While Child Protective Services (CPS) has an open case into your family you will come into contact with a number of persons who are involved with investigating whether or not abuse or neglect occurred in relation to a child in your home. Your CPS caseworker will be your primary point of contact, but supervisors, therapists, counselors and attorneys will all be working on your case in tandem with one another.
You need to understand their roles in your case as well as how you can utilize your interactions with each in order to have your child returned to your home as quickly as possible. You will not have an unlimited amount of time to make an impression on each person. Quite the contrary, you will have a very limited amount of time with which you can build a good relationship with these people. While they are not the ultimate decision makers in your case, it is the case that each of them can speak to the judge about the progress you are making.
The importance of building a relationship with your CPS caseworker
The caseworker assigned to work with you and your family from CPS is the most important person in your case, other than you and your child. This person will be the coordinator of any service that you receive (such as drug or alcohol counseling) and will also be the one to arrange visitation sessions between you and your child once he or she has been removed from your home. In addition to these important roles, the CPS caseworker will be present in every hearing before the judge and can testify to the progress you are making in remaining sober, becoming a responsible parent, etc.
On the other hand, if you are not going through treatment as you had agreed to in your safety or service plan, are not taking advantage of every opportunity you have to see your child or are staying at home while you should be at work, the CPS caseworker will need to make the judge aware of this as well. If your CPS case goes all the way to a trial then your caseworker would be the person who is responsible for testifying as to why your parental rights should be terminated.
Make no mistake, the CPS caseworker can determine the outcome of your case. Your attorney has a limited opportunity to speak to the caseworker so do not expect that your attorney will be able to exert a great deal of influence over him or her. Overall, caseworkers are trying to do the best they can. However, do not allow yourself to fall into the trap that your caseworker has a “heart” for your case and is sympathetic towards you or your family. Your caseworker is underpaid and overworked and probably couldn’t identify your case from any of their other cases based on your name alone.
Communication with your caseworker is essential to having a good relationship with him or her. If you can be respectful and attempt to meet your caseworker in the middle (regarding your position and theirs) then you will be better off. I have stood next to caseworkers in hearings before and have seen them look dismissively towards parents who are literally weeping a few feet away. I can see when a parent treats a caseworker poorly what kind of effect it has on the opinion of the caseworker during a hearing. Their body language reflects an attitude that they do not take the parent seriously and are not going to be willing to provide positive testimony for the parent. Keep this in mind when you get upset with and are tempted to say something negative towards a CPS caseworker.
Other people that are involved in your CPS case
In addition to caseworkers, you will likely be exposed to a number of other people who are involved in your child’s CPS case. These people who provide you with services like alcohol and drug counseling, will often times be asked to testify in hearings or trials. Their opinions matter and the services they are able to provide to you during your case are important to your development as a parent and your ability to provide your child with a safe living environment.
Keep in mind that while your CPS case is the most important thing in the world to you, this is likely not going to be the case for the person working it alongside you. In fact, I can almost assure you that the service providers will not share your passion for your child. You may get to a point where you feel that your CPS caseworker is not being helpful. You should do whatever you can to work with this person and to show him or her that you are willing and able to be a diligent and hard-working parent.
You are best served to be honest with these service providers and to let them know if you think that has been a problem developing in your relationship. You may find that the person shares your opinion and that there is a way to work the problem out. If there is not, you can always ask the person to help you find a person who is better suited to helping you and your family.
Collect information from your caseworker and then communicate
Many of us in today’s world are not good communicators. We take all the different means by which we can communicate for granted and resort to texts and Facebook messages instead of actual phone calls. I have had clients who have told me that emails are too time intensive for them to respond to. I never thought we would get to a point where typing a few sentences into a box was too time intensive, but here we are.
With hat said I have found that the following tips and tricks are helpful when it comes to establishing a good relationship with your caseworker and anyone else who is involved in your CPS case.
