When Child Protective Services (CPS) begins to investigate your family, they will be charged with making decisions that are in the best interests of your children. This is the same standard of care that you are presumed to use in raising your children. The State of Texas utilizes certain factors when making a “best interests” determination regarding your kids. Let’s walk through those factors here at the beginning of today’s blog post.
First, your child’s age and physical and mental vulnerabilities will be considered. The needs of your child will differ depending upon their age. An infant or toddler requires more frequent care and attention than does a teenager. If your child has a special need then he or she will likely require ongoing medical care, they need to be in a situation where he or she can obtain that care. A child with mental vulnerabilities means that he or she may also need to accept medication or therapy. If you have not considered how your special needs child may help determine the outcome of the CPS case.
Next, CPS will determine if your child has ever been removed from your home before. The details always matter when it comes to this factor. If your child has been removed from your home multiple times before but for reasons unrelated to something going on currently then that would matter to them. For example, if your child hurt themselves due to a condition in a home that you no longer live in then that would be a relevant consideration in this context. However, if your child had been removed twice before due to something the same as is going on right now then that, too, would be a relevant consideration for CPS to make.
CPS not only cares about your behavior and your co-parent's behavior towards your child but also everyone else who lives in the home with you. Do you have extended family living in the house? What about family friends? These are important considerations for you to make since those person backgrounds will be reviewed by CPS in an investigation. If any of those people have a history of having issues regarding abuse or neglect of your child, then that will impact whether your child is ultimately removed from the home because of their investigation. You may need to take proactive measures, such as asking a particular person to move out, rather than risk your child being placed temporarily into CPS custody.
An unfortunate reality is that substance abuse is not uncommon in situations involving children and CPS. Substance abuse is not all that uncommon in other circumstances, as well, but it seems to come up with greater frequency in these CPS cases. Drugs, alcohol, prescription medicines, and the list go on and on. If you or a family member living with you have an addiction or a problem with abusing a substance, then your child’s access to the substance becomes a relevant consideration. CPS can base neglect findings on simply having these substances within reach of an unsupervised child. Think about that the next time you leave a bottle of pills on the counter without putting them away. Even having a roommate who partakes in recreational marijuana on the back porch can be the basis for a CPS case.
Preference is given to placing a child with a relative
Before we go any further in today’s blog post we should discuss what the likely outcome for the case will be in terms of where your child would go after being removed from your home. CPS is not chomping at the bit to remove your child from your home. It is a big responsibility for them to care for and oversee a child. Their preference would be to do as little as is necessary to ensure the safety of your child and your adherence to any plan that is created to help you reach that goal. Note that you will have a say in the process if your case goes on. CPS will always reach out to you for input and consideration during a case.
However, in some circumstances, it will become necessary in the opinion of CPS to remove your child from your home. This is normally done temporarily to allow you time to fix whatever problem is in the home that led to CPS becoming involved in the first place. Sometimes all it takes is a few weeks for you to fix the problem. Other times, a court will determine that the length of time will be longer. No matter what- you need to know where your child is likely to land once being taken from your home.
The preference of CPS is to place your child in the home of a relative of yours. That begins with your child’s other parent. Your co-parent will be contacted at the beginning of an investigation into abuse or neglect at your home to not only inform him or her but to gauge whether he or she would be willing and able to become the primary conservator of your child temporarily. If he could pass a background, check this would be the preference as far as placement is concerned with CPS.
Otherwise, a relative of either you or your co-parent could be chosen as a person who could host your child and take care of him or her while the investigation is ongoing. Bear in mind that any relative would need to pass a criminal background check and have a home visit from CPS to determine whether their home was conducive to hosting your child. You may even choose to begin to reach out to your relatives as a support system at the beginning of a CPS case. You do not need to be embarrassed by being involved in a CPS case. In fact, not contacting your relatives could end up being a major mistake if they can care for your child.
CPS and permanency hearings
If your child is removed from your care, then CPS will work towards a permanent housing and conservatorship solution for your child. The agency desires stability for your child. Their preference will be to reunite your child with you in your home unless it becomes apparent that this would not be possible. Many times, parents in your position are simply unable to participate fully in the safety planning, counseling, meetings, and other requirements laid out for them in the CPS case. In that circumstance, the agency would need to turn towards other options as far as a permanent housing solution for your child. That could involve placement with a foster family, a relative of yours, or your co-parent.
The court will host a series of permanency hearings during a CPS case. The primary purpose of these permanency hearings will be to determine whether your home is an appropriate choice for a permanent place for your child to live after the CPS case. Is your home safe? Have you remedied any of the defects that were present in the home? Have you asked the person or persons who were causing trouble for your child to leave the home? These are the sort of best interest questions that a court will ask you as well as the attorney for CPS in these permanency hearings.
Another question that the court must ask itself is whether it will need to talk to your child directly. The law in Texas is that if your child is over the age of four, and the court determines that doing so is in the child’s best interests, then your child will be interviewed by the judge regarding what happens next in the case as far as finding a permanent place for your child to reside. A judge would take into consideration the opinion of your child but does not need to rely solely on that opinion when deciding about permanent placement.
