For most parents having your parenting style or parenting results questioned by another person can be extremely irritating. Think of all the times that you've had someone in your life approach you and provide unsolicited advice regarding parenting your child. I can think of few things in life that are more stressful than politely listening to and accepting criticisms and critiques from people you are concerned about the way you are raising your child. Some of this advice is well natured some of it is just intended to do nothing positive for you or your child. Such is life when it comes to parenting a child. Everyone has an opinion, and it seems like during this pandemic, people have been more willing to share their opinions about all different subjects.
Most of the time, when a person shares their opinion about how you are parenting your child, it can go in one year and out the other, and there will be no harm done to you or your child, whether it is your neighbor, mother, or friend who is providing the advice, you only have to take in that advice that you think is relevant and practical. Any input from a person outside your house about raising your kids does not necessarily have to be followed. As a parent, the big question that you have to consider is what advice you will trust and what advice you will discard. Otherwise, you will spend your entire parenting life trying to parent up to a standard that is not your own.
However, in some instances, the information you receive about your children from other people must be followed. If Child Protective Services contacts you, it is not enough to ignore their input about your circumstances and go along your way. While it is certainly possible to do this, I would not recommend it. When Child Protective Services Contacts you about your children, it is completely normal to be apprehensive about what the future holds; asking yourself questions like what are they going to do with your family is completely reasonable.
However, you cannot simply ignore CPS or worry yourself into a state where you are unable to take action or defend your rights. You need to be able, to be honest with yourself about your parenting but also aware of what it is that you are facing any CPS investigation. Ann, what you can do to put the investigation in your rearview mirror. This is a very subtle balancing act that you must undertake to complete, but I can tell you from experience that it is one that you were fully capable of. As a parent, you are used to facing challenges of all sorts. Anne, this is just another one of those sorts of challenges. The stakes may be high; goodbye, you can reach them with some help and perspective.
Why would Child Protective Services contact you in the first place?
Let's talk a little bit about what Child Protective Services is and why they may contact you or a family member in the 1st place. Child Protective Services is a part of the Department of Family and Protective Services in Texas. This state agency seeks to protect vulnerable populations from abuse or neglect. Child Protective Services focuses on the health and well-being of children. This sub-agency has personnel ranging from caseworkers, counselors to legal staff whose objective does you investigate and prevent instances of harm occurring to children in Texas.
Child Protective Services has both a hotline for people to call and a website for 4 online submissions 2 be able to have people contact them about purported incidents of abuse or neglect of children. This is how job Protective Services comes to be aware of allegations involving abuse or neglect. It's not as if CPS has staff located in every neighborhood of every town in Texas. Rather, CPS relies upon reports to be made to them involving alleged incidents of abuse or neglect of a child. All adults in Texas must report incidents involving abuse or neglect of children. Certain people: doctors, lawyers, and teachers, have a heightened responsibility to do so.
When a report of alleged abuse or neglect comes into CPS, the agency will begin to collect information and possibly investigate the matter more fully. If the agency believes that there is and is not to go off of as far as starting an investigation is concerned, then caseworkers go out to a home or contact persons involved in the incident. If you were to be contacted at your home by a CPS caseworker or investigator, then it is likely that some person has made an anonymous report of your child being abused or neglected by you, an adult living in your home, or by another person. This is how a typical CPS investigation begins.
A CPS caseworker would come to your home with identification and introduce him or herself. The caseworker would likely provide you with a basic amount of information regarding the investigation that is beginning into the welfare of her child but is unlikely to provide more than just basic information at this stage. You may have many questions about the report made to them, the specific incident that led to the report, and a host of other information that you may want to know about. However, you should not expect the CPS caseworker to divulge too much information to you at this point. They will be in the information gathering phase rather than in the information sharing phase about their investigation.
Do you have to participate in a Child Protective Services investigation?
This is the first major question that people in your position tend to ask. Is it necessary to participate in a CPS investigation, or can you choose not to talk to CPS and not provide them with information or access to your family? This is a very reasonable question to ask after all: you wouldn't let a police officer or someone from law enforcement into your home if they didn't have a warrant, would you? The same thought process could be applied to a CPS investigation. Not only do you not have to allow CPS or a caseworker into your house without a court order, but you do not have to do so until additional authority is received from a judge.
Sometimes not participating in the CPS investigation can workout for your family. Sometimes CPS will be investigating our report and have very little tangible evidence of abuse or neglect has had a curd. These are instances where there is little risk of immediate harm, in their opinion, to your child; any investigation will be commenced more as a matter of due diligence than anything else. As a result, a bare-bones report of abuse or neglect of your child may act as a pretext to get into your home and see if any information or evidence can be obtained that could substantiate a wider investigation. These are the sort of situations where you may not want to participate and may choose not to allow your child to speak to CPS, either.
