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Preparing a visitation session in a Texas CPS case

You will be given notice regarding the directions on how to get to any CPS location that is hosting your visitation session. Instructions will also be provided to you on who to contact when you arrive at the visitation location as well as a phone number to contact if you are arriving late or have gotten lost. Plan ahead of time for any problems that you could encounter so that you can minimize the number of surprises that occur on the day of your visitation. It is crucial that you attend each visitation session that you are provided with. 

The setting that you will be in will be comfortable and as private as possible. There will be chairs, couches and other areas available for you and your child to relax in together. Parents will bring things like clothing, toys, family photos and other items that are familiar to their children. You may do the same. If you plan on bringing anything that you have a question about, be sure to call ahead to your caseworker about anything you plan on bringing in. 

How will your child respond to you during these visitation sessions?

This is an important question that I am sure you have been asking yourself. The trouble is that nobody will know the answer to this question-including your child- until you actually get into the session. Many children are dealing with the same emotions that you are as you head into the initial visits with your child. 

You can begin by understanding that whatever it is that you are going through as far as emotions surrounding the CPS case, your child is going through even more heightened emotions. If you are having problems with the separation from your child and the stress of your case imagine how your child feels. Your child doesn’t have near as much understanding of the issues or any experience in living with another family. Be aware of these issues as you head into visitation.

If your child approaches you not sure of how to react to you this should not surprise you. Reassure your child that you love him or her and that you are doing everything possible to make sure that he or she comes home as quickly as possible. Problems with discipline should be dealt with by you. You are being observed in these difficult circumstances to determine how you deal with adversity in your family. If you cannot control your own emotions it will be difficult to convince CPS that you are prepared to help control the emotions of your child.

Do not make promises to your child about when he or she can come home

It would be natural for you to want to tell your child words of encouragement about their being able to come home and see the rest of your family by a certain date. However, you do not have the unilateral power to do so. The length of the case depends on a number of factors- many of which are outside of your control. The best you can do is reassure your child that you love your child and that these times in visitation are important to take advantage of. 

Use the visitation time periods as opportunities to build your child’s self-confidence. Talk about subjects that make your child feel good. Is your child playing sports? Are they in a class in school that they particularly like? What about activities involving friends or other people in the family? These are great subjects to bring up that can take their mind off of the CPS case. 

Do not tell your child anything about their foster family as far as your concerns about them or complaints about how CPS works their investigations. Again, these are factors that you cannot control and your child definitely cannot control. Any concerns that you develop regarding the foster family can be dealt with by addressing them directly with the CPS caseworker. Reassuring your child that the foster family will take good care of him or she is probably the best you can do.

What factors guide how much visitation you will be provided in a CPS case?

The process of planning how much visitation you will be provided in a CPS case is ongoing. You are being assessed on a regular basis by CPS as to your suitability to be granted more frequent and longer lasting periods of visitation with your child. It likely seems to you to be more than a little unnatural to be “gifted” time with your child by the government, but as long as your child remains outside of your home this is the reality of your case. 

You will need to show CPS that you are able to safely care for your child and interact with him or her. If the allegations of abuse or neglect against you are substantiated, you may need to take parenting classes as recommended by CPS. These classes can be helpful to you in order to prepare for the remaining years of parenting that you may have. Do you have problems with anger? What about stress? If you have ever felt like you need more help than your family and immediate surroundings may offer then this interaction with CPS may be a blessing in disguise.

Your service plan, developed by you and CPS in cooperation, may require that you meet certain goals or conditions prior to being granted more than a basic amount of visitation with your child. For instance, was your child removed from your house because you left him or her home alone? Or could the removal have been related to the abuse of your child? Whatever the case may be you have to address those issues directly and show CPS that you are doing that.  CPS will do things to prevent additional episodes of abuse/neglect while they are in the primary care of your child.

The bottom line is that visits with your child are not be used as a punishment or as a reward for you. The more or fewer periods of visitation that you are awarded should be related to the assessment that we talked about before regarding your ability to safely care for your child. This is a pretty simple standard by which you will be judged when it comes to visitation. If you are provided more hours or days of visitation will those visits be beneficial for your relationship with your child? Can you keep your child safe? Think about these questions as you begin to earn the trust of CPS and your child when you first visit him or her at a CPS supervised visitation site. 

What is the purpose of supervised visitation?

You will likely be ordered to attend supervised visitation at the outset of your case (after an initial status hearing with the court) in order to ensure that your child’s physical and emotional needs for safety are met. Part of that will be having contact with their family members (namely, you) and in order to strengthen your relationship with your child. 

You as the mother or father to this child will then have an opportunity in this visitation session to practice the skills that you have developed in working your service plan with CPS. Keeping your child safe, identifying problems in your own life that may lead to harm for your child and promoting a strong bond between the two of you are the overarching goals of visitation sessions. 

Whether or not you need to have supervised visitation sessions will be determined by a safety assessment that will be performed in your case by CPS. The safety assessment will help CPS to identify if there are any concerns regarding your having unsupervised contact with your child. 

What concerns exist for you and your child when you are together? Is the basis for the CPS investigation some action that you took against your child that was inappropriate? The visitation plan that is in place for your case should take into account any legitimate safety concerns that you have in yourself and that the agency has as well. This is a time for you to do some soul searching in terms of your own limitations as a parent. Remember that admitting problems that you have now can go a long way towards helping you achieve reunification with your child sooner rather than later.

The greater the risks to your child's safety, the more and the longer you will likely have supervised visitation with him or her. This is only for the safety of your child. CPS will assume that you are want to do better as a parent. It is not assumed, necessarily, that you will go through the steps needed to improve your parenting. Many parents in your shoes have chosen to not take those steps and have instead found themselves facing termination of their parental rights.

Keep your personal goals at the forefront of your visitation opportunities with your child

What goals do you have in place for yourself in conjunction with this CPS investigation? Talk to CPS about them when you have an opportunity to do so. If you have an attorney you need to clearly communicate those goals to him or her, as well. You will be given an opportunity to work with CPS in creating a visitation schedule, safety plan, and service plan. You need to be prepared to go into these meetings with your goals ready to be discussed.  

CPS workers are usually very overworked. You will be given as much attention as the next family and no more. Keep this in mind when you are working with a caseworker and/or supervisor. Strike while the iron is hot when you have their attention and are in their presence. 

What will the CPS caseworker be looking at when judging your ability to visit with your child?

The CPS employee assigned to work on your case will be judging you by a number of different factors when it comes to parenting your child and visiting with him or her during your CPS case. 

What sort of abuse or neglect have you been alleged to have engaged in? 

If there is a serious concern about your ability parent your child safely and responsibly then you will most likely have supervised visitation for a long while during the CPS case. Repeated instances of abuse, significant sexual trauma and things like this are what I am thinking about. 

Furthermore, do you take responsibility for these actions? If you are found to have committed these acts you need to show responsibility for them. It is only when you show responsibility that you can make amends and aim to improve your relationship with your child. 

Taking the safety risks as they are presented to you, working to improve them by learning about how to control your own emotions and those of your child are the keys to working past this supervised visitation stage and into a more self-policing visitation period towards the end of the CPS case.

More on visitation phases during a CPS case will be discussed in tomorrow’s blog post

If you are interested in this topic we encourage you to join us tomorrow as we continue to discuss CPS assessments as they relate to your visitation during a case. We will then move on to the different phases of visitation in a CPS case. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we presented today 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 with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are a great opportunity to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case, receive answers to important questions and to learn how our office can help you and your family. Thank you for your time and consideration and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we pick up where we left off today by discussing CPS cases. 

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