It can be extremely disconcerting and worrying to receive a knock at the door only to find someone from Child Protective Services on the other side of your front door. This would qualify as one of those interactions where no good can come from CPS trying to investigate your family for abuse or neglect. The best-case scenario would be that CPS investigates and quickly finds no evidence to corroborate allegations of abuse or neglect of your children. In the worst scenario, CPS investigates and finds that there is evidence to corroborate a report of abuse or neglect, and your children may be removed from your house.
Whenever you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, it is important not to make rash decisions or do things out of character. For instance, your gut reaction to seeing someone from the government at your front door may be to ask them to leave quickly and not participate in whatever they are trying to talk to you about. On the other hand, you may be so afraid of what the consequences may be for not participating in the process that you may be walking into a potentially harmful situation where you could risk losing your children or having your parental rights terminated due to something you said that may not have been true or may be misinterpreted by the agency.
These are the inherent risks associated with the CPS case. The trouble with CPS is that the cases associated with this state agency are run according to a timeline that you have little direct control over. Yes, you will indeed be able to fully participate in the process that that is your choice and to remedy situations in your home about yourself that may have caused CPS intervention in the 1st place. In many cases, parents like yourself can take away a lot of good from a CPS case and can learn from mistakes that they have made previously. This would be the ultimate best-case scenario for you: to have your children quickly return to your home and to be able to have said you learn something and accomplished something productive in the course of the case.
With that said, when an unfamiliar face saying he or she is from CPS stands at your front door, it is almost impossible to have this level of perspective. When you find yourself in a circumstance like that, you will almost surely be concerned primarily with the future of your children and of your ability to combat any wrongful allegations made against you of abuse and neglect of your children. Fortunately for you, you have options and resources to turn to in the event of CPS intervention into your life. Today's blog post will discuss with you what a CPS case looks like and what options are available to you if a CPS investigator or caseworker were to knock on your door tomorrow.
How does CPS learn about potential instances of abuse or neglect of a child?
This is a fair question to ask if you find yourself being investigated by CPS. Even if no abuse or neglect, if your child ever happened, you were likely curious about how CPS would even come to interview you? After all, isn't Texas a big state where it will be difficult for anyone to track down the things you do or the things that happened within your family? How could CPS possibly know of a specific instance involving your children in you enough to come to your front door and investigate your family?
The truth is that CPS does not have eyes and ears everywhere, but they encourage Texans to report to them potential incidents of abuse or neglect of a child. This means that CPS has 24-hour call centers where persons can make anonymous phone calls regarding potential incidents of abuse or neglect of a child. CPS collects basic information from these anonymous tipsters and then sends these tips to local CPS offices across our state. From there, CPS can decide which tips have a substantial basis for being true and will conduct investigations accordingly. Persons who observe what they believe to be abuse and neglect of children make calls like this every day to the state, and this is where an investigation with CPS begins.
You may have been out and about with your children and needed to discipline them for poor behavior or things of that nature. As a result, someone may have seen you either wrongfully strike your child or even do something completely benign but was taken out of context. By the same token, doing things as simple as leaving your children home alone for a short period without supervision could be reported as neglect, or taking your children somewhere such as an adult establishment or bar could also result in neglect finding by CPS. The specific circumstances associated with each of these acts may seem to be completely fine at the time. Still, the objective circumstances surrounding them may yield an abuse or neglect finding after a CPS investigation.
Another source of allegations for abuse or neglect if a child comes from teachers and administrators in your child's school. Specific to this year, one of the major concerns that I had in the closing of in-person schooling for much of this year was that teachers act as a primary line of defense against the abuse and neglected children. Many children in our area and across the state do suffer actual cases of abuse and neglect. But for the teachers of these children coming forward and making reports to CPS, the actual cases of abuse and neglect may not have gone diagnosed or dealt with directly. When teachers did not have access to students, this increased with undiagnosed and unreported abuse and neglected children.
It is not as if you can go back in time and change your behavior towards your children, resulting in a report of abuse or neglect. On the other hand, if you are reading this and are not yet involved in a CPS case, you can use it to change your behavior for the better. Keep in mind that you cannot always control the behavior of other people around you. Therefore there is little you can do to control people from making false claims of abuse or neglect associated with your parenting. However, you do have direct control over your actions, and the knowledge of just how easy it is to make an allegation of abuse or neglect should temper your willingness to parent in ways that could result in abuse or neglect being alleged against you.
How to handle the initial contact with CPS?
From the outset, you have a decision to make as far as how to approach an investigation against you and your family by CPS. Many people take the reaction to completely ignore the investigation and not participate in the process at all. The decision to act in this manner can take the case in one of two directions. If CPS already has some degree of information or evidence to substantiate the allegation of abuse or neglect, your participation may only be making the circumstances worse. I say this because you're not allowing your input or perspective to take part in the case by not participating. As a result, I believe in this type of circumstance, and it would be more likely for CPS to believe that abuse or neglect did occur only because they will be obtaining information that is adverse to your cause. Not being able to participate in the decision-making process would be bad for you in circumstances like this.
In other circumstances, you're not participating in the CPS investigation may work out to your benefit. This would be a foreseeable and reasonable outcome if CPS does not have much evidence to substantiate the allegation of abuse or neglect but feels the need to interview and conduct an investigation anyway. If they cannot speak to other people associated with your family, obtain evidence from other sources, or in general, substantiate the allegation. Their inability to speak to you may cause him to close out an investigation. This means that your child would not be removed from your home in that no further action will be taken.
An exception to this sort of circumstance will be if you fail to participate in the process. Still, CPS believes emergency circumstances in place required them to take action with or without your immediate participation. For instance, if CPS believes that there is reason to believe sexual abuse of one of your children has a curd in your home, and it further believes that additional acts may be conducted on your child shortly, it may use emergency powers to remove your children even before a formal investigation has begun. This means that if CPS believes your child is that an immediate risk of harm, it will not fail to act to remove your child.
How can you tell what sort of circumstance you are in as far as the CPS case?
From reading the preceding section of today's blog post, you may come to realize that your case may fall into one of two categories: where there is some meat on the bone as far as an investigation or a situation where the agency has little information or evidence to go off of and very little cause for concern as far as the removal of your child from your home. The trouble for you and families in your circumstances would be to tell the difference between the two. I mean by that, you need to ask yourself how you can tell what type of situation you and your family are in?
The difficulty lies in telling the difference between an investigation that isn't going to go anywhere and a serious investigation. Ultimately, you may need to be honest and objective with yourself in determining whether or not you think acts of abuse or neglect occurred in your home. If you know that there is reason to believe abuse or neglect occurred in your heart of hearts, you probably will conclude that CPS will engage in a detailed investigation with or without your participation. This would mean that your participation in the process would be strongly encouraged.
From my experience having worked with many families in CPS cases before, I can tell you that mothers and fathers who are involved in a case with CPS are rarely able to take an objective and fair look at themselves when there is a real question about whether or not abused and neglected your child has a curd. I'm not saying that people involved in these cases are not good parents. Still, I am saying that people involved in these types of cases are often scared and unable to objectively examine their lives to determine their child's risk of being removed from their home.
It would be beneficial for you to have someone by your side who could offer you honest and objective advice based on your specific circumstances. It would be even more beneficial to you for the same person to have a great deal of experience in family law and CPS cases in general. For this reason, I would recommend that you speak to a family law attorney in Texas as soon as you become aware that CPS is attempting to investigate your family. The sooner you can speak to an attorney, the better off you will be because that attorney will be able to help you and your family avoid making mistakes from the outset of the investigation.
There is a fine line between being willing to participate in a CPS case and sharing information that could potentially harm you and your relationship with your kids. What happens a lot in family law cases involving CPS is that a judge will look at the testimony of a CPS caseworker with a lot more credibility than the judge will look at the testimony of a mother or father. The reason for this is that many family court judges who work CPS cases will have encountered that caseworker or investigator on other occasions and will have built a relationship with him or her. As a result, no matter how true they may be, your words will often be viewed more skeptically than the words of a CPS caseworker.
For this reason, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to choose the words you use with CPS very carefully. Even if you have all the best intentions and are nothing but honest with these agency workers, words taken out of context or out of turn may be news in some way to harm you or to even have your child removed from your home for a long period. For that reason, it is best to have someone guiding you through the process, like an attorney who can help you to avoid problems before they arise. As the old saying goes: a penny's worth of prevention is worth a dollar’s worth of cure.
Not only is it important to have the advice and counsel of an attorney to help guide you through a case, but you must have the advice and guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Family law attorneys Who have CPS case experience are especially helpful. CPS cases tend to take on a life of their own, and relying on an attorney who has never been through a case before would not measure up to the advice of an attorney who has worked with clients from beginning to end of these types of cases.
If CPS comes to knock at your door, you need to honestly ask yourself if you know what to do and how to proceed. This is not something that most people are prepared for, and not knowing how to proceed when so much is on the line would be a huge risk for you to take. For that reason, as soon as you are able, I would seek out the advice and obtain as much information as I can from experienced family law attorneys in the area of CPS cases.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material 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 consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services that our office provides to our clients daily in Southeast Texas.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas CPS Defense Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defense Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our CPS defense lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles CPS defense cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County