Some of the most difficult yet rewarding family law cases to represent families in are Child Protective Services cases. These are the sort of cases where the outcomes can range from heartwarming to heartbreaking. Either a child can be reunited with his or her parents after a long time away from home, or a child and a parent will have their legal relationship broken and terminated due to the actions of a parent. These are the possible outcomes of a CPS case, and for that reason, it is incredibly important for parents of all parties to be aware of what is at stake.
Most people who begin a CPS case have more questions than answers. This is understandable, considering how little most of us know about the world of CPS and their potential impact on our families. I'll begin by saying that the job of a CPS caseworker or investigator is difficult. These folks are forced to confront sometimes horrible situations and to do so with grace and kindness. At the same time, a CPS caseworker or investigator must be strong enough and tough enough 2 protect the best interests of a child who sometimes is not being cared for properly by their parents or guardians.
This is an unenviable situation for these caseworkers and investigators. When I was in high school and just starting to work for the first time, I remember somebody telling me that you want to work in a job where you get to see people on their best day rather than on their worst day. Well, if that is the benchmark for having an enjoyable profession over having a not enjoyable profession, then CPS caseworkers may not enjoy their work very much. The fact is when CPS knocks on your door to begin an investigation of your family, you will not be having one of your best days ever.
With all that said, when CPS Contacts you to begin an investigation, they are doing so for a specific reason. It is not as if the caseworker looks through your front window to see something going on that he or she did not like. Rather, a formal report was made to CPS involving your child and their safety. As such, CPS found enough evidence available to them to at least investigate the report and determine if abuse or neglect of your child has occurred. Whether or not you participate in the initial investigation is up to you but keep in mind that the investigation will likely continue with or without you.
Oftentimes, this is where an attorney comes in as far as representation of a parent is concerned. When times are tough and things are not going that well, we tend to isolate ourselves. It's funny how readily we want to share the good news, but when we have bad news on the horizon, we want to keep that hidden for the most part. In my experience, as it pertains to CPS cases, this is not a good instinct to have. If you know that you tend to isolate and keep hidden things that are not necessarily the most attractive, today's blog post is for you. You need to become comfortable asking for help and seeking guidance from someone who's been there before.
As it pertains to a CPS case, very few people in your circle have experience dealing with cases like this. Almost all of us have experience in working with people who have gone through a divorce. We know many people had to go back to court for child custody modification or enforcement after their divorce. Very few people have gone through a CPS case, and very few people have taken a CPS case from the beginning of an investigation to a trial. Since those cases are relatively few and far between, and their circumstances may not match up with your circumstances, their experiences may largely be irrelevant to you.
I would like to do in today's blog post to share my thoughts and experiences regarding CPS cases in Texas. Very little of what we talk about today is going to be specific. Do not expect to read something that pertains specifically to you and your life. Please make no mistake; our website contains blog posts that attempt to get down to a CPS case's nitty-gritty level. If you have the time, I would recommend looking for those blogs, and you can learn more about what you can expect, given your specific circumstances. However, in this blog post today, I'm going to talk to you about how your attorney representing you in this CPS case will walk you through the initial steps of the process.
Once you can begin a CPS case, you will get a feel for what is expected of you and develop a report with the other parties to your case. However, before we can even discuss getting to that point, we need to be able to work on getting you adjusted to the case, help you position yourself for as fast an end to the case as possible, and to be able to guide your child even when he or she is not living with you. These objectives are challenging in their own right, so there is no better time to learn about the process than before it even begins.
How does CPS learn about the abuse or neglect of children in the 1st place?
When I meet with a family who is just become aware of a CPS investigation being opened up regarding their family, questions will be asked regarding how in the world, CPS even came to find out about a particular incident. Much of the time, CPS will come to investigate a once or twice occurring incident involving potential acts of abuse or neglect of a child. The tough part for parents to understand is that you can be diligent in loving parents 99.9% of the time, but if you make a mistake or even appear to make a mistake just once, it can be enough for CPS to open an investigation into your life.
As I mentioned at the beginning of today's blog post, it isn't as if CPS has caseworkers staked out on the corner of your street where they are looking just at you and your family and the things you do daily. Rather, the state of Texas employs CPS caseworkers and investigators in various parts of the state who have the ability under the law to investigate incidents of possible abuse and neglect and then make findings as to whether or not incidents like these occurred.
To start, Texas law requires anyone who suspects that a child or other vulnerable individual is being abused or neglected to make a report of such incidents that they have observed. This means that if someone at the mall, in target, at school, or church suspects that you or your spouse is abusing or neglecting your child, that person must make a report to the state. Private citizens' idea of making reports to the government about other private citizens makes me a little bit leery. Still, I can understand how this is the first line of defense against keeping children out of harm's way. Note that certain classes of people have a heightened responsibility in this regard. Doctors, nurses, attorneys, and teachers have their responsibilities as licensed individuals in the state of Texas to make reports of abuse or neglect if they suspect such behavior is occurring about a child.
