If you are a father of a child going through a Child Protective Services (CPS) case then you may feel a bit left out of the process. Odds are decent that your child lives primarily with her mother and that any CPS involvement in your child’s life relates to an action taken (or not taken) by her mother. You could have found out about the case from CPS or from your child’s mother. However you found out about the case it is probable that you are worried, confused and have questions about what role you are able to play in the case and in the investigation.
Fathers have just as much a right to make decisions and spend time with their children as do mothers. That is true until a court steps in and creates orders on conservatorship of a child. If you have previously been to court and have court orders that govern visitation, possession, access and child support then you know the times that you are able to see your child and the rights that you have as far as decision-making capabilities are concerned.
No matter what rights you have been granted by a court, you have the potential to play a significant role in your child’s life. This is especially true during a difficult time like a CPS case. You can support your child and your family during this time. You can play a role in creating a visitation plan. You can act as a temporary managing conservator of your child during the case if that is deemed to be in your child’s best interests.
Once you are identified as the father of this child you should take advantage of every opportunity you are given in order to spend time with your child and contribute to the creation of any safety or service plans. It is typical that once CPS identifies you as the father and the extent of your involvement with your family is determined, you are able to increase your role in parenting your child during a CPS case.
Steps were taken by CPS to involve you as a father during a case/investigation
As odd as it may sound, you need to be located and identified in order to become an active participant in your child's CPS case. In many situations, you may have to be tracked down in another city or state if you do not live close by to your child. It is very important that you return phone calls from CPS during this stage in your case. You as the father have an important role to play in the case and can have a significant impact on the proceedings if you are involved and willing to lend a hand when it comes to finding a place for your child to stay during the case.
Even if your child’s mother is hesitant in regard to involving you in the case, CPS should sit down with all parties to make sure that everyone is aware that you as the father have a right to be contacted with updates about the case and to possibly provide housing if it is deemed to be in your child’s best interests. All relatives of yours and your child’s mother should be aware of this.
It could be the case that your child’s mother has never allowed you to see your child. If you live in another state or lack the financial resources to do so, you may have never had an opportunity to have a court address this issue. Even if you have never been in contact with your child before it is important that you make yourself available to CPS during this time. It is now your responsibility to provide care to your child and support (financial, emotional, etc.) as your child’s case begins to pick up steam.
If you are not in a position where you can house your child temporarily during the case, you should be consulted with as far as what relatives or other adult friends of your family would be able to house your child. You should begin contacting family and close friends to let them know what is happening with your child so that they may be aware of the circumstances. I'm sure you prefer to have your child placed with one of these folks than to say with a foster family or in CPS care.
There will be doctor’s visits, planning sessions and updates on the phone that are provided by CPS that you will need to be available to receive. You will have the ability to shape the sort of planning that goes with your child as far as where he lives, what sort of visitation you are able to have with your child and any other important pieces of information like this. Your child’s foster family (if he is placed into foster care) will be notified of your involvement in the case as well.
Planning visitation helps to maintain family connections
The more involvement that you as a father have in planning a visitation schedule for your child, the greater the chance you will have of becoming involved in your child's life after a hearing. If you have only been able to have sparse contact with your child to this point in their life, use this CPS case as an opportunity to bond with your child and create a relationship that may not have been able to exist. Your family and extended family are likely to be grateful for the opportunity.
Form a support system and keep them involved
The weight of the world may feel like it's on your shoulders, but it is not. This CPS case will allow you to involve your support system in an effort to help maintain some normalcy in your child’s life during the case. The more involved that you are the more your family’s cultural, linguistic, educational, religious and other needs will be considered and implemented within safety, service and visitation planning.
Your child’s circumstances are changing, and a visitation plan must take those changes into consideration
As your child's needs change during a case, the visitation plan should change as well. At the outset of a case, your child may be limited to only supervised visitation with their mother and even with you. However, as you show that you are capable of having unsupervised care with your child greater latitude will be provided to you in this regard. However, to get to the point where you are having unsupervised visitation with your child you need to first take advantage of the time you are afforded at the beginning of the case.
CPS will want your child to be able to have visitation sessions occur in a "home-like" environment. Sometimes this means that you will be able to have visitation in the home of a family member. At the outset of a case, it may mean that you see your child at a CPS facility or other court-ordered supervised visitation facility. Chairs, couches, games, and toys will likely be available for you all to engage with. It isn't your living room, but it is as close as you can get at that moment.
The schedule and needs of your child and you will be a part of this analysis. If you have a work schedule that lends itself to frequent, shorter visits during the day you should raise this point with the CPS caseworker. Your visitation session for your child should reflect this availability. The same can be said for your child’s medical needs. You should be involved as much as possible in the medical appointments that your child has to attend. Communicating your child’s needs as well as your willingness to participate in their daily care is very important.
You and CPS need to keep in mind the long-term goals for your child
Ultimately, whatever discussions and planning that are had with CPS, you and your family should be geared towards achieving a permanency goal for your child. If the permanency goal is to place your child with an aunt or uncle, then that aunt or uncle should be a huge part of the planning process. If the permanency goal involves you moving closer to where your child lives now and taking over as managing conservator then you need to show CPS that you are moving towards that goal.
Your role in your child’s life will increase, assuming that reunification with you is the goal
No matter what your role has been in your child’s life, you can look at this CPS case as the beginning of a new life for you and your child. If you are gaining a stronger relationship with your child and are bonding well it could be that you are going to be named as the likely permanent managing conservator of your child. This is great news for you, and you will be given increased access and decision-making capabilities by the judge in order to further this goal. However, your willingness to participate in the process early can have a tremendous impact on the case later on.
What role can you play if your child is being placed into foster care?
Foster care is a scary term for parents going through CPS cases. It means that a great deal of your personal autonomy regarding your child is being ceded to a complete stranger. It is even tougher to deal with because having your child placed with a foster family is a sign that there is something lacking in your ability to parent your child- at least in the eyes of CPS.
With that said, you will have an opportunity to play a role when it comes to providing input to CPS about where your child should be placed. Your extended family, friends and the resources available in your child’s community should be noted and implemented into your child’s case. CPS even has a Family Group Decision Making process that will allow all of you to provide input as to the future and immediate housing of your child. Common goals in this scenario would include enabling your family to feel involved in the planning process, to increase the frequency with which you and your family are able to visit your child, and a gradual sharing of the tasks necessary in helping to raise your child on a day to day basis.
What are the expectations that are in place for you in relation to this case?
You and CPS will work to identify appropriate expectations and behaviors in relation to your child for the extent of your case. Successful visitation is oftentimes dependent on the following types of behaviors:
-disciplining your child with non-violent means
-calling in advance of a visit in the event that you will not be able to attend
-attending visitation alone unless pre-cleared to bring another family member by CPS
-bringing toys, games, clothes and other items that may be helpful to your child during this transition time
-determining what you can and cannot speak to your child about, re the CPS case
Interested in learning more about the nuts and bolts of a CPS investigation in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
On behalf of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to thank you for showing an interest in our office and the content of today’s blog post. If you have any questions about what you have read or need clarification on anything contained in the blog, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Our licensed family law attorneys offer 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 your specific circumstances.
Our attorneys take a great deal of pride in being able to represent our clients throughout the courts of southeast Texas. We appreciate your time and look forward to the opportunity to work with you in the future.