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Can social services take my child away without evidence?

One of the most frightening propositions that I can think of that a parent would have to go through is having your child removed from your home by the state. Whatever your circumstances are in whatever you honestly believe your parenting capabilities to be I'm willing to bet that no parent honestly believes that their child is better off living with people who are not their family. Whatever deficits each of us lack is apparent there is almost no scenario that I could think of that you would want your child or feel comfortable with your child living with anyone but you. 

However, the reality is that families can in do see their children removed from their home for several reasons. These reasons are typically related to investigations on behalf of the state of Texas regarding potential incidents of abuse and neglect of children. If you are believed to have abused or neglected your child then the state of Texas may investigate your life to determine whether or not these incidents of abuse or neglect occurred. It is a result of these investigations that your child may be removed from your home. 

An overview of The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services 

In the title, of today's blog post we ask the question of whether or not social services can take your child away without evidence. I am going to do my best to answer that question for you today. When it comes to social services, the state of Texas employs a state agency to look into and investigate potential incidents of abuse or neglect against vulnerable persons. In our context today the vulnerable people her children. That state agency is called the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. 

The Department of Family and Protective Services functions to maintain the safety of at-risk children. Reports of potential incidents of abuse or neglect can be made to the Department of Family and Protective Services either online or over the phone. These reports are kept confidential, meaning that if a person makes a report to the State about abuse or neglect of your child then you will not be able to find out who it was that made the initial report. The State wants to encourage people to be willing to contact them if acts of abuse or neglect against children are observed. 

When a report comes into the Department of Family and Protective Services a sub-group of this state agency known as Child Protective Services investigates these reports to determine whether or not there is any legitimacy to them. This is the key point where the State will decide the extent to which they will play a role in your life in the following weeks and months. If there is no information available, not enough people available to interview or you simply do not grant them access to your home then Child Protective Services may move on and choose not to extend their investigation. 

However, Child Protective Services can also choose to extend an investigation if they find sufficient cause to do so. From the outset, Child Protective Services will attempt to interview you, any other adult in your household, and your child in connection with the report regarding the abuse or neglect of your child. The investigation will be conducted to substantiate the reports of abuse or neglect. Possible outcomes of their investigation could be that abuse or neglect has been ruled out, a decision was unable to be determined, or that abuse or neglect is likely to have curd. If neglect or abuse is likely to have occurred based on the evidence gathered through their investigation then a few options will be made available to you.

What can happen as the result of a Child Protective Services investigation? 

if it is determined that your child likely was a victim of abuse or neglect, whether by you or by another adult, you may be asked to complete coursework, counseling, or other therapies as a part of a safety plan. The safety plan will be created by you and by Child Protective Services to best ensure the safety of your child moving forward. My experience with Child Protective Services is that if you participate in the creation of the plan and complete the plan promptly that your future involvement with Child Protective Services can be greatly reduced. 

Child Protective Services wants to do its best to determine that it is unlikely that your child will be at risk of harm in the future. If you participate in this process and work together with your caseworker then you will be able to better ensure the safety of your child and have CPS exit your life more quickly. This is one of the main benefits of having an experienced family law attorney to represent you in a CPS defense case. Your attorney will be able to help guide you through the process and keep you accountable for the goals that you created along with the agency. 

This is what happens in the vast majority of Child Protective Services cases. The agency conducts an investigation, a decision is made about abuse or neglect and any remedial measures that are created with the parent are taken to ensure the future safety of the child. If you were to become involved in a Child Protective Services investigation then it is likely that this would be the result of your case. However, it is also possible that additional measures have to be taken in the opinion of the agency to protect your child. In that case, the state may take possession of your child for a period based on the risk of harm to him or her. 

What happens when Child Protective Services takes possession of your child? 

Getting back to what we discussed at the beginning of this blog post, there is a non-zero chance that your child could be removed from your home as the result of a CPS investigation. I am not excited to tell you this but it is a possibility that you need to consider. We are going to discuss how CPS could remove your child from your home, how to get your child back home with you, and what you can do to best ensure that this situation never crosses your front doorstep (literally). 

If CPS believes that there is an immediate and ongoing risk of harm to your child such that removal of your child is the best way to alleviate that concern then the agency will not hesitate to do so. However, based on the probable risk of harm to your child the agency will either hold a hearing before a judge where you can attend or can hold an emergency hearing before the judge without providing you notice or an opportunity to do so. 

First off, if the agency believes that there is evidence to suggest that your child will again be abused or neglected in your home or that you are incapable of preventing harm to your child then the agency may well request a hearing before a judge wherein a request is made to place your child in their temporary care. An attorney representing the state of Texas will be able to present evidence and make a request to grant them temporary conservatorship over your child. 

