It is a helpless feeling to be involved in a Child Protective Services (CPS) case in Texas. I have, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to speak to a parent who has any sort of interaction with CPS and has told me that the experience was straightforward. It is not uncommon for these parents to tell me that they were misled, lied to or not communicated with for days or even weeks at a time. All of this goes on while your child is removed from your home and taken to live at a relative or complete stranger's home. To say that parents that go through CPS cases are under a great deal of stress, much of it caused by CPS itself is an understatement from my experiences.
Despite the problems that arise in CPS cases, you should not and cannot lose hope in your abilities to represent yourself and your child as well as possible. Certainly hiring an experienced CPS attorney, like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, can help. Beyond that, there are tips that you can implement in your own life to improve your mental outlook and chances at having your children returned to you. That is what we will be discussing in our blog post today.
Representing yourself means being assertive for you and your child
If you don't ask, the answer is always, "No." That is something that my grandmother told me a lot when I was younger. Basically, it means that if you don't stand up for yourself you will never get the results that you want. You can ask for something and the answer you receive could be "yes" or "no." Either way, you have a chance of getting what you want. If you fail to ask, for whatever reason, your problem will not be addressed. There is a chance that you could get what you want but it is unlikely, even in the best of circumstances. CPS cases are not the best of circumstances.
CPS caseworkers are overworked and underpaid. These folks do a tough job. I am not here to defend CPS or their employees, but they do have hectic schedules and are charged with keeping track of dozens of families at any given time. So, if you don’t speak up for yourself the people working on your case will certainly not do so. They don’t have the motivation and they don’t have the time to devote to you. That doesn’t mean that they are working against you or anything like that. It’s a simple reflection of their workload.
The bottom line is that if you don't stand up for yourself nobody will do so. Your attorney can and will once he or she becomes involved, but prior to hiring an attorney, you are the person who is in charge of your case. Don't rely on a CPS employee to provide you with updates. You need to ask for them. If something doesn't make sense to you, ask questions and do not stop until you understand. Remember this isn't a misunderstanding you're having about your cable bill- this is your child we're talking about.
This can often time mean calling a CPS employee as often as it takes to get a return phone call. Calling one time to confirm an appointment with the case manager and supervisor does not mean giving up if you get their voicemail. Keep calling. If you have a full-time job, consider your child's CPS case as your second full-time job. Devote yourself to the case as fully as possible. Keep yourself organized. Save every document that you possibly can. Use blog posts like this and others that you find online as resources to learn how to best proceed with your case.
Keep in touch with the CPS caseworker
Even if you are not the biggest fan of your CPS caseworker assigned to work with you, it is essential that you be able to work with him or her to complete whatever steps are necessary to have your child returned to you or to have your case closed. Your caseworker will have a supervisor and you should ask for their name as well. That way you can have two person’s information to follow up with in the future.
Take it upon yourself to complete the necessary steps in your case
If you have gone to court and have been ordered to attend counseling or therapy for an addiction or anger management problem, you could choose to wait for the CPS caseworker to find you a class to take. Or, you could seek whatever resources you are able to and update your caseworker as you do so. Once you have found people to help you let the caseworker know so that she can give you the go-ahead to proceed.
If the judge issues orders in your case are sure to follow them exactly
After court appearances (known as hearings), the judge may issue rulings that order you to do or not do a certain activity. Sometimes these orders will not be in your favor, other times they may be ones that you agree with. Regardless, it is important for you to be able to follow the instructions from the judge and to do exactly as you are instructed. You are not waiving your right to stand up for yourself by following the instructions of a judge. You are participating in the process, and that is a large part of the battle to get your child back home.
Standing up for your children during a CPS case
Just because you are not with your children physically does not mean that you can't take an active and involved role in their well-being on a day to day basis. No matter how you feel- scared, angry, frustrated- your child likely feels those same emotions on an even more enhanced level. Help yourself and your child by doing whatever you can to help him or she makes it through this period as easily as possible.
Communicate with the caseworker
If it comes to a point where your child has to be removed from your house temporarily you need to share with him or her any information that you know of that can help in caring for your child. Does your child have any dietary restrictions? Are there medications that your child needs to take? What about educational needs that should be addressed? Whatever special circumstances your child as you need to share them with the caseworker. Do not assume that he or she is aware of those needs or can “figure them out.” You need to take the proactive step and inform him or her of those needs.
Putting your child at ease during a CPS case
If your child is removed from your home you should not panic. There is nothing permanent about that- at least yet. You should do whatever you can to help your child transition into their new living environment. As I mentioned earlier, it may be that your child will be living with a relative or it could be that he or she is sent to live with a foster family. Either way, let's talk about what things you can do to help him or she adapt to their new living environment.
CPS will allow you some time to pack up some of your child's belongings. This will occur before your child is removed or after if CPS believes that there is an emergency situation that required the immediate removal of your child. You should collect your child's clothes, toys and other items that can remind him or her of home and give those to the caseworker. You won't be able to pack up a lot of their belongings but some things are better than none.
When you get an opportunity, speak to whoever will be caring for your child on a daily basis to inform him or her of your child’s schedule. If your child plays a sport or participates in an extracurricular activity then you should bring that to the caretaker’s attention. There is no guarantee that your child will be able to maintain the same schedule that he did at home with you, but you can at least alert the caretaker to the events.
You should hire an attorney as soon as possible after becoming involved in a CPS case
Even though it may feel like you are getting run over by your CPS case that does not mean that you have no rights at all. It is not required of CPS to inform you of your rights and there is no point in the process where things will stop to allow you to catch your breath and figure out what you can and cannot do in the context of this case. It is your responsibility to learn your rights and act on them when appropriate.
For instance, you have the right to hire an attorney to represent you in your child’s case. CPS cases can potentially result in your parental rights being terminated as a worst-case scenario. In that situation, you have the right to have the court appoint an attorney for you if it is shown that you cannot afford to hire one yourself. Make sure that you raise this point to the judge in an initial hearing- although he or she should do so without your asking.
It is a needs-based analysis that will be performed to determine whether or not you need to have an attorney appointed to represent you. A good rule of thumb to figure out whether or not you will likely qualify to have an attorney appointed to represent you is whether you are already receiving a government benefit like food stamps. If you are, you will likely qualify to receive free legal assistance in your case.
CPS must notify you of any court dates or other important events
CPS cannot simply barge into your life and begin an investigation without first telling you why they are investigating your family. If CPS has met with your child they must tell you this as well. Finally, CPS must also tell you once their investigation is complete. Be aware, however, that I have spoken with a handful of parents who are going through CPS cases in recent months and they have told me that CPS will not always satisfy this burden.
CPS must give you information regarding hearing dates and other courtroom activities. You have the right to attend any hearing in your case as well as mediation or family group conference. Mediation brings together all the parties to your case and attempts to work out a resolution without having to go through more hearings and a possible trial.
You still have the right to see your child
Just because CPS has temporary custody of your child does not mean that you have lost your right to see your child and spend time with him or her. After taking custody of your child you have the right to see your child at most five days after the removal. A visitation schedule can be worked out with the CPS caseworker. While your visits may be restricted as far as time is concerned, it will do a great deal of good for you and your child to be able to spend some time together.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- 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 Essentials for Texas Families
- CPS and how The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC can help
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Texas Child Visitation Modification
- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Supervised Visitation in a Texas Divorce: Can it happen to me?
- Protective Orders in Texas Family Law Cases
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 defenseLawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our CPS defenselawyers 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.