When we feel like we are not in control of a situation it can be a very uncomfortable feeling. It’s like being behind the wheel of a car on the freeway and realizing that the brakes aren’t working. Traffic is slowing down up ahead and you have no way to stop the car. That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach is exactly what I am talking about. Child Protective Services (CPS) cases are ones that involve the possible loss of your child from your home and the termination of your rights to parent your child moving forward. If there was ever a time for you to feel a loss of control, it would be during a CPS case.
What’s more, CPS does nothing to help you feel like you have any power in your case. In fact, it is my experience that CPS will go out of their way to cause you to feel like you are not in control and that you are merely a part of a much larger process. You’re riding the wave just like everyone else that is involved. The problem is that most of the time you’ll feel like you are beneath the waves rather than riding on top.
The blog posts from the past few days and today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is intended to help you to feel like it is possible to regain some of the control that CPS takes from you when your child is removed from your home. The reasons why your child may be removed could be suspect or lacking in merit. I don't doubt that. Eventually, however, CPS will need to present actual evidence to a judge in order to justify the continued removal of your child from your home. The question will be you diligent enough in advocating for yourself and your child along the way to have your child returned to you as early as possible?
Participate in any planning that you are able to do as far as permanency meetings are concerned
The end goal of a CPS case is to establish a permanency plan for your child. A permanency plan is a plan where your child’s permanent home will be established by operation of a court order. That permanent home can be back with you and your family or could end up being with a relative or foster family. How this outcome is established is based in large part on your own actions.
Most of the time, the goal of CPS will be to place your child back in your home. Despite how it can seem, their goal is not to remove your child from your home permanently. However, there will always be a backup plan that is worked on in order to help your child remain safe wherever that ends up being. Living with a relative on a full-time basis or even being adopted are examples of the sort of back up plans that CPS will have available to them if your home is not a suitable option for permanent placement.
Meetings will be held and set up by CPS where the topic of your child’s permanency plan will be discussed. The progress that you are making towards the return of your child will be a major topic and will require that you show evidence of your following the goals as set forth in your planning with CPS as far as keeping your home safe. That could mean repairing dangerous conditions, removing persons who offer a significant risk of harm to your child or even taking classes that are intended to improve various aspects of your parenting. You will need to attend any permanency meeting that is held and to have your lawyer go with you as well.
Keep any copy of the judge’s orders at your house
If you go to court and the judge issues orders you have a right to request a copy of those orders for your review. The court order will state what happened in the hearing and will give orders that you need to comply with. These are the guidelines that you can use to eventually have your child returned to your home. Ask your attorney for copies of these orders and ask him or her to explain anything that you do not understand.
What you will encounter in a CPS Case
CPS will aim to treat all persons, regardless of sex, race, culture, etc., equally. If money has played a significant role in problems you have experienced in raising your child then you should know that this cannot be something that can be used to take your child away from you. Not being wealthy or even being able to pay all of your bills is no reason for your child to be removed from your house. Often times people tell themselves that they are being “bullied” because they are “not rich.” While CPS is far from perfect, this is an excuse more so than an explanation. Remember that if you have aspects of your parenting that you need to work on a CPS case is a great place to start that process.
Your CPS caseworker will help you to implement a Service Plan that will outline what is required of you to have your child returned to your home. What you need to improve on as well as what your strengths are as a parent will be focused upon in this Service Plan. If you are engaging in behaviors that are unsafe for your child you may not even be aware of them. We learn parenting skills from our own parents and/or the people in our communities. If you have developed habits that are not safe you need to know about them. There is no shame in learning how to better operate your household. You have the opportunity and the duty to have a say in creating the Service Plan.
Why is CPS even involved with you and your family?
CPS operates within the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). This state agency is charged with the responsibility of keeping children in Texas safe from abuse or neglect. CPS accepts phone calls on an anonymous hotline where people can call in to report instances of abuse and/or neglect of a child.
Abuse and neglect, defined
Abuse is a physical, emotional, sexual or mental injury caused to a child. You can be in a position where you did not injure your child but you may be found to be an alleged abuser, nonetheless. You need to be able to take steps to protect your child from being the victim of abuse at the hands of another person.
Neglect occurs when you do not meet the basic physical, mental or emotional needs of your child. The definition of neglect can be met much easier than for abuse, however. As such most CPS cases involve allegations of neglect, rather than abuse. Neglect has a much broader definition and can be met by a parent who allows their child to live in a dirty house or failing to take your child to the doctor when she is sick.
What does it mean when a CPS report is made against you
CPS may tell you, in their initial conversations with you, that a report has been made naming you as a parent who may have abused or neglected your child. This means that a person contacted CPS (likely on their toll-free hotline) and reported an incident or incidents of abuse or neglect in which you were involved. CPS is obligated to engage in an investigation of this allegation.
Your child’s name, your name and any information about the suspected abuse or neglect must be discovered. If the report that comes into CPS is considered to be serious then it must be investigated within 24 hours of having received the information. If the threat of harm to your child is not as significant or immediate then an investigation must commence within 72 hours of receiving a phone call.
Who was it that made the report against you?
Any person who lives in Texas has a duty to report instances of abuse or neglect of a child that they become aware of. Some of us- teachers, doctors or nurses to name a few- must make a report within two days of discovering information about a child being abused or neglected. The failure to do so is a crime. This is a great motivator for people to report possible instances of abuse or neglect even if the underlying facts are not sufficient to substantiate that kind of significant allegation.
These reports are done anonymously which means that it is unlikely that you will be able to find out who made the report against you. The reasoning for keeping these reporters confidential is pretty simple- if you found out who made the report against you it could result in you acting harmfully towards that personal as payback for making a report identifying you as a possible abuser or neglect of a child.
What is the CPS caseworker looking for in an investigation?
If CPS determines that there is nothing in your home that would result in a threat of harm to your child then your investigation should be closed quickly. Allegations of abuse or neglect should be ruled out. CPS must contact you to inform you of the closing of any investigation into you, your child and your family.
Likewise, even if CPS identifies a condition in your home that could result in harm befalling your child, but you are able and willing to take some preventative action to keep your child from being harmed by that condition it is likely that your investigation will be closed as soon as the condition is repaired. Simple household dangers like a leaky roof, holes in the floor or household cleaners being within reach of the child are examples that come to my mind when discussing this topic.
Your child will likely be able to remain in your home while you work to repair these conditions and eliminate any immediate risk of harm to your child.
What does CPS look to when determining whether or not your child is safe enough to stay home?
What present dangers exist in your home that could lead to harm befalling your child? Is your child at risk of being harmed right now? Or, was your child a victim of an injury or event that occurred some time ago and is unlikely to occur again? The harm must also be serious. A minor injury like a bruised knee is much different than a fracture that could be caused by a broken step or a roof that frequently leaks and could collapse at a moment’s notice.
If your child was injured and it was not as the result of an accident this could encourage CPS to remove your child from your house. If the harm was suffered due to your having disciplined your child then this is an example of something that you have direct control over that could result in a serious injury. Keep in mind that the people you allow into your home can present dangers to your child. If you allow drug users in your home, consider that their paraphernalia when left out and within reach of your child could present a risk of serious harm.
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.