Imagine hearing a knock on your front door, much to your surprise. You weren't expecting anyone. It is relatively early in the morning, too early for a neighbor to drop by or for a relative to swing over unannounced. You drop the kids off at school, and you are settling in to begin your day. After the new year, you just started working back in the office, and we're collecting things to jump right back in the car. Only now, you are walking towards the front door and wondering who it could be that was visiting you at a strange hour in the day.
Once you open the door, you see the smiling face of a young woman. You don't recognize her, but you can see that she is smiling and gives off the impression that she is friendly. Maybe she is a door-to-door salesperson trying to offer you a subscription to a magazine? Maybe she's a neighbor trying to sell candy bars for her child's school fundraiser? You have no clue, but then she introduces herself as an employee of the Department of Family and Protective Services here in Texas. She has an official-looking badge with a picture of her face on it. You've never heard of the Department of Family Protective Services, but in the coming weeks and months, you will become extremely familiar with them.
You step outside to speak with this young woman, and she informs you that a report came into her state agency wherein it was described that you had been accused of allegedly abusing your child. This is news to you. To say that you were caught flatfooted would be an understatement. How could anyone prepare for an accusation like this completely out of the blue? It was stunning, to say the least, how quickly your life changed once you heard those words. Immediately in your mind, your search for incidents and possible abuse occurrences could have been observed by another person. Your mind goes blank, and you can't possibly think of a time where you would have been even close to abusing your child.
This is what you tell the CPS employee. The Department of Family and Protective Services is the state agency that oversees Child Protective Services. While you may have never heard of the Department of Family Protective Services, you have undoubtedly heard of Child Protective Services. You may have even had family members or friends be involved in Child Protective Services cases for. Once all this information sinks into your brain, there is no doubt that you have a legitimate concern about where this new person in your life can lead you. The big concern that you have is that the destination is nowhere you want to go.
After exchanging pleasantries with the CPS caseworker, she asked if you would let her come inside and take a look around the house. After asking her about the allegations made against you, she is extremely vague and declines to talk about the specifics at this time. She lets you know that she will be more than happy to share more information with you if you would like to go with her to another location in speak to her in an interview setting about the allegations made. This understandably makes you nervous and has you wondering what rights you have and what can be done to protect you and your child right now.
This is a hypothetical situation that may mirror fairly closely your exact circumstances right now. If a CPS case suddenly became a part of your life, how would you respond? Would you know the first thing about what to do or how to protect yourself and your rights as a parent? Who would you turn to for assistance? These are great questions to ask right now rather than trying to sidestep or avoid them. In reality, while we cannot predict the future, there is a great deal that you can prepare for. Today's blog post is intended to help you navigate the world of a Texas Child Protective Services case if you are accused of abuse against your child.
Approaching an initial hearing in a Child Protective Services case
Depending on the exact circumstances of your case, Child Protective Services could either leave your child in your home with you or immediately take custody of them. The circumstances involved must be so significant in severe as to lead a caseworker to believe that there is an immediate risk of harm to your child where they are left in your home for any length of time. In this way, emergency removal of your child could occur before a court order is even obtained.
If Child Protective Services removes your child from your home on an emergency basis, then they would need to go before a judge within three days of having done so to hold a hearing that would allow them to be named as temporary managing conservators of your child and therefore be able to make decisions like where your child lives and where they will go to school. It is unlikely that you will be able to go to this hearing. A judge would only consider the agency's arguments if they were based on exigent circumstances and an immediate threat to the well-being of your child.
If a judge grants the request of the state of Texas to be named as a temporary managing Conservatory of your child, then the next step in the process would be to hold an initial hearing where all parties involved in the case, most notably you, could present evidence to the judge concerning where your child should be residing during this case. I am assuming at this point that there is enough evidence to substantiate some degree of abuse of your child. Still, you would be able to produce and present counterevidence, showing that no abuse occurred. At the very least, you would be able to present evidence showing that the removal of your child is not in their best interests.
If the Department of Family Protective Services is named the temporary managing conservator of your child at this initial hearing, the court will issue temporary orders. You may be able to ask to be named a temporary possessory conservator who would allow you to have some rights and duties in the court order and during the CPS case itself. These temporary orders will also include specific instructions to you on how to proceed in completing any course, therapy, or counseling necessary for you to have your child return to your home.
The nice thing is that CPS will often go to great lengths to include in an order mandates for you to participate in services directed at you specifically to confront any issues that have led to the removal of your child in the 1st place. For instance, if you are alleged to have struck your child in a grocery store, you may be required to attend anger management or other counseling types to address the issues you have with rage. By the same token, if drug addiction is a problem for you, you may be required to attend narcotics anonymous or another type of counseling to address the problems you have with drug abuse.
