As a part of the CPS investigation into the safety and well-being of your child, you will be asked to come up with a safety plan along with your support system and CPS. This service plan will attempt to find your programs, planning, and counseling that is intended to help you provide the sort of safety that your child needs to grow up healthy and happy. You may have been doing the best that you could before CPS intervened into your life, but now with the help of CPS and your family, the chances at your success as a parent should increase dramatically.
These service plans are usually negotiated at meetings with CPS, friends, family and other people in your support system. No matter how long or extensive your support system may be the end goal of these meetings are the same: to help brainstorm solutions to problems that have been harmful to you and your children. At the conclusion of a meeting, a service plan will be created that you and CPS will sign off on. From that point forward, it is your responsibility to ensure that the goals set forth in the plan are met.
It does happen, however, that as time marches on certain aspects of the service plan will no longer be relevant or workable for you and your child. People and circumstances change- sometimes very quickly. If that is the case for you and your family, then you may need to speak up and let CPS and/or the judge in your case know that the service plan is no longer to your liking. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to inform you as to how you should go about doing so.
Your opinion matters when it comes to your service plan
At the end of the day, you should be as actively involved in the creation of your service plan as is possible. Your opinion matters a great deal due to the fact that you are the person who is primarily charged with ensuring the safety of your child. If you do not believe something will be effective as far as keeping your child safe then you need to make sure that you communicate that to CPS along with your reasons for holding that opinion.
In the event that CPS provides you with a service plan and asks for you to sign the document, I would recommend that you read through the document before doing so. While it is not necessarily true that CPS will slip language into the plan that is against your best interests, the caseworker involved in your case does not know you or your child nearly as well as you do. Therefore, there may be elements of their plan that do not suit you or your child. Make that known to the CPS worker. There may be a compromise to the language that can be inserted that works better for all parties involved.
The worst thing that you could do is to sign a service plan without first having reviewed it. There could be parts of the plan that are impossible for you to complete for any number of reasons. Do not put yourself in a position where you could lose your rights to your child over the failure to complete some portion of your safety plan. Work schedules, personal commitments and other circumstances that are important to you need to be communicated over and over to CPS to sometimes get the point across to them.
For instance, if you need to complete a specific parenting class that is only available on weekends, but you work on weekends, you should let CPS know about that before signing anything. Signing the plan with the assurance from CPS that “something can be worked out” is not good enough. You should figure out alternative parenting classes that can be attended or a combination of other courses that you can attend to equal the completion of the parenting class that CPS had in mind. The bottom line is that there are often many different ways to accomplish things in a CPS case, but if you do not speak up for yourself you will be limited as far as your options are concerned.
Disagree with your service plan?
If you sign a service plan that you disagree with, either completely or in part, you still need to follow the plan and satisfy all of the service requirements. The reason is that simply put, it is still your service plan and by signing it you agree to follow all aspects of the plan until they are either changed by a judge or mutually agreed to by you and CPS. Do not expect that CPS will act as a reminder for you to attend a meeting or counseling session.
Your home computer, cell phone, or simply post-it notes can act as effective reminders. You don't have many excuses for missing something important as reminder options are available throughout our lives today. Keep a calendar handy, and in place to see every day, to keep track of dates and times for these important meetings. At the end of the day, the fate of your relationship with your child hangs in the balance. It is critical that you take seriously the requirements of your plan. These are not optional goals for you to meet.
Your caseworker is responsible for setting up services and plans that are intended to help you regain possession of your child and prepare for a safe transition of your child back into your home. There may be aspects of your relationship with your child that need to be improved. It could be that there are safety concerns in your home that have not been addressed due to financial problems. Finally, you could have allowed people into your home who do not need to be there that could themselves pose problems for your child. A great deal of your service plan will likely focus on removing these dangerous conditions from your house.
You should have the contact information for your caseworker and their supervisor as soon as your CPS case begins. If you have questions about the service plan, need to reschedule a meeting or need any other type of assistance you should contact CPS right away. It is not uncommon to reach the voicemail for your caseworker over the course of a few days. In the event that this happens you will need to reach out to their supervisor. Finally, if the supervisor is not reachable then you should reach out to your attorney for their assistance.
If you fail to complete the terms of your safety plan your parental rights can be terminated
It is possible that if you fail to complete all aspects of your service plan that you could lose your parental rights. The Texas Family Code contains a wide range of justifications that CPS can use to terminate your parental rights. The failure to complete the terms of a safety plan is one of those grounds. Again, if you are having problems fulfilling an obligation that you have under your service plan you need to speak up early in the process- to CPS, your attorney and the judge if it gets to that point. There is no going back once your parental rights are terminated.
The importance of being represented by an attorney in your CPS case
If at all possible, you should aim to hire an attorney to represent you as early as you can once you find out that CPS is investigating you and your family in connection with allegations of abuse or neglect against your child. Your lawyer will be in the best position to be able to offer you advice that is specifically tailored to your circumstances. That advice can then be used to make decisions that will positively impact your child and yourself.
I’ll take some time right now to point out that not just any lawyer should be hired to represent you in a CPS case. Family law attorneys who have experience in handling CPS cases on behalf of clients should be looked to for representation. Many attorneys in southeast Texas will tell you that they handle divorce cases. There are many attorneys that will tell you that they handle family law cases, generally. There are very few attorneys that handle CPS cases on a consistent enough basis to offer you to the sort of representation that you require.
Investigate your attorney before hiring them. Do not feel like you need to hire the first lawyer you meet with. When the lawyer talks about their experience be sure to ask him or her how many CPS cases they have handled in the past year. Now that you know the steps of a CPS case ask the attorney to walk through the steps with you. If he or she struggles to do so or does not have a firm grasp of the issues in a CPS case, that means you should walk away and continue your search for an attorney elsewhere.
The remainder of today’s blog post will focus on how a lawyer can help you in your CPS case and how you can locate the right lawyer for you and your family. There is no set time that requires that you hire an attorney. Once you become aware of a CPS case against you it may be the first step that you take. Obviously, money is a major consideration. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney for your CPS case, one can be appointed to represent you, but you must wait until you make it to court to ask the judge to do so on your behalf.
Lawyers can be expensive
There is no doubt about it- lawyers can be expensive. This means that you would ordinarily have to save up some money to hire an attorney, which assumes that you can anticipate an upcoming legal case and your need for representation. Most of the time you will not be able to anticipate or plan for a CPS case. You will be living your life and the next thing you know a CPS caseworker will be on your doorstep asking you for permission to come inside your home.
There are organizations in southeast Texas that offer assistance in helping people to find free legal aid. You can contact the State Bar of Texas to find out more about those organizations. Many attorneys- ourselves included- offer reduced fee legal advice on limited matters.
For instance, if you are not able to pay for an attorney to represent you in a hearing but would like advice to prepare for the hearing you can hire our office to counsel you about your circumstances so that you can make stronger arguments to the judge. There are many ways that you can seek legal help. Not having a lot of money is not a great excuse for entering into a CPS case without any knowledge of the process. However, hiring a lawyer to provide you with advice and to attend court appearances, meetings and other events with you is the best bet to take when it comes to a CPS case.
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