I have been in contact with many parents and many families who are facing CPS cases in my time as a family law attorney. Of all the difficult and downright scary circumstances that a family can face in the world of family law, CPS cases are probably the most intimidating. The reason for this is simple: the stakes are much higher. In virtually no other family case can the end result be that your child is removed from your home and your parental rights are terminated.
Now, I will stop this blog to tell you that most CPS cases do not work out like that. A majority of the CPS cases that I have worked on have been those kinds of cases where the end goal is to place your child back in your home with you on a permanent basis. CPS refers to these type of cases as ones where "reunification" is the goal. The last thing I want to do is cause you to think that your child is going to end up living with someone else at the end of your case. That could happen, but the odds are certainly against it.
Part of your case will be spent with you visiting with your child if and when she is removed from your home. While an investigation is ongoing, your child may be removed if the state can convince a judge that it is in your child’s best interests. There would usually have to be a safety concern of some sort for this to happen. It could be that there is a dangerous condition in your home that needs repair. It could also be that there is something going on with you or another person in your house that needs to be dealt with before your child can return home.
How does visiting with your child work during a CPS case?
You may be asking- if your child cannot return to your home until the end of your CPS case, where are you going to have your visitation session? The answer is most visitation, especially when it is going to occur at the beginning of your case, will be supervised. This means that a CPS caseworker will be observing your visitation session at a distance and making notes on your interactions with your child.
A visitation session can occur at a CPS office, a licensed (by the state) visitation center or a public place like a restaurant or a park. Although the set up can seem awkward, it is important to your case overall. Let’s discuss why it is important and just what sort of impact taking advantage of these visits can have on you and on your child in the short and long terms.
Visitation during a CPS case is important for your child
The most fundamental purpose of visiting with your child during a CPS case is the make sure that you and your child remain attached to one another. I don’t mean this in a negative way that “attached” can be used in our culture. There is nothing co-dependent about this sort of attachment. You and your child have a bond that is nearly impossible to break- no matter what you have been through. However, a CPS case will cause that bond to be pushed to its limit in many cases.
Want to get your child back in your home? Make sure you’re visiting with him or her
If the ultimate goal of your case is to have your child return home with you, that goal cannot be accomplished without first being able to visit with him or her while the case is ongoing. Another idea that is important to your case is that in order for your case to be wrapped up sooner rather than later, you must be able to visit with your child as much as possible. CPS is going to be observing you see if you are making progress in whatever your safety plan has asked you to work on. The only opportunity that you will have to work on those skills with your child and with CPS in attendance will be in the supervised visitation sessions. Do not look at these opportunities as being demeaning. They are exactly what you need at this time in your life and in the life of your case.
Help your child maintain a strong connection to you and your family through visitation
The relationships that your child forms in their youth will make a tremendous difference in who they are as they grow up. If you are not able to provide them with a solid foundation as to who they are, where they come from and what is important to your family then they will not have a firm basis on which to grow and mature into adults.
Visitation sessions that are provided to you in your CPS case present you with an opportunity to teach your child these traits through discipline, playing together, talking and working to improve your relationship. If you are not able to see your child on a regular basis during this time period the bonds that you shared can be broken. You play such a significant role in your child’s life that nobody else can replicate what you do for your child. As such, you need to be able to see your child on a regular basis during this time period.
Even in instances where you will not be able to be reunified with your child on a permanent basis, you are still an important part of your child’s life. Allowing yourself and your family to maintain bonds with a child can be important if for no other reason than the CPS case is a difficult time for your child and showing him friendly faces on a regular basis can go a long way towards helping ease the transition into a new phase of their life.
You visiting with your child can positively affect their behavior
Children that are living in foster care have a wide range of problems that could potentially affect them. Foremost among them in my mind are behavioral issues that are associated with stress, lack of supervision and problems dealing with the upheaval in their life. Acting out in the form of behavioral problems is a problem that you may have to encounter as a result of your child being involved in a CPS case.
You being able to visit with your child when those opportunities present themselves can go a long way towards helping to keep your child from behaving poorly while living with a foster family. Your child is going through a lot during this time of transition. You can help your child transition better into foster care and can help speed up the process whereby your child will be returned to you if you can visit him or her as regularly as possible.
The bottom line is that you need a strong bond with your child to get through the CPS case. If you do not, the time length of the case could break whatever bond was held and put you both in a position where you forget the role that the other plays in each other’s lives. It is once you reach that point where reunification between yourself and your child can prove to be especially difficult.
How to handle your first visit with your child during a CPS case
Once your child is placed into foster care and removed from your home it is very important that you be able to have contact with your child as quickly as possible. Unless it is determined by a court or by CPS that the safety of your child is at risk, you should be provided an opportunity to visit with him or her within 48 hours of their being placed with a foster family.
Your first visit with your child will likely occur before a full assessment and understanding of the safety and well-being of your child can be looked at. The visitation monitor will need to be aware of the circumstances that led to your child being removed from your home as well as any other useful information about your child and family that are available. How the CPS investigation relates to your family and vice versa is a crucial relationship that the monitor ought to learn about as quickly as possible prior to your first visitation session.
Additionally, the monitor will possess the knowledge and skills sufficient to help you and your child get the most out of each visitation session. This is a very difficult emotional situation to become involved in. There is going to be frustration, confusion and many other emotions that come to the surface in these visitation sessions. For you to be able to have the best experience possible you need a monitor who is available to oversee and walk you and your child through these initial interactions.
Where the visitation sessions occur will make a tremendous difference
First of all, the safety of your child is the most important part of this whole process. It is the reason that CPS is even involved in your life in the first place. As such, when you are being reintroduced to your child during the case, CPS will need to ensure that your child is out of harm’s way. Another consideration to give some regard to is how far the visitation location is from your home. The closer the better, as far as you are concerned.
What you can expect from the visitation venue?
You will not be in a space with a lot of other people. You and your child can have time to yourselves that have minimal distractions. If you and your child want to share feelings or frustrations with one another, this is a good time to do so. Wherever you end up visiting with your child it will be private. CPS tries to make these sessions occur in an environment that is as home-like as possible.
If you are at a CPS facility for your visitation session, then the room that you are in will be comfortable with couches and chairs available to sit in. Depending on the age of your child, it is important that the area be clean so that you and your child can play on the floor together. Toys, games and other activities are made available for you all to engage in. Finally, there are typically snacks and water for you to drink. You will be expected to attend to the needs of your child during a visitation session, so be sure to bring diapers and baby-wipes if necessary. ‘
The visitation sessions will work around your schedule and your child's much as possible. Your child will attend school and you will need to work, so the day and time of your meeting will need to accommodate these realities. Make sure that you let your CPS caseworker know of any changes in your schedule or specific needs that arise in relation to visitation so that issues can be troubleshooted before they become problems.
Preparing for a CPS visitation with your child? Read tomorrow’s blog to learn more about it
Being able to prepare adequately for these important visitation opportunities with your child is very important. If you find yourself in a situation where you are in need of preparation, please head back to our blog tomorrow. We will be sharing some tips with you that will aid you and your child during these difficult times.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the content contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity for you to learn more about your case and to learn how our office can assist you in whatever circumstances that you are facing.