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Termination of Parental Rights for Drug Use

An unfortunate part of our world today is that drug use is a reality in the homes of many children living in Texas. When parents use drugs in the home it presents a laundry list of potential threats to the well-being of the children living in that home. We can consider the inability of a parent to respond to threats due to their intoxication, drug paraphernalia that can get into the wrong hands, hazards in the home that are created from lack of due diligence and concern due to drug use, strangers being in the home and many others as potential sources of harm for a child. As far as threats to a child are concerned drug used by parents is at the top of the list.

In handling divorce and child custody cases on behalf of Texas parents I have come to learn that drug and alcohol abuse is perhaps more widespread than I would have believed among parents. This blog post today is not intended to shame or preach to anyone necessarily, but I think we can all agree that drug use, especially When children are in the home, can be especially disruptive and dangerous. Not only do your children have the opportunity to see you engaging in really dangerous behavior but they likely become more willing to try drugs an experiment in that way in the future. There are no two ways about it, drug use in the home is dangerous.  

Many times we hear about drug and alcohol abuse in conjunction with a child trustee or divorce case and it becomes one of many allegations thrown about at the beginning of the case and then ultimately it goes nowhere throughout the remainder of the case. However, in certain instances, the allegations of drug abuse are so credible and so critical to the infrastructure of the case that it does play a central role in determining child custody issues. Sometimes a parent such as yourself will have already begun counseling and therapy to eliminate this problem from their lives. In other circumstances, the family law case will only be the beginning of the process whereby parents have begun to take steps to sober themselves and improve the quality of their child's life.

There is another type a family law case that involves drug abuse other than child custody and divorce cases. I am talking about Child Protective Services cases where potential acts of abuse or neglect are reported to the state of Texas and then investigated by the Department of Family and Protective Services. Drug abuse comes on parents is a major concern when it comes to the well being of children. If you believe that there are children in your life who are suffering abuse and neglect at the hands of a parent or caregiver who abuses drugs then today's blog post is written with you in mind. On the other hand, if you are facing a CPS case due to allegations made against you of abuse of drugs then you will especially want to pay attention to the information that we provide today. 

One of the stark realities of a CPS case is that your parental rights may be terminated as a result of what occurs during the proceedings. Make no mistake, the termination of a person's parental rights is the absolute last recourse to protect a child that a court will take advantage of. However, as you will learn throughout your case there are certain benchmarks and steps in the process that you have to abide by to maintain the relationship with your child. If you are unable to meet those benchmarks or live up to the requirements outlined in the court orders then you may find yourself having to defend your parental rights from termination. There is no other way to put it, this is something extremely serious and there are no do-overs in this situation.

In today's blog post I would like to share with you some information about a stage in the case where you and CPS will become a team and work to create a plan of attack for your children to remain with you and for you to become a sober individual. While you will be given time to accomplish the goals set up for you in these different plans keep in mind that your failure to participate can and likely will result in the termination of your parental rights. For that reason, it is critical for you to understand the process of a CPS case and to prepare as best you can for the changes to your life that will have to be made to protect yourself from losing your relationship with your children.

When CPS asks to inspect your home 

It isn't as if a CPS court judge will immediately terminate your parental rights as soon as an investigation begins. Instead, a CPS caseworker or investigator will come to your home and likely ask to see where your child lives and what the living conditions are like. The first thing a caseworker will likely look for is to make sure that your home environment is safe for the child and does not present any risks of immediate harm. Unfinished or damaged wiring in the home such as with outlets or lighting fixtures, animals who could pose a threat to your child that are not cared for, a lack of clean food or water 4 structural issues with the home that could impact your child will all be looked at with great scrutiny.

Keep in mind that at this stage of a case you do not have to participate and allow for A at the home inspection of where your child lives. Likewise, just because CPS has opened up a case against you and your family on behalf of your child does it mean map you are too much automatically entitled to an attorney. At some point in the process if your frontal writes may be terminated then an attorney may be appointed to you. However, at this stage the result of your case CPS is just trying to collect information in evidence either to substantiate an allegation of abuse or neglect or to rule it out. No decisions have likely been made as to whether or not the agency will eventually ask for your parental rights to be terminated. 

Next, that same investigator will likely make a formal risk assessment about your child and the potential of abuse or neglect has had a curd previously. The caseworker will use the information that he or she has collected in their investigation and then decide whether or not it is likely that the allegation of abuse or neglect is true. The assessment will include a determination of what risk level your child faces, as in whether or not there is an immediate or more modest risk of potential harm to your child should he or she remain living in your home.

Depending on your participation in the investigation thus far Child Protective Services may determine that there is a certain level of risk in the home and that the ball has been put in your court to decide as to whether or not you are willing to make changes to remedy those risks. If you have been unwilling or unable to utilize the means presented to you by CPS to control those risk factors and help ensure a safe living environment for your child then that means it is more likely that a CPS case will be opened up through the legal system and your child will likely be removed from your home.

On the other hand, even if CPS determines that there is a potential risk in your home that does not mean a legal case will be opened or that your child will necessarily be removed. If you express willingness to participate in the process to remedy the problems in your home then you may be able to avoid having it case open up against you in court and even to keep your child in the home with you. However, if drug use is the main issue in your home that I would not expect to be looking to keep your child in the home with you even if you express a willingness to stop using drugs and to attend counseling and other services that may help you maintain sobriety.

The last outcome of the risk assessment process from CPS is by far the most preferable for you and your family. If CPS does a home inspection and collects information about your family but determines that there are no significant factors at play that would produce a risk of harm to your child in the home then it is likely that no further action will be taken and any case will be closed with CPS as a result. As I'm sure you could imagine, CPS does receive false reports of abuse or neglect or at the very least received reports that exaggerate or embellish risky situations for a child. Once CPS does its due diligence and determines there is no threat level to the child the case will likely stop right there and you will not hear from CPS again.

Will you need to give up custody of your child based on drug use? 

Learning about the process involved in a CPS case is all well and good but it doesn't mean a lot without knowing how everything impacts your child. I think the assumption that many people have is that once a CPS case is opened it is automatically true that your child will be removed from your home and placed into foster care or something similar. I hope you have already seen this past week by reading our blog posts that this is not necessarily true. There are circumstances where your child can remain in the home with you if the risk posed to your child by any actions of yours are not substantial or immediate. By the same token, you should be aware that your child can be removed from your home either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Once CPS has become involved in your life and they determined that there is a certain part level presented to your child by remaining in your home then it may be asked of you whether or not you would allow your child to be moved in with another family temporarily. Essentially, CPS and you would work together to create a safety plan for your child will be moved out of your home to protect him or her from the potential risk of harm while you attempt to engage in counseling or therapy to avoid using drugs in the future. Many times, your child will be placed with friends or family who are shown to be good caretakers and who can provide your child with a safe environment during this time. 

Keep in mind that CPS will ask you for a list of persons whom you would like to be considered for potential child placement. CPS will conduct background checks and criminal history checks before allowing any of these folks to be potential placement destinations for your child. Just as a home inspection was conducted of your home, the same will likely be done of any family you provide to CPS. Once it can be shown to CPS that this family is capable and willing to keep your child safe for the duration of your case then a voluntary placement of your child in that home will occur.

Typically, it is only when a family friend or family member is not available for your child to be placed with that foster care comes into play. Foster care families work with the state of Texas to house children whose families are either going through a CPS case or have recently been placed into the custody of CPS permanently after the conclusion of a CPS case. Foster families may either take on the responsibility of caring for one child or multiple children. CPS will endeavor to keep your children in the same house no matter where they end up living but sometimes, due to the safety of the children, that may not be possible depending on your family's specific circumstances.

What are the possible outcomes of a CPS investigation? 

Once we get past the beginning issues of a CPS case, your concern will likely shift to what will CPS eventually has to say about your family and about your ability to care for your child. As we have talked about before, drug use is a very serious topic and issue that faces your family in others in our state. As a result, I believe CPS will exhaust every resource they have to determine the true risk to your child and will make assessments based on those circumstances. Here are the possible outcomes to your particular CPS case.

first, CPS may determine that there is reason to believe that abuse or neglect if your child has a curd. If the evidence information collected by CPS leads the caseworker to determine it is more likely than not that abuse or neglect has occurred a reason to believe finding will be made in your case.

Second, the agency may state that it is unable to determine The nature of abuse or neglect that has occurred. Please note that this is not the agency telling you that abuse or neglect has not occurred. Quite the opposite: CPS will likely note in their investigation that they do believe abuse or neglect has occurred but they have not been able to collect sufficient evidence to support that determination. This typically occurs in non-emergency circumstances where emergency orders cannot be obtained from a court that forces participation with the process. Then participation is completely voluntary some parents elect to not participate at all. It is in these types of circumstances where an unable to determine findings may result.  

On the other hand, if the CPS caseworker determines that the reported incidents of abuse or neglect did not occur then a ruled-out finding will result. Finally, the case may be closed out by CPS due to other reasons or the inability of the agency to conduct and complete an investigation. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the information 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. Thank you for your interest in our law practice and we look forward to the opportunity to serve you and your family in the future. Our attorneys are in the family courts of southeast Texas every day representing clients. We take a great deal of pride in being able to do so and would be honored to do so for your family, as well.

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