or concerns are not dealt with by you directly then CPS may be justified in removing your child.
CPS will conduct a series of interviews in order to substantiate or rule out allegations of abuse of neglect of your child. You, your spouse, family members and anyone who lives in your household will likely be interviewed. Medical requests will be requested and you will be asked to sign a release that allows CPS to get access to this sensitive information. A case can be closed with little to no time spent on it if there is no substance to the abuse or neglect allegation. In the alternative, CPS can close an investigation but still require that you check in periodically with a CPS caseworker. In extreme situations your child can be removed from your home, as we just discussed.
The legal process of CPS removing your child from your home
If CPS does decide to remove your child from your home due to safety concerns it will likely be done before the investigation has concluded. A Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) will be filed in the county where you and your child reside in order so that an emergency order that allows your child to be removed from your home. The order would come out of a hearing that CPS’ attorney would have with a juvenile court judge. The attorney would present whatever evidence it has to the judge in order to justify the removal and continued custody with CPS. All of this must occur within one working day of your child being removed from your home.
An adversarial hearing allows you to fight back after your child is removed from your home
Within fourteen days of your child being removed from your home and placed into the temporary care of CPS, the law requires that a hearing be held where the burden is on the state to allow for themselves to continue to operate as a temporary managing conservator of your child. You and CPS would present evidence to the judge as to why your child should either remain in CPS custody or go home to you.
Avoid a hearing by working with CPS
Keep in mind that the reality of a CPS case is that things do not have to get to the point where CPS is asking a judge to remain on as a conservator of your child for the foreseeable future. By hiring an experienced family law attorney with a background in working for people who have been adversely affected by a CPS investigation, you can help to ensure that you and your child are not separated. Your attorney can help prepare you for interviews and interactions with CPS. If you have never been involved in a situation like this before you may not know how to conduct yourself. An experienced attorney will show you how to address a CPS caseworker and answer their questions.
Your attorney can also help you to minimize future risks to your child. If there are conditions in your home, people in your life or other issues that need to be mitigated and avoided your attorney can help you to identify those future risks and remove them from your life.
Keep in mind that while a CPS case may seem daunting, it does not actually have to be that way. Enlisting the support, advice and care of an experienced family law attorney can help you and your family avoid unnecessary difficulties that sometimes come with CPS cases.
Questions about CPS cases and family law in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
The attorneys with theLaw Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like to thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog post. If you have any additional questions about CPS cases or other issues that are affecting your life in the area of family law please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with a licensed family law attorney.