There are two ways to report potential incidents of abuse and neglect in Texas. The Department of Family and Protective Services offers a hotline more a person can call and reach a CPS employee to discuss potential abuse or neglect incidents and may also file reports online through a state-monitored website. Note that not every phone call or report made online to the state results in an investigation being opened up. Sometimes, the report is too general or lacks appreciable evidence or indication that abuse or neglect occurs. Some people make reports out of an abundance of caution but without much meat on the bone, so to speak, regarding actual abuse or neglect.
The last thing I will mention is that reports made to CPS both online and over the phone are kept confidential, and the informant or Reporter will not have their identity shared at any point in the process. The reasoning for this should be pretty obvious: the state does not want to discourage persons from reporting potential abuse or neglect by potentially having their identity's made a part of the case and therefore being vulnerable to backlash from someone or another. It is a common thing for you to wonder who it was that made a report to CPS. While I'm sure you have your suspicions, it is doubtful that you will ever come to know for certain who contacted CPS on behalf of your child.
What are the types of abuse or neglect that can be investigated by the state of Texas?
This is another area that you may understandably have questions regarding. Often in our daily lives, we think about parenting in terms of either good parenting or bad parenting. We may not be able to put our finger on what good parenting is or on what bad parenting is, but we know it when we see it. Fortunately, the state of Texas will not investigate your family based on whether or not they think you are merely a good parent or a bad parent. Rather, the state must find an indication that the user neglected her child as curd to begin investigating you and your spouse.
Beneath the general categories of abuse and neglect are specific types of abuse and neglect that may be relevant to you and your child. Some of the more frequently investigated types of abuse and neglect are sexual abuse, physical neglect, medical neglect, emotional abuse, abandonment, neglectful supervision, physical abuse, and refusal to accept parental responsibility. As it pertains to each of these types of abuse and neglect, there are specific characteristics that must also be met for an action taken by you or your spouse to be placed in that category. When receiving an incoming phone call from someone reporting against you or your spouse, the CPS caseworker will categorize the action or inaction into one of these columns.
Once the action or inaction has been categorized, and CPS receives a report, the agency will determine what sort of priority to place on the report. The Department of Family and Protective Services will specify whether the report made in conjunction with your family is a priority one or priority two-level report. A priority one report requires that the state of Texas and their investigator must contact you and your family within 24 hours of the report being made. A priority to report requires contact by the state of taxes with your child and yourself within 72 hours of a report being made.
If CPS knocks on your door and attempts to contact you and your child within 24 hours of receiving a report, it is likely that the allegations made in the report or regard to An immediate threat to your child's health, safety, welfare, or life. Additionally, if, in another circumstance, CPS has recently made an investigation into your family during the past 12 months, a subsequent report of abuse or neglect must also be investigated within 24 hours. Finally, and hopefully, this will never be the case for your family. If a report comes into the state that a child has died under circumstances where it appears abuse or neglect later role, then Texas must also investigate within 24 hours.
All other circumstances that form the meat and potatoes of a report to CPS fall under a priority level 2 investigation, and an immediate response within 24 hours are not necessary. Keep in mind that no matter what your particular report is classified as, be it a level one or level 2 report, the fact is that you need to take these circumstances seriously. It should cross your mind fairly quickly that you don't have any experience handling these types of matters. No sort of training or parenting advice that you have received regarding your child would prepare you sufficiently to swim in the deep waters of a CPS case on your own. I don't tell you these things to frighten you or intimidate you, but the fact is that we could all use some help when we find ourselves in a tough spot.
Once you can work to ensure that your child is safe, the next best thing I can recommend to you is to seek an experienced family law attorney's advice. That does not mean you need to go out and find the most expensive attorney and hire him or her. That does not mean that I am pressuring you to hire an attorney at all. I recommend that you speak to an attorney to determine how serious a situation you may find yourself in. All CPS cases are not created equal. If you find yourself in a circumstance where your child is at risk and your parental rights may be terminated, then you need to consider whether or not it is a wise decision to hire your attorney.
Do not rely upon the state of Texas to provide you with counsel during a CPS case. While you may have the right to be appointed an attorney has given the circumstances of your case, I have never heard of a person or parent who has gone through a CPS case be as satisfied with their court-appointed lawyer as they would have been with the services of a private attorney whom they have hired. The level of service, attention to detail, and time available to talk with you and your family can't be compared when you have a private attorney versus a court-appointed one.
Questions regarding the subject matter 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 today. CPS cases can be especially time-sensitive, and the faster you can speak to and hire an attorney, the better off your family will be. Our 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 gain some perspective over your circumstances to make better decisions for yourself and your family.
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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 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.