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What is a plan of service in connection with a Texas Child Protective Services case?

If you and your family become involved in a Texas Child Protective Services case then you must understand as much as you can about the case process. The main reason why I believe that this is the case is due to a CPS case largely not being in your control in many regards. Yes, he will have the opportunity to play an active in involved role in the case but it is not always up to you whether or not your child is returned home as quickly as you want, or whether or not your preferences are always honored regarding different parts of the case. Rather, you will come to find out that a CPS case involves multiple parties who will all have their preferences made known.  

Your role in the process is to primarily concern yourself with the best interests of your child and do what you can to ensure the removal of your child is as short as possible and inflicts no long-lasting harm on your child's well being. There are multiple reasons why your child could be removed from your home related to issues specifically in your home, is she's related to abuse or neglect of your child or even issues related to drug or alcohol abuse. With so many different possible factors weighing into your case, you must be able to take into consideration each of these issues and determine which is the one that you will most need to focus on for your child to be returned home and for your Child Protective Services case to be completed successfully.

Many people lose track of goals during the case in place a great deal of focus on issues that are either secondary and important or don't directly enter into the well being of your child. Many parents become upset to the point where they are unable to focus their attention on the issues that concern CPS and ultimately cause an investigation to occur in the 1st place. While it is understandable to become upset at wrongful accusations regarding abuse or neglect of your child it is not productive for you to focus on anger or thoughts of retribution. Rather, the most productive thing you can do during a CPS case is to focus your attention on what you can do to get your children home and to get CPS out of your life permanently.  

Fortunately, you will not be left to fend for yourself without any guidance from the state. Whether or not your CPS case goes all the way to court you will be asked to create and eventually complete a plan of service approved by your CPS caseworker and possibly a family court judge. This plan of service will outline the steps that you need to take to eliminate threats of risk to your child in your home and to eventually have your child returned home to you. A Service plan seeks to maximize your ability to effectively parent your child and to minimize the risk of harm to him or her.

What may be required of you within a plan of service? 

As I mentioned a moment ago, they were requirements contained within a plan of service for the return of your child home to you can vary depending upon the circumstances of your case. Let's go through a handful of different circumstances that may involve you and your children and we can talk about what provisions may be included in a Service plan as a result of those specific circumstances. It is important to keep in mind that Your participation in a Service plan may not be optional if the Service plan is included in orders from a CPS court judge. 

Let's consider a situation where your child was removed from your home due to concerns about drug use in the home by you and your spouse. If CPS received a report that you were engaging in illegal drug use in the home with or without your children present then CPS may have decided to seek the removal of your child and temporary managing conservatorship of your children. This has been done to allow you an opportunity to make remediations in your life for the better and to allow CPS the right to determine where your child will be living while you attempt to work out these changes in your personal life. 

For starters, if you are alleged to have abused your child then it may be required of you to attend anger management or other types of therapy to help you handle your anger and other issues better. Your CPS caseworker may have specific types of courses for you to take or you may be able to again or continue therapy with a counselor of your choice. It would be outlined in your safety plan for you to attend counseling sessions and report proof of progress in attendance to your caseworker. You must always follow instructions on updating the agency with your progress because the progress will then be communicated to a judge at your status hearings.

Next, I have seen children removed from homes due to allegations of drug abuse by apparent. If this describes your situation then you could be found to be neglectful of your child due to your inability to maintain control and supervision of your children while you are in an altered mental state. Achieving sobriety when it comes to drug or alcohol abuse is crucial for you to be able to have your child return to your home. By the same token, if it's your partner who engaged in drug use then part of your Service plan will likely be having a conversation with him or her about moving out of your home. Whether it is you or your partner or spouse who is the drug abuser concrete steps towards sobriety must be undertaken to have your child or turned your home. The failure to do so may result not only in having your child not able to return home but in having your parental rights terminated.

In other situations, It may be your home that needs to be remedied due to a defect or hazard that must be taking care of. For example, if you have a hole in the floor, functional stair railings, a stove or other appliance that creates problems for your family or anything in between it is likely necessary that you have that item repaired to the satisfaction of CPS. Multiple home inspections will likely be part of your Service plan that requires you to show proof of a professional coming in and fixing the hazard or defect.  

Finally, a Service plan involving abuse or neglect of your child may require that you undergo parenting or family counseling with your child. Therapy such as this would likely occur at a CPS facility or you all could meet with a counselor trained in a family or behavioral therapy. You would be able to learn coping mechanisms and other ways of nonviolently and calmly handling stressful situations that might have previously brought about an angry response. Again, proof of attendance and satisfactory completion of treatment goals would be necessary for your child to be returned to your home.

As always, I am only speculating as to circumstances that may be relevant for your family. Keep in mind that Your particular circumstances may be unique to the point where you and CPS create holy unique requirements within a Service plan to better suit your child's needs. When it comes to developing a plan like this it is best to have an attorney by your side to help you with making sure that not only does the Service plan reflect objectives that are in line with the needs of your child but that you can complete them in a reasonable amount of time.

The consequences of failing to complete your plan of service

If you are unable or unwilling to participate in the steps contained within your plan of service you can lose your parental rights. Losing your parental rights is known as termination of parental rights in the world of Texas family law. Staying in touch with your child and participating in the CPS plan for reunification of you and your child are the most common reasons why CPS may move to terminate your parental rights during your case. You may also be required to do things like pay child support and attend various types of visitations settings with your child during the case. If you fail to do so then your parental rights may be terminated as a result.

Additionally, your parental rights may be terminated due to your having an emotional or mental deficiency that makes you unable to meet the guidelines of caring for your child's emotional, mental, and physical needs. Keep in mind that CPS will not make formal determinations regarding your lack of wherewithal or mental acuity. It would be up to a judge to terminate your parental rights based on any of these circumstances. Involuntary termination of your parental rights based on evidence obtained during a CPS investigation is fