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What is a status hearing in the context of a Child Protective Services case?

A status hearing in relation to your Child Protective Services hearing will focus on the status of your child being in temporary custody of the state as well as the service plan that you are expected to complete in order to have your child returned to you. In this hearing, the judge will review your service plan and will check up on the progress that you are making in meeting the objectives of that plan. However, you will not be able to continue any argument made at the initial hearing in your case that your child should not have been placed in state custody in the first place. 

It is highly unlikely that a status hearing will not need to be held in your case, so you should expect to prepare for one. The court will issue a temporary order that appoints the Department of Family and Protective Services as the conservator of your child. This will occur at the beginning of your case. A status hearing will need to be held within sixty days of that order being signed. 

What needs to be determined at the status hearing?

The status hearing in your Child Protective Services case will determine the following:

-whether or not the Department of Family and Protective Services has exercised the due diligence necessary to locate all necessary persons, including an alleged father of the child, regardless of whether the alleged father is registered with the paternity registry. Any efforts that the state used to locate the father of your child needs to be documented as well. 

-for your purposes, the most important determination made at the status hearing will be whether a plan that has the goal of returning your child to you adequately ensures that reasonable efforts are made to enable you to provide a safe environment for your kids. You will be given a chance to make a comment regarding the service plan. Basically, the service plan will be looked at from the perspective of: 1) can you achieve its objectives 2) is the plan likely to keep your child safe?

-you will be asked whether or not you understand the plan. A lot of times (as you may be able to attest to) parents will sign the service plan as created by Child Protective Services just to give them an opportunity to get their child returned to them. If you do not read the plan then you are unlikely to actually understand the plan. The judge will want to make sure that you understand what you need to do in order to get your child back in your home. 

If you do not understand the plan you should ask questions about it and have those issues addressed. This will be the only time for a good while that you will be able to have the judge, Child Protective Services, your case worker and yourself in one room together. Take advantage of the opportunity by addressing any issues you have as well as by making absolutely sure that you understand what is expected of you in the safety plan

What role do you play in the creation of your service plan?

The Department of Family and Protective Services is required by law to involve you and your spouse in creating the service plan tailored to return your child to your home. You are going to be invited to meetings with Child Protective Services where your service plan will be discussed. Your attorney is also able to attend these meetings. Keep in mind that the judge likely will look at whether or not your attorney was involved in the creation of the plan. The more input that you have had the more stringently you will be expected to follow the plan. 

What will you be made aware of in the status hearing?

Your progress in following the service plan will be reviewed in later hearings. The judge will make you aware of this at the status hearing. The specific skills that you have learned/developed will be reviewed and any knowledge that you have gained will be something you are asked about, as well. 

With that said, your judge will warn you in front of all parties involved in your case that your parental rights may be limited or terminated completely unless you comply with the terms of your safety plan and display a willingness to provide your child with a safe home environment. 

An attorney ad litem who represents your child in the case will be appointed by the judge and you will be made aware of this in the status hearing. You will also be made known of your right to have an attorney represent you in the event that you are indigent, your right to have an attorney appointed by the court. If you subsequently request to have an attorney appointed to represent you then you will need to fill out the necessary paperwork for the judge to determine whether or not you meet the definition of indigent. 

Finally, the judge will review whatever visitation plan has been created by you and by Child Protective Services. The judge can make changes to a visitation plan at any time based on the circumstances of your case. 

More information on your service plan

The Department of Family and Protective Services must file a service plan with the court no later than the 45thday after the date the court issues a temporary order naming the Department as the temporary managing conservator of your child. This means that if your child is removed from your home, the state will need to seek a temporary order as soon as possible to continue to hold your child in their temporary custody. 

The service plan can be looked at as your game plan to get your child back home with you and your spouse. The service plan will be created with your input and that of your attorney. If you do not want to participate or refuse to participate in the creation of your service plan, the Department must file the service plan with the court in order for it become effective. After that time you may file a motion whenever you want to have a hearing held in order to change or modify the service plan in some regard. 

Service plans need to be specific. If you are not clear on what your responsibilities are then you have little chance of successfully completing the plan. Make sure that as the plan in being created that you not only understand your responsibilities but are clear on how they are written down. Because the service plan will be relied upon by persons for the rest of your case, the plan will need to be in writing. 

The goals that Child Protective Services has for your case will need to be detailed. Typically, that goal will be reunification of your child with you in your home. The steps that you need to take for your child to be returned to you will need to be outlined as well. The actions that you will specifically need to take to accomplish these goals will be spelled out for you. Even the skills and knowledge that you will need to develop and eventually possess will be laid out in the service plan. 

When will your service plan go into effect?

Your service plan will be effective as of the date that you, your spouse and the Department of Family and Protective Services signs the plan or the date that the court issues an order that states your plan is effective. Keep in mind the plan will be in effect until it is changed by the court or a new plan is negotiated between you and the Department. 

Whatever orders were previously issued by the judge in relation to your case, the terms of the service plan will need to be worked into those orders. As I mentioned earlier the judge has a great amount of discretion as far as changing the plan at any time or making whatever additional orders are deemed to be appropriate or in the best interests of your child. 

What sort of review will a court give to your visitation plan?

Visitation plans apply to a child who is in the temporary custody of the Department of Family and Protective Services and whose parents have a service plan in place whose goal is the return of that child to the home. Within one month of the Department being named as the temporary conservator of your child, a visitation plan will need to be developed between yourself and the Department. 

How often you are able to see your child will depend on whether or not you are able to keep your child safe in your home and what is in the best interests of your child. The age of your child will play a part as well. If you and your child are not living close to one another then visitation may not be as frequent as in cases where parent and child are residing close by. A copy of the visitation plan will be filed by the court once it is decided upon. 

Moving forward, the Department can change the visitation plan so long as you, your spouse and the Department on agree on the change. That change will need to be determined to be necessary to ensure the safety of your child and be in your child’s best interests. At no point can any visitation plan conflict with any court orders issued by the judge in your case. 

Permanency Planning Meetings in a Child Protective Services case

If the Department of Family and Protective Services is appointed a temporary managing conservator of your child, they are obligated by law to hold a permanency planning meeting. The overarching goal of this meeting will be to create a game plan that will allow your child to no longer need to be in their temporary custody moving forward and to allow your child to be placed with an adult who will be able to permanently care for the child. 

The Department will make known in these meetings what roadblocks are apparent in your case that may keep your child from being placed with you or another adult on a permanent basis. From those roadblocks, you and the Department will work together to develop ways to attack those roadblocks. 

Permanency Hearings that occur before final orders are issued in a Child Protective Services case

A permanency hearing will take place after the permanency meeting has occurred. You will be provided with an opportunity to set the plan you created into motion once the meeting concludes. From there, a hearing will be held in front of the judge so that the progress you are making can be examined further. 

The first permanency hearing has to be held no more than 180 days after the date that the court issues its temporary order naming the Department as the temporary caretaker for your child. A second hearing should occur no later than 120 days after the prior permanency hearing. Often times the second permanency hearing will act as a pretrial hearing in preparation for a trial. 

We will share more information on the permanency plan in tomorrow’s blog post

If today’s blog post was of interest to you then I recommend that you return to our blog tomorrow to read more about Child Protective Services cases. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we wrote about 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 where we can provide you with answers to your family law related questions. 

Our attorneys work in the family courts of southeast Texas and so so with a great deal of pride. We work tirelessly to help our clients achieve their goals. Thank you for your time and we look forward to being able to speak to you about how our office can help you and your family. 

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