Whatever visitation that you are provided with during your CPS case is precious. You will not have many opportunities to spend quality time with your child during this time period and as a result, you need to take advantage of each one. If the beginning visitation sessions are being supervised by CPS it is especially important that you know how to conduct yourself. Your caseworker will be observing you closely to see how you act with your child. Depending on how these sessions go, you could get moved into a phase where you have unsupervised visitation sooner rather than later.
You should prepare to bring toys, clothes, and pictures from home for your visits. Each item that you bring can be of use for your child. If the seasons are changing your child may need pants, a jacket, a swimsuit, etc. Think ahead and prepare these items the night before your visitation session. Do not make yourself late for an appointment because you are trying to pick out some clothes for your child. The photos and toys are sentimental and can help your child retain some of their home life even when he or she is living in foster care.
Why will your visit be observed at all?
This is a perfectly natural question to ask, for reasons that are obvious. It is very unnatural to be observed while you are doing something like interacting with your child. Think of all the times you shared intimate moments with your child. Now imagine being observed by a group of people while sharing at that moment. Does that strike you as odd? It would strike me as odd if I were in that situation.
Be that as it may, you will be observed and supervised at least in your first few interactions with your child. First of all, like it or not, there is in the mind of the CPS caseworker a concern regarding your child's safety. After all- you are facing allegations of abuse and/or neglect of your child, so in the eyes of the law, there is a reason to keep guard of your child. You may completely disagree with that and justifiably so in some cases. However, while your child is in the care of the state they are going to be overly cautious with your child’s well-being.
Second, you are going to be observed during these interactions so that CPS can learn more about how you interact with your child and how your child interacts with you. Maybe there is a problem that your caseworker can identify and make known to you that will be helpful as you begin work on your service plan. Although it can be a matter of sucking it up and listening to CPS, you may stand to learn something in this process.
Be careful what you say to your child about coming home
It is to be expected that your child will ask you questions about when he or she can come home to you. They are probably being treated just fine in foster care, but your child will likely be more comfortable in your home with you. You should expect to be asked by your child when he or she will be able to come home permanently. How should you answer that question?
Responding to your child’s question like that with a specific date can be pretty problematic. For one that date can change even if you have been told of a certain date already in your investigation. So much of the timeline of your case is out of your control. There can be delays caused by a judge getting sick, you getting sick, CPS losing paperwork, etc. Don't bet on everything going according to plan in your case. Be honest with your child that you are not sure, but that you are doing everything possible to get him back home.
Make sure that your child knows that you are happy to spend every moment possible with him. Keep him at the moment with you and you and he will be able to enjoy your time together that much more. Don't let him get too ahead of himself or he will become disappointed and frustrated with the process. Then, get used to being asked that question. Kids like to ask the same question over and over-especially younger kids. Reassure him that you are doing everything possible to get him home, and then put his focus back on whatever activity you are engaging in.
Be patient, but not afraid to discipline your child during these visitation sessions
It is not uncommon for your child to act out during a visitation session with you. Imagine being in his position. It can be extremely difficult to be shuffled between your home, a foster home and a supervised visitation facility all in the matter of a couple of weeks. Children’s emotions can fluctuate a great deal week to week or even day to day. Be patient with your child if he or she is not overjoyed to see you each time you see him.
If your child gets upset while in a visitation session with you, then you should assume that it is because he is stressed out or sleepy. It is easy to see why a person may feel this way while engaged in a CPS case. Comfort your child and make sure that he knows that you care about him and are here for him now.
Talk to your child about what he is going through and then listen to him. Hear what he is saying about what is giving him problems if he is willing to open up to you in that setting. If he is not verbalizing any issues that are ongoing, feel free to provide him with feedback about your own life and to help him understand what you doing to get him back home. This will reassure him that their life has some stability.
Do not badmouth your child’s foster family
It can be tempting to want to say nasty things that could turn your child against their foster family. However, I would warn you strongly to not say anything derogatory of the foster family. The reason being is that the foster family is not there to replace you or to attempt to replicate your love and affection for your child. Rather, it is more likely that the foster family exists only to keep your child safe while you work on some issues in your home and in your life.
With that said, if your child says anything about the foster family to you, you should respond positively to whatever comments are made. It is likely the hardest thing that you have ever had to go through- not being with your child during this time, However, saying nasty things about CPS or the foster family to your child Is not going to help the situation. Showing support towards the foster family is good because they are caring for your child during a time where you are not able to. The foster family has nothing against you. It’s not personal.
If your child says something positive about the foster family, you should praise your child. He or she is showing a great deal of maturity and it is probable that you taught your child how to behave that way. The maturity of your child in being able to show appreciation for the foster family is indicative of the kind of parent you can be.
On the other hand, if your child says something about the foster family that leaves you feeling uneasy, you should not go home and say nothing to anyone about it. Do not address the situation with your child. He or she can’t do anything about where they are staying right now. However, I would talk to the CPS caseworker about the issue brought up by your child about the foster family. If there is a safety issue then CPS is in the best position to address that with the foster family.
Talk to the CPS caseworker about the visitation session
If you have questions about how the session went or what the CPS caseworker observed, you should ask him or her about it after the session is complete. Do not assume that the caseworker will not talk to you or will not provide you with helpful information. If you see something that catches your attention then you should say something. If you speak to the caseworker you should take notes on what was said and then ask to have that information filed with the other documents from your case.
Do not talk to your child about the investigation
The caseworker, the foster family, CPS in general, etc. These are not topics that you have much control over and are certainly not ones that your child has any control over. Use your time together to discuss other topics- school, games, television, movies and other common interests will be better topics to discuss.
An observation form will be provided to you at the conclusion of your visitation session
The Department of Family and Protective Services will complete a visitation observation form that will document what your caseworker observes during your session with your child. The form will ask the caseworker questions and the caseworker will then provide answers to those questions.
When your child has left the visitation session you can ask the caseworker for a copy of the form. Once you have reviewed it, sign it and give it back to the caseworker.
Closing thoughts on CPS cases in Texas
Thank you for choosing to spend part of this past week here on our blog as we shared what you hopefully believe to be some helpful information about CPS cases. I took the time to write about this subject because I have seen many parents come into our office with questions about this specific kind of case. There are not many resources that I could find that shared information about CPS cases. What makes that even more difficult is that CPS does not do a great job of helping parents while an investigation is ongoing.
What you can do if you find that CPS is beginning an investigation into you and your family, is that you can participate and cooperate as much as possible. Providing CPS with information is not always a bad thing. There is a fine line between helping provide the necessary information and then opening yourself up to questions about unnecessary information you provided. Always assume that the things you say to CPS can and will be used against you, if necessary. Hiring an attorney is a good way to prevent yourself from saying things that may end up hurting you and your child down the line.
Finally, seeking out people that have been in your situation for advice is not a bad thing. You are not showing weakness by admitting what you do not know. Learning from the experiences of others is a good thing. Coming to our blog to read as much as you can is a good start.
Questions about CPS cases in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about a CPS case that involves you or your family, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys hold free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback about whatever sort of problems you are facing.
Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in being able to serve people just like you who live and work in our community. Our attorneys are in and out of the family courts of southeast Texas on a daily basis. We prepare diligently and advocate with a passion for achieving just results for our clients and their families. To learn more about us please feel free to reach out to our office today.