In situations like this, CPS would not be able to gain access to your house most likely. The next option for CPS to try and gain access to your home would be to obtain a court order that allows them to do so. Law enforcement would likely accompany a CPS caseworker for everyone's protection. However, for CPS 2 to obtain a court order like this, they would need to have evidence or some degree of exigent, emergency circumstances to justify it. A general report about abuse or neglect if your child in no emergency circumstances makes this unlikely.
So, under the above circumstances, it is likely that CPS would run out of time to conduct an investigation and would likely end their investigation for the reason of inability to substantiate or decide one way or the other about your having abused or neglected your child. This does not mean that they have ruled out abuse or neglect of your child; it just means that they could not substantiate or determine whether or not abuse or neglect occurred based on their resources.
On the other hand, not participating in a CPS investigation can be extremely detrimental to you and your child. Consider that in some circumstances, a simple conversation with the investigator could clear up many misconceptions and accuracies contained in the report. Allowing CPS to view your home, speak to you, and speak to your child briefly could cause the CPS investigation to close rather quickly. All it took was you being willing to engage in the investigation and participate.
On the other hand, if you fail to participate in an investigation from CPS, they can obtain permission from a court to not only come into your home but to remove your child from your care if they believe circumstances merit they are doing so. They would still need to obtain a court order but could do so in a hearing held on an emergency basis without your presence or the presence of your attorney. If this were to occur if your child were to be removed from your home, then an emergency hearing would have to be held within three days of their removal to allow for you and your attorney to present evidence as to why the removal of your child was not justified and while your child should be returned home to you.
The tricky part of this entire discussion is that it is tough to tell what sort of investigation has merit and what investigation does not. Again, you will not know exactly what the report made to CPS says, who made it or what the circumstances were behind the report. In your heart of hearts, you may know that you have never abused or neglected your child, but you do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Texas family code or how either of those words is defined therein. Therefore, I would not recommend making decisions about whether or not to participate in a CPS investigation without the assistance of an attorney.
What happens to unfit parents during a CPS investigation?
Getting back to the title of today's blog post, let's discuss what could happen to you in a CPS investigation. Ultimately, we need to think about everything in terms of our relationship with our child. Everything else is of minor concern compared to how you relate to your child and how you raise your child now and in the future. The simple acts of being able to spend time with your child and make decisions on their behalf are things that we sometimes take for granted to his parents. However, becoming involved in a CPS case means that those fundamental rights and privileges of being a parent can be put in jeopardy.
At the extreme, your parental rights can be terminated in response to a Child Protective Services investigation in the case. Typically, it is only in extreme cases where this is an outcome, however. A family court judge would have to determine. Still, you're continuing to be a decision-maker, and parents for your child would endanger their well-being to the extent that you being a part of your child's life is no longer in their best interests. Fortunately, this is not a decision that is reached quickly and would involve a trial where evidence can be submitted by you and your attorney showing your ability to parent your child well.
Additionally, within a Child Protective Services investigation in the case, you will be given an opportunity to do things like attend counseling, take parenting courses, and perform other measures intended to help you improve as a parent. Simply thinking about yourself as a good or bad parent is not relevant to this discussion. Once you are in a situation where you know your parental rights can be terminated, then the focus of your case should shift towards doing whatever it takes to put this CPS case behind you to maintain your parental rights.
Sometimes that means undergoing therapy or counseling provided to you by Child Protective Services. CPS has resources available to attend counseling and therapy intended to help them become a more well-rounded parent. For example, if you have anger and anger management problems, courses may be recommended in a parenting or safety plan. If you struggle with alcohol addiction, getting yourself in an Alcoholics Anonymous class may also be a good option. The other thing to think about is that these courses may not only help you to be reunited with your child sooner rather than later but will also help your health and well-being on a personal level.
Throughout the CPS investigation in the case, you will be allowed to update the judge in your case on progress being made. It is critical that once a case begins, you need to remain compliant with the steps outlined for you to have your child returned to your home. It does not matter what you or CPS think of you as a parent at a certain point. All that matters is what that judge thinks about you and the steps you have taken 2 regain your relationship with your child. Even if you think this investigation is meritless, the judge disagrees if you get to the point where your child has been removed from your home. It is your job to convince that judge you have done everything possible to address your weaknesses as a parent while defending your rights.
CPS cases are emotionally draining and downright intimidating. Child custody and divorce cases are tough enough, but in the world of family law, the CPS case tends not to get as much attention even though the case results can be incredibly damaging. I recommend that you work with an experienced attorney who is handled many, many CPS cases successfully. Do not rely upon your instincts on your own to defend yourself in a CPS case. There is no substitute for experience, and a CPS attorney will have the experience you need to exit a CPS case successfully.
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 Texas family law, your particular circumstances, and the services provided to our clients by our attorneys and staff. I appreciate your interest in our law office, and we hope you will join us again tomorrow as we continue to post additional information about Texas family law.