Instead of removing your child, what can a court choose to do?
Just because CPS becomes involved in an investigation of you and your family does not mean that the agency will necessarily remove your child from your home. I can understand why you may think that it is likely that this will occur given the tone of today's blog post, but I can tell you from experience it is not in most CPS cases a child is removed from the home of a parent. Here is what CPS can choose to do in terms of alternatives to removing your child from your home.
A safety plan can be created as a means of ensuring that you will work to remedy any issues in your home or in your life that had previously presented a risk of harm to your child or outright caused harm in your child’s life. When a safety plan is created, it is done with the cooperation of you and your CPS caseworker. Any adult living in your household, especially an adult family member, is frequently a part of the safety plan as well.
These are situations where court documents are not filed, and a judge does not become involved in the case. What you need to be aware of when it comes to safety plans is that they are not court orders. You will not see a judge's signature anywhere on the safety plan that you create with CPS. However, your failure to follow the terms of the safety plan can be harmful to your case and to your ability to have your child returned to your home promptly. The failure to abide by the terms of a safety plan can be used as evidence in any future permanency hearing.
Bear in mind that you would play a part in the creative safety plan. For that reason, it can look especially bad if you fail to abide by its terms. Agreeing to have your child reside outside the home could give the court the impression that you are taking this case seriously and are not attempting to sidestep your responsibilities in the case as far as improving whatever conditions in your home or life need work.
Visitation may be restricted or denied during this time. You may need some time to work on yourself away from your child. This can be a difficult pill to swallow especially if you have not seen your child in some time. However, when you consider that the steps you take and the progress that you make in your case can have a direct impact on your ability to raise your child in the future, taking a step back now may make a ton of sense for you. Showing that you are taking the case seriously can result in your regaining time with your children quickly and can even put an end to your case with enough forward progress.
Finally. You may see that drug testing becomes a part of your CPS safety plan. This would occur in a situation where drugs or alcohol are an issue in your life. For you to submit to drug testing would be a major step forward in convincing a court to allow your child to return to your home. These drug tests may occur at regular intervals or even at random times with little notice. The safety plan will spell out the specific terms of the drug testing regimen that you will undergo. If you have questions about what is or what is not appropriate as far as drug testing is concerned, please make sure that you have an experienced family law attorney by your side.
What could lead to an investigation into your family not being completed?
Sometimes circumstances beyond a family’s control may arise where an investigation cannot be completed. For example, suppose that a person in your family interferes with the investigation to the point where it cannot be completed. In that case, CPS will not do anything to put your child or their caseworker in harm’s way and will likely shut down the investigation. However, this does not mean that they will shut down the investigation and leave your life completely. Rather, it is likely that CPS will decide as to abuse, neglect, or placement of your child based on the evidence presented to them thus far. Therefore, you need to make sure that CPS can conduct its interview free of distractions.
Next, CPS could be denied access to your child to conduct its investigation. Let’s suppose that CPS received an anonymous call from someone who said that your child had large bruises on their arm that appeared to have been caused by you hitting and squeezing him or her. The physical evidence of this abuse is critical for an investigation into possibly removing your child from the home. With that said, the physical evidence of this abuse is critical to producing a complete investigation. If CPS cannot obtain evidence of this sort on its own it must choose whether to conclude its investigation or to investigate further via a court order.
In this case, a court can order that CPS be given access to your home, school, or any other place where your child may be. This could be to ask questions or your child or to gain access to their school or medical records. From there, CPS can conclude its investigation and decide whether to remove your child from your home.
What can CPS do if you attempt to remove your child from Texas?
With so many Texans having relatives outside the State or even outside the country, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that you could choose to take your child somewhere beyond our borders in response to a CPS case being started. If you had considered this, I would seriously stop to think about what the consequences of your actions may be. It is understandable to be upset about CPS being involved in your life and that of your child. However, the decision to remove your child from another state or country can be disastrous to your case.
In this case, CPS can file a motion and attach an affidavit detailing why they believe that you are a flight risk with your child. The affidavit attached to the motion would provide the judge with the factual circumstances on which to decide about whether or not to grant the request for an order to be issued barring you from removing your child to another state or country. In that case, be sure to have a plan on how to respond to the accusation that you are attempting to take your child out of state.
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 consultations 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 how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- What to Do When CPS Asks for a Drug Test in Texas
- CPS and how The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC can help
- Take control of your child’s CPS case by following these tips
- How to stand up for yourself during a Texas CPS case
- How to prevent a second CPS investigation after your first concludes
- Family Law Cases in Texas: The final stages of a CPS case
- When can CPS remove your child from your home in Texas and what can you do about it?
- What to do if you no longer like your CPS service plan?
- In what circumstances could your child end up living with your relative during a CPS case?
- What can a CPS investigation into your family mean now and in the future?
- What to do if your spouse is being investigated by CPS in Texas for abuse or neglect of your child?
- Can CPS photograph your house and request your child’s medical records in Texas?
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 the 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.