If you are a parent who has been alerted by CPS that a person has made the agency aware of possible abuse or neglect of your child, you probably have a lot of questions. Who made the call? What incident did the person make the call about? Is the report about you or another person? What if it’s your spouse? Does your spouse have to move out? Could your child be removed from your home?
These are all relevant and downright scary questions to have to ask yourself in conjunction with CPS investigations. In most family law cases in Texas there is a limited range of outcomes for your case. CPS cases are ones where your interactions with the agency could be limited to a few days. They are also ones where you could be forced to withstand a yearlong courtroom experience wherein your parental rights could be terminated.
My point is that you need to be aware of the possible outcomes for your case. A report being made to CPS, even if it is easily explained as a misunderstanding, is a serious matter. Do not think that since the allegation is baseless that you do not have to pay any attention to it. This will not go away on its own, in all likelihood. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to prepare you for your case from the initial stages onward.
If a report is made to CPS regarding your child what does that mean for you?
The first time a CPS employee contacts you regarding a case with their office it will probably be in the context of a report coming into them about abuse or neglect of your child. Someone contacted the agency and let them know that they believe that your child has been abused, neglected or both. It is not up to CPS to make a decision whether or not to investigate the allegation(s). They are bound by law to investigate and look into whether or not the abuse or neglect occurred.
To conduct an investigation, CPS will attempt to collect more information about your child, yourself and the incident in question that led to the report of abuse/neglect. This will likely be very basic information, at first: your child’s name, the name of the school they attend as well as your and your spouse’s names. Depending upon the severity of the allegation it could take up to seventy-two hours for CPS to actually come out to speak to you and spouse about what is being alleged.
How will CPS determine whether or not your child is safe?
Safe is obviously a pretty subjective word. What is safe to you may not be safe to me and vice versa. A caseworker for CPS may have a different standard in mind, and their interpretation of safe is what will matter for the purposes of whether or not your child will be able to remain in your house after the investigation begins.
Basic questions that CPS will be attempting to determine in the initial days of their investigation include:
- Are you able to control your emotions while disciplining your child?
- Is your home a safe environment for your child to be raised?
- Will you take seriously the allegations being made against you and make changes in your life based on the constructive feedback of your attorney and/or a CPS caseworker?
- Is your child sufficiently fed and nourished? Do you have basic knowledge of nutrition and how to feed your child?
- Are you allowing people in your child’s life who pose a threat of harm to your child? This can include a spouse, significant other or relative.
If CPS determines that there is a present danger of serious harm to your child and believes that you are not willing to take the steps necessary to protect your child from harm, then CPS will intervene. That intervention will likely mean that your child will be removed from your home.
However, it is not a sure thing that your child will be removed from your home even if they determine that there is something about their home environment that is not safe. There are lesser steps that CPS can take that can involve the creation of a safety plan being created that will address the concerns in your home. Also, you may be asked to place your child in the home of a relative or friend in order to quickly remedy the dangerous condition in your home. However, if neither of these options is determined to be appropriate a removal of your child is absolutely possible.
Where does CPS draw its authority to remove your child from your home?
It is an extremely painful experience to have your child removed from your home. The pain is only exaggerated because you know that the reason for that removal is due to a concern about your ability to parent your child.
There is truth in the statement that your child is, in fact, YOUR child. Typically you have a great deal of autonomy to raise your child in the manner you deem to be best for their development. However, the State of Texas asserts through its laws that your child has rights as well. Those rights include the ability to be safe from potential risks of harm that can otherwise be prevented or mitigated by behavior. Your child can potentially be removed from your home in the furtherance of this goal.
It is typical that CPS would go to a judge to obtain a court order that allows them to take custody of your child on a temporary basis and to also remove him from your home. However, if there is a serious matter going on in your home that requires immediate removal of your child, removal without a court order can be achieved as well. Keep in mind that CPS must request a court date as quickly as possible to address the removal with a judge and obtain the authority to continue to keep your child out of your home.
If your child is removed then it is the court's duty to keep a watchful eye on your case. Court hearings will occur at regular intervals. Your attendance is mandatory at these hearings. You should not make any excuse to miss one. Proving to the court that your home is a safe environment for a child is near impossible if you are not in attendance.
You are not being charged with a crime when CPS intervenes into your family’s life
If you ignore a court order you are not typically put in jail or anything to that extent. However, the failure to adhere to those orders can result in you being found in contempt of court. This carries with the finding a risk of being fined or even jailed due to your inability or unwillingness to follow the court's orders. Disobeying a judge is a serious matter and you can expect to be treated harshly for having done so.
Learning about the people who will be involved in your case
An open CPS case will cause you to come into contact with many different people who will be playing a role in the case. It is not necessary to know the details about each person and their role, but a general understanding will help you to see what role each plays and how to approach them in the context of your child’s case.
An investigative worker is a person with CPS who will perform the investigation of your child and your family. This can involve meeting with you, interviewing you and your child as well as any other persons who are listed in the report made to CPS. When a hearing is held this person will attend on behalf of CPS. Their testimony will impact whether or not a judge finds that abuse or neglect has occurred.
A Family-Based Social Services (FBSS) worker may be assigned to your case in the event that your child is determined to be unsafe but removal is not necessary. The FBSS worker will work with you to help you to figure out ways to make your home a safer place for your child to reside. Your child may be able to reside with you at home during this time or may be sent to live with a relative of yours while you work to improve the safety of your home.
Conservatorship Caseworkers, or caseworker for short, becomes involved in your case if a court determines that abuse or neglect has occurred and grants temporary conservatorship to CPS. For the entire length of your court case, this is a person that will be working with you and your family. Due to the high degree of turnover at CPS, it is likely that you will have more than one caseworker assigned to your case.
Finally, a CPS supervisor will be responsible for signing off on all final decisions on behalf of CPS. As you proceed through the life of your case if you have questions about decisions made by any other employee of CPS those questions can be addressed to the supervisor. You should request the supervisor’s name and contact information at your first interaction with a CPS investigator.
Attorneys who are involved in your CPS case
In addition to CPS employees, attorneys will also be active within your case once begin the court process. CPS will have an attorney that represents their interests when in court. That attorney will argue on behalf of CPS and will provide evidence to the judge in order to justify your child’s continual custody by CPS. It could be that the attorney works directly for CPS, or the attorney may be a county attorney for the county your case is being heard in.
It is likely that you will have an attorney of your own. Your attorney will either be provided to you by a court- if you qualify financially- or you will hire, own attorney. Your attorney will represent you and advocate for you in court.
Your child will have their own attorney known as an Attorney Ad Litem. An Ad Litem attorney is appointed by a court and will attend all court dates unless he or she is relieved of their duty by the judge. Your child may also be assigned a Guardian Ad Litem in their case. This person is also appointed by the court to help the judge understand what is in your child's best interests. A Guardian Ad Litem will review the case and tell the judge what he or she believes to be in your child's best interests based on their research. Interviews are conducted by the guardian ad litem, such as you, your child, teachers, doctors, and other relevant persons. In some cases, the Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney and in others, he or she will not be.
A judge will be assigned to your child’s CPS case and will run all hearings. Attorneys will present evidence in hearings and the judge will make rulings based on the evidence that is presented. The judge is tasked with making decisions that are in the best interests of your child.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- 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
- Texas Parental Visitation – Texas Standard Possession Orders in Harris and Montgomery County, Texas – Part 1
- Supervised Visitation in a Texas Divorce: Can it happen to me?
- Texas Parental Relocation
- Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
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, 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.