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Talking to your family about your child’s CPS case

Nobody likes to discuss embarrassing subjects with family and friends. We would all much prefer to share happy news about ourselves and our kids. Unfortunately, there are times in our lives where we need to reach out to others to talk about information that is less than happy. Certainly, having an investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS) against you is one of those unhappy circumstances that we would ideally like to never have happened. It is difficult to look yourself in the mirror and realize that you need help from other people to get through those kinds of difficult times. 

The fact of the matter is that your family and friends will be on the most critical resources that you have for the duration of your CPS case. Feelings of anger or embarrassment or any other emotion are common amongst parents in your situation, and if you feel that way you will need to be able to reach out to talk with someone about those problems. Furthermore, if you do not reach out to family CPS is obligated by law to do so. This means that your family will find out about the situation- whether it is from you or from CPS. 

Adult relatives of your child will be notified about the removal within thirty days of it having occurred. Both sides of the family will be made aware. Family members will be asked to become involved in the case as a potential place for the child to reside or as a support system for you. Immediate family- grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters are among those who will be told about the removal. 

The following information about the situation will be presented to those people: the name of your child who has been removed from the home, an explanation as to why the removal occurred as well as the options that are available if your relative would like to help take care of your child. Next, resources will be made available to your child and the letter to your family member will detail those resources if he or she becomes involved in caring for your child. Finally, information on fostering your child will be made available as well. 

You will be asked to provide information about family members to CPS

After your child is removed from your home CPS will ask you to fill out a form called a Child Caregiver Resource Form. All of the names and contact information for your family members will be collected in this format. The people that you think would be able to care for your child should be listed. A judge will order you to fill out the form if you do not do so voluntarily. 

Depending on the age of your child he or she will likely be asked of any names of relatives who might be able to take care of her while she is living outside of your home. Any person that you list on the form will be contacted by CPS to inform them of the removal of your child from your home. 

Why does CPS reach out to family members to inform them of the removal?

CPS will go through the trouble of contacting your family members to inform them that your child has been removed from your home because they want to help you look for places for your child to live while your case is ongoing. Their preference is not to place your child with strangers or in a group foster home of some sort. They want to do what is best for your child given limited time and options that are available. 

Additionally, CPS would like to see your family become involved in helping to raise your child. You will hear from time to time that it “takes a village” to raise a child. This is true in many regards, especially if you are struggling in some form or fashion with your child. In the immediate sense, you would likely prefer that your child be able to stay with a family member rather than to be exposed to the foster care system. Your family is better positioned to keep you informed on the well-being of your child than a foster family would be. You will likely not know who the foster family is and may not be told in detail where your child will be living or with whom they are living.

CPS does not have to listen to your request that your child stays with a particular family member during the pendency of your CPS case. If your friend or relative cannot provide a safe living environment for your child, then CPS will not be able to place your child there on a temporary basis. CPS must be very cautious about choosing where our child is going to live and there are many factors in play that could prevent your family member or friend from being able to fulfill this role for your child. 

For example, if your family member has a criminal record that is serious then that person will be limited from contention. Serious crimes include drug offenses, assaults or crimes that involve children. Past history with CPS will negate their ability to participate in this way in your child's life.

Your relative and their spouse must both agree to take on the responsibility of caring for your child. Even if your family member has a clean record and is an otherwise excellent candidate, your relative needs sufficient space in their home to raise a child. If he or she already has multiple children and is living in a small apartment or home that would require your child to share a room then that will probably eliminate your relative from consideration, as well. 

Before your child is removed from your home will you be able to say goodbye?

So much of the information that we have shared is procedural in nature. What happens first, what comes next and how do you relate to each step in that process. However, so much of a CPS case is involved with the emotional and familial aspects of the case. For instance, you may have a concern regarding whether or not you will be able to say goodbye to your child before he is walked out of your home by a CPS employee. 

It is not cut and dry as far as whether or not you will be able to say goodbye to your child prior to their leaving the house. Depending on the facts of your case you may not be able to do so. If CPS believes that your being able to say goodbye would place your child in danger, then you will not be allowed to do so. How you behave towards your child and CPS is also critical when determining whether or not you will be able to say goodbye to your child. If you act belligerently towards CPS you will almost certainly not be able to say goodbye. Next, if your child is removed from your home while he or she is in school then you will not be phoned prior to the removal. You will be informed of the removal on the following work-day. 

Where can your child be removed from?

Removals happen at homes, schools, and hospitals, even when you are not there. Your child could also be removed from your home when you are not there. You would not be able to say goodbye to your child because you will not be able to know about the removal until after it happens. In the event that a CPS employee can locate you that person will do so and then talk to you about the removal and the next steps in the process.

It does happen sometimes that your child could be removed from your home while you are with your child. In this sort of scenario, you very likely will be able to say goodbye. When the removal happens at home, rather than at a police station or CPS office, you may be able to help your child pack up belongings, toys and anything else that would help your child transition into their new living arrangement. Once you start to become violent or verbally abusive towards a CPS employee, however, that privilege ends, and you will be escorted away from your child. 

As a part of some safety plans, your child may already be living outside of your home. In that sort of situation, your child may not be taken from that home. However, it could be that CPS' next move will be to ask a court for legal custody of your child and then will ask that your parental rights be terminated. At that point, you will have twelve months to attempt to win back custody of your child before a judge is able to make a decision about this.

How can you best cooperate with CPS while maintaining your rights to advocate for your child?

Working with CPS means that they will have had an opportunity to share with you the future need to remove your child if that is deemed to be necessary given your particular circumstances. This allows you a chance to speak to your child about the removal and to answer any questions about what will happen in the future. 

Otherwise, if CPS believes that your child is in immediate danger then they will remove without warning and probably at a time when you are not home or with your child. This can be extremely scary for a parent and even more so for your child. In cases like this, it is important to remember that nothing that you do or say to CPS will stop what is happening if you are with your child during the emergency removal process. How you act during the removal can have a huge impact on how your child feels and how the deal with the emotions surrounding the event. Remember- your child looks to you for guidance, and how you act in this setting is very important.

Keeping physical control of your child will not keep CPS from taking him or her. You are making a bad situation worse by attempting to do so. Fighting or yelling at a CPS employee who is simply trying to do their job will not help you or your child, either. Violence in this setting against a CPS employee or a law enforcement officer can result in you going to jail and facing criminal charges on top of any allegations that you are battling with CPS. If your goal is to have your child returned to your home, I can think of no worse way to go about achieving that goal than to act in this manner. 

Remaining calm and keeping your composure does not mean that you are giving up on your child. Rather, it means that you are viewing the situation as objectively as possible. Use that fight and that tenacity to plan a course for your family and to figure out how you are going to be able to hire an attorney to assist you in this endeavor. Once you have done that, you will have positioned yourself much better to fight for your rights as a parent. 

More about the removal of your child during a CPS investigation will be posted tomorrow

This subject is one that we receive a lot of questions about, so I wanted to devote a sufficient amount of time to cover it. If you have any questions about this material that we have covered today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. Our attorneys take a great deal of pride in representing people in our community and we would be honored to speak to you about your case and how we can help advance your goals. 

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