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Approaching a CPS case in Texas as a teenaged parent or as a parent who is in jail

Today’s blog post topics from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are intended for people who have children that are involved in Child Protective Services (CPS) cases who are either children themselves (teenagers) or are serving time behind bars in prison. In addition to these folks, you may be interested in these topics if you are the grandparent to a child who is involved in a CPS case. I have worked with the families of many persons who are serving time in prison who are advocating for them while they are not able to do so. Let’s first examine how teenagers should approach their CPS case.

Being a teenaged parent is tough; Being a teenaged parent in a CPS case is tougher

If you are under the age of 18 you can either be involved in a CPS case as a child, if you have been abused or neglected by someone, or as a parent- if you have a child and have reportedly engaged in abusive or neglectful behavior of that child. In some situations, you may even find yourself involved in a CPS case as both the victim as a parent who is being investigated.

Just because you are a teenager does not mean that you owe your child a lesser amount of care. The law in Texas applies equally to parents across the board- your income level, age, socio-economic class, race, gender, etc. have no bearing on this discussion. If a person calls CPS and makes a report against you in regard to allegedly abusing or neglecting your child, then there is a chance that your parental rights could be terminated. It is crucial, therefore, that you understand what your rights are and know how to protect them as best as you can.

Being a teenager, you are eligible to receive special assistance from CPS. If you need help to finish high school you may be able to ask for and receive assistance from the state in caring for your child while you attend classes. Another example of extra care that you can receive as a teenager would help directly from CPS in helping you navigate your life after you have completed your Service Plan. Basic life steps such as opening a bank account, getting your driver's license or finding child care for your son/daughter can be received with the assistance of CPS.

How to handle a CPS case as an incarcerated parent

It typically does not matter if you are incarcerated or not- your parental rights are the same as any other parent in Texas. The reality of the situation, however, is that because you are behind bars you are not able to take part in all the activities of your child’s life as you otherwise would be able to. With that said, you are still legally entitled to receiving information about your CPS case.

Court hearings, information about where and with whom your child is residing, and any services that are available to you while you are incarcerated are examples of things that you have a right to take advantage of and be aware of while your CPS case is ongoing. If you have relatives that are fit to care for your child while he or she is involved in the CPS case you have a right to share those persons’ names with your CPS caseworker. Finally, you should be able to request the names and phone numbers for your CPS caseworker and their supervisor. These people will be your points of contact moving forward in your CPS case.

Depending on the location of the facility where you are staying, your child’s caseworker may be able to come by and meet with you in person to discuss the case. A major factor will be if your child lives close to where your facility is. Otherwise, you will likely receive the majority of updates about their case in the mail.

Does CPS have a right to take your child into their care just because you are in jail?

You need to be able to care for and supervise your child to keep him or her safe. There is no exception to this law if you are in prison. Your parental rights can be terminated by a court if it is determined that your incarceration leaves your child without appropriate supervision or if the home your child is living in is not safe. Therefore, your incarceration alone can be grounds for terminating your parental rights due to neglect.

How to help out in your CPS case

It is not a good idea to believe that just because you are serving a prison sentence that you are unable to assist in your child’s CPS case. You should make a list of every person in your life who is willing to care for your child in the event that he or she needs to be removed from their current home. Your lawyer can provide this list to CPS. If you do not have a lawyer that information should be provided directly to a CPS caseworker. If you do not provide this list to CPS then the odds that your child will need to reside in foster care for the duration of the CPS case increases.

Depending on your circumstances you may be able to take part in the classes and programs offered to parents in your child’s case. Parenting courses, drug/alcohol treatment, job training, counseling sessions and things of this nature are commonly offered to parents who are involved in CPS cases. If you are able to leave the prison for short periods then these programs will be available to you as well.

It is your responsibility to stay up to date with your child and their case. Any letters that are sent to you by CPS need to be read. If you cannot understand them you should ask someone at the prison or a family member to explain to you their purpose. If you send out documents to CPS you should keep copies for yourself. Finally, keep a calendar with important dates in the case for future reference.

The effect of your criminal charges on your CPS case

If you are in prison or jail for charges that are related to the report that CPS received involving your child, you will need to speak to your attorney about how those criminal charges can affect your CPS case. Keep in mind that the services you participate in with CPS and the things you tell CPS may be admissible in a criminal court. It is very likely, also, that the attorney for CPS will have spoken to the prosecuting attorney in your criminal case and they will have exchanged information and perspective about each case with one another.

How often (if at all) will you be able to see your child during the case?

CPS will likely be in a position where they will be entrusted with your child's well-being during the CPS case. That person will play the central role in determining how much contact you will be able to have with your child. It could be that the reason you find yourself in prison is that you abused your child. In circumstances like those, it is less likely that you will be allowed contact with your child due to the recent history of physical harm that you caused your child. However, your being in prison or jail is not sufficient to cause in and of itself to keep you from seeing your child.

If you are able to see your child then you will be able to take advantage of a few options when it comes to being able to see him or her. It is possible that you will be able to see your child in person but this largely depends on the rules of the facility where you are incarcerated. Writing letters, talking on the phone or sharing a video chat session are other options that may be available to you if the CPS caseworker allows it.

To increase the chances of your being awarded visitation with your child you can take advantage of parenting courses that are made available to you as a result of your involvement with CPS. These courses are intended to help you improve your parenting skills and often times focus on conflict management and things of that nature.

Classes are often times held during the week and you are required to remain on good behavior for the duration of your case and incarceration. You can talk to the people in your facility about what other programs may be available to help you.

What ability will you have to attend court hearings in your CPS case?

This is the question that I receive the most from relatives of persons who are incarcerated. Obviously, your ability to make it to court on a daily basis is not as strong as a person who is not incarcerated. Your ability to attend these hearings will depend in large part on what Texas county you reside in. In some counties, a judge can issue a warrant that allows you to be taken from jail/prison to the courthouse for a hearing. If you have an attorney you need to let him or she knows if you want to attend the hearing. My suggestion would be that you should try to attend court as frequently as possible.

What happens in the event that there is domestic violence in the home?

Your children can be removed from your home by CPS even if they have not been physically harmed by the domestic violence. Domestic violence is a safety concern. If you have unfortunately been put into a position where you have been the victim of domestic violence then you are not in a position to protect your children during the times where you are being abused yourself. In addition to actual, physical abuse, your children are at an increased risk of suffering emotional abuse if they have witnessed the domestic violence occur. I have seen some children attempt to help or protect a parent from harm and they are harmed as a result of interceding in that way.

It is a sad position to be in, but if you choose not to leave your abusive partner your parental rights can be terminated. That person needs to be removed from your home. If you fail to take steps to remove that person from your home it could be seen by CPS as an indication that you are not willing to take the steps necessary to protect your children from harm.

If you seek refuge in a domestic violence shelter it is not certain that CPS will become involved in your life. CPS will only become involved with your family if a report is issued that alleges abuse or neglect in your child’s life. Seeking shelter outside of your home and in a safe place is a responsible decision.

Were CPS to become involved in your life after you sought shelter in a domestic violence facility, CPS will not disclose your location to your spouse or partner. If you are worried that your abusive spouse will become aware of where you are living then you should speak to CPS about that.

What can happen if you are not able to care for your child?

In tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss what can happen if you find yourself in circumstances where you are unable to care for your child. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we 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. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback on your circumstances. We take a great deal of pride in serving our community and appreciate the time you shared with us today.

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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, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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