Make sure at the beginning of your case that you take down the name, phone number, email address and physical office location of your CPS caseworker. Your caseworker will have a supervisor who will also be involved in making decisions regarding your case. Make sure that you take down their information as well. Then, take the information and put it into your phone. It is almost unimaginable for a person not to have a cell phone in 2019. Use your phone to your advantage. Don’t just put the business card with this information into your sock drawer, never to be seen again. Have it handy in case you have a question or require a status update.
Next, you should work with your CPS caseworker to learn what their schedule is. For example, if your caseworker is always in court for other cases on Wednesday mornings then you would be wise to not contact the caseworker at these times. Instead of trying in vain to get a hold of the caseworker or supervisor during times when they are not available you are better off trying to learn their schedule to have a better chance of success at reaching him or her.
Many people do not leave voicemails when they reach the message on your cell phone. I have clients who will call me and then will not leave a message. It is helpful to leave a message when you do not know or recognize the phone number that has called you. I understand not leaving a voicemail on your mom’s cellphone because she probably has your name and number programmed into her phone. However, it is unlikely that your CPS caseworker does. A short message with your name, contact number and reason for calling will work just fine.
Keep track of every time you reach out to your caseworker and the result of that phone call. If he or she has not called, you back in weeks you can go to the judge in your next hearing and tell him or her about it with some certainty about dates/times. Even better, if you can reach your caseworker’s supervisor you may be able to convince him or her to assign your case to a different caseworker if you can show that yours has not been communicating with you.
Overall, do not immediately resort to contacting a CPS supervisor, a judge, or anyone else like this if your caseworker does not immediately call you back. Yes, CPS caseworkers do have reputations for not calling people back as quickly as they should. Yes, CPS caseworkers are busy and may not get around to calling you back until a few days later. However, you should address these concerns with your caseworker, their supervisor and your attorney before speaking to anyone else. You risk alienating your caseworker by bad-mouthing him or her to their superiors or to the judge.
Managing visitation sessions with your child during a CPS case
You must be able to have an opportunity to visit with your child no longer than five days after CPS has removed your child from your home and gained a temporary managing conservatorship over him or her. The next step in this process is for CPS to work with you to develop a visitation schedule for you and your child. If CPS believes that you present a risk of harm to your child then your visitation may be restricted or eliminated altogether until you can show that you do not present a risk of harm to your child.
A judge can intervene and decide that visitation needs to be supervised or unsupervised for you and your child, depending on the specific safety needs of your case. Where the visits occur, who will be doing the visitation and who else may be present are all important factors in this analysis.
Make no mistake, your ability to visit with your child during the CPS case is one of the most important rights you will be given. These visits allow you to maintain a relationship with your child during a difficult part of your lives but will also provide you with an opportunity to show CPS that you are capable of loving and caring for your child in a safe environment.
Determining whether your visitation will be supervised or unsupervised
Supervised visitation means that someone will be present with you and your child when you are able to spend time with him or her. Supervised visitation occurs when a judge is concerned with the safety and well-being of your child and believes that it is not in their best interest to have direct contact with you without someone observing that interaction. Your behavior will be monitored and if the supervisor believes your child’s well-being is at risk of harm during the visitation session the supervisor will intervene.
Usually the CPS caseworker will be the one to supervise at least the first few sessions of visitation that you have with your child. A family member or friend may be able to supervise later sessions. It could be that after a number of positive supervised visitation sessions that the judge allows you to have unsupervised visits with your child. It is not uncommon to have supervised visits for the first few months of your involvement with CPS, so do not be discouraged if you do not gain unsupervised visits for some time.
More about supervised visits will be posted in tomorrow’s blog post
If you have any questions about supervised visitation, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We will be writing more about this subject tomorrow, but if you have questions in the meantime please let us know. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to meet with you to discuss your case and address your concerns. Our office works on behalf of people in our community just like you and we take a great deal of pride in being able to do so.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- 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
- 16 Steps to help you Plan and Prepare for your Texas Divorce
- How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case
- Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case
- Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
- Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
- The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids
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.