However, keep in mind that participation in these services is not optional. You will be required to attend any courses or therapy outlined in your temporary orders. If you do not comply with the orders, that may result in your parental rights being terminated or, at the very least limited to the extent that you hold very few rights about your child and have limited Visitation that is supervised. While you may not have asked for the CPS case to begin, the ball is in your court to be able to complete the requirements of your temporary orders and win the right back 2 make decisions and be with your child.
The temporary orders will also contain a Visitation schedule for you and your family with the child removed from your home. The Visitation you have will likely be supervised, either by the persons with whom your child is staying or with a court-appointed supervised Visitation facility. It may be the case that while you work on transitioning into a new life of sobriety or one where you are better able to control your emotions that the Visitation you earn with your child is gradually increased in duration as you show you are more capable of displaying behavior that is safe for your child.
When is the next step in the case when you can expect to be back in court?
Once your child is removed from your home, and an initial hearing is held, a second hearing with the judge will be held approximately 60 days after your child has been removed from your home. You will be required to attend this hearing, and it is highly encouraged for you to have an attorney at this stage. This is the stage in your case where decisions regarding how often your child sees you during this case and even whether or not your child can be removed from their current residence in place back in your home are determined. Putting your best foot forward is critical right now, and having an attorney by your side can only increase your chances of a good outcome for you and your family.
This status hearing will look at your progress in completing the courses in therapy outlined for you at the initial hearing. Additionally, a service plan would have been created by the caseworker with you and your spouse that outlines a step-by-step plan for reunification of you and your child. If you cannot afford to have an attorney with you at this hearing, you can request an attorney by filing a motion with the court in advance of this hearing.
Depending upon where your child has been residing to this point in the case, you and Child Protective Services may be able to discuss alternative placement for your child with a relative or friend of your family. For that reason, it is recommended that you speak to friends and family throughout the Child Protective Services case to gauge whether or not anyone is in a position to care for house your child for an extended period, if necessary. If you have persons like this in your life, you should provide their information to the Child Protective Services caseworker.
The caseworker will then perform an inspection of that person's home, interview any adult living in that home, and then perform a background in criminal history search on this person. If everything comes back positive, then at the status hearing, the judge in your case could decide to place your child with this person instead of with a foster family or foster home. I don't think there is any way of getting around it that this would be a much better alternative for your child if they have to be away from your home for any period.
What will be the goal of your Child Protective Services case?
From the outside of your case, your goal for the CPS case is likely to be your child being able to come home and reside with you permanently and for the CPS case's closure. Often, this is also the goal of Child Protective Services, but you should be aware that there is a range of plans that CPS could offer a court based on the specific circumstances of your case. The nature and history of the allegations made against you in the initial report and subsequent investigation will also play into CPS's decision-making in this regard.
A permanency plan will be presented to the judge, and the court will be asked to approve any plans of service set into motion and offered to you at the prior hearing. There are essentially two permanency goals better outlined at the status hearing: a primary permanency goal and a concurrent permanency goal. The primary permanency goal is one that CPS would most like to see occur, and a concurrent permanency goal is a second-place finisher as far as outcomes they would like to see occur if the primary goal cannot be reached.
Broadly speaking, four permanency goals may apply to your case. The first is the most straightforward, that being family reunification. Ostensibly, if you meet your Service plan requirements, attend any counseling or classes, remedy any deficiencies in your home, and take the steps necessary to improve your parenting. Family reunification will be the primary goal of your CPS case. You must have shown a willingness and ability to participate in the case process and follow your temporary orders for this goal to be set up.
If reunification with you in your home is not the best option for your child in the eyes of CPS, they may specify that your child's adoption by a relative or family member would be best. Also, persons not related to you may be considered for the adoption role if your circumstances justify it. If adoption is not in the cards for your case, the agency can ask that a relative or other person be named a permanent managing conservator of your child. This person would hold primary decision-making rights and duties for your child but would not become your child's legal parent through adoption.
Finally, CPS may ask a judge to consider placing her child into foster care permanently with the state retaining primary conservatorships rights to them. I typically view this as a last option for the state to consider do too apparent not participating in the steps that could lead towards reunification. You should consult with your attorney at this stage in the case and make sure that you understand what you have to do to ensure your child's reunification with you in your home.
Keep in mind that this status hearing is an opportunity for all the parties to chat with one another to determine if the temporary orders' goals are being met. I cannot emphasize enough how the failure to participate in the services required by your temporary orders can relate to your parental rights being terminated or severely restricted. If you are this deep into a case, you must play by the rules and follow the temporary orders as best you can.
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 presented in today's blog post. I would recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video to discuss your case. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services provided to our clients by our attorneys and staff.