At that point, the judge would decide whether or not to grant their request. If the request for temporary conservatorship is granted then the state will remove your child from your home and place him or her in a state facility or with a foster family. The law requires that a second hearing is held before a judge within 72 hours of removal to provide you with an opportunity to contest the initial removal. You will be able to present evidence and Mount a case against the continued removal of your child from your home. 

The judge will have an opportunity to either return your child to your home or allow for the state to retain temporary custody of your child. In a hearing like this, it would be in your best interest to have an attorney by your side. I realized that the turnaround time between the removal of your child in this second hearing will not be more than a few days but it is in your best interest to have an attorney available to represent you. You should immediately begin interviewing attorneys to determine who is best suited to help you. 

Along the way, in a Child Protective Services case, subsequent hearings will be held every few months that allow the state and you to provide updates to a judge as to your efforts being made to the average child returned to your home. You will be able to take advantage of Visitation sessions and planning for the return of your child. The state will make recommendations that include the reunification in your home of you and your child, placing your child permanently with a relative or other adult, the state remaining in the primary conservatorships role on an ongoing basis, or even the termination of your parental rights.

Can the state of Texas terminate your parental rights to your child? 

An option that the state of Texas does have to keep your child safe from harm is to terminate your parental rights. This would be a fairly obvious example of an extreme measure that may be taken if all other attempts to keep your child safe have failed. It is not likely that apparently like yourself would have their parental rights terminated but it certainly is a possibility. Normally, a parent will have failed to participate in the process of having their child returned to their home. This means failing to complete a counseling or other coursework intended to help you learn how to better parent your child. 

So, if I can provide one bit of advice as far as helping you retain possession of your child and not have your parental rights terminated it would be to participate fully with the state agency when it comes to efforts to ensure that your home is the safest place possible for your child. It would be unlikely for the state to make a recommendation against reunification in your home unless you quite obviously failed to participate in safety planning another step laid out for the safe return home with your child. If he can follow instructions and keep up with your investigation then it is very unlikely that your parental rights could be terminated. 

Having your parental rights terminated is very serious. The result of parental rights termination cases is that you will not have a legally defined relationship with your child moving forward. Your rights and duties about your child would be the same as my legal relationship with your child. It wouldn't matter that you are the child's biological parent if you do not have any legal right or duty to make decisions for the child or to support him or her. This is an intimidating proposition to be sure. 

If the state moves to terminate your parental rights you would be able to have an attorney appointed for you if you are unable to provide one for yourself. By either your motion or the motion of the court they mean based tests will be administered to determine whether or not you can afford to hire A private attorney to defend you in a termination circumstance. As soon as you become aware of the state trying to terminate your parental rights you should request in a hearing the opportunity to have an attorney appointed for you. 

What to do if you find yourself in a CPS case? 

I think the worst thing you can do if you find yourself in a CPS case would be to do nothing at all. Well, there is a chance that your failure to participate in the case that its beginning could result in the investigation being closed there is also a possibility that the allegations made in a report to CPS are so substantial that the state could try and take your child from you even if you do not provide any evidence additional to what has already been compiled in their investigation. Locking your door and refusing do you allow them entry or access to your child cannot permanently prevent there removing your child from your home. 

A court order can and may be obtained by the state to remove your child from your home. The state will be able to bring law enforcement officers to help follow through with the removal of your child from your home. The idea that you can essentially barricade your child inside your home to prevent their removal is farfetched and not realistic. If the state wants to remove your child from your home and has evidence to do so then it can likely obtain a court order that gives them the legal right to move forward. 

While this is going on you need to be consulting with experienced family law attorneys who can help you to determine your best course of action. You can meet with as many family law attorneys as you can to determine a strategy to implement as far as moving forward with your case. In my opinion, you must work with a family law attorney who has handled CPS defense cases like yours previously. 

Once your child is removed from your home you should aim to stay as informed about your case as possible. This responsibility will fall on your shoulders primarily. The state will do the bare minimum to keep you updated with what is happening with your child but you should take it upon yourself to reach out to your CPS caseworker and their supervisor as frequently as possible for updates on the situation. Having an attorney to help protect your rights while you do but you need to stay on top of the case is the best possible scenario. 

Finally, you should remember that whatever you are going through from an emotional perspective is probably a fraction of what your child is going through. Every effort you make and every decision you make should be done with the mindset of wanting to do the utmost possible to have your child be reunited with you as quickly as possible. Any other motivation our goal for your case will be unsatisfying it may leave you in the unsettling position of having your parental rights terminated permanently. 

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 contained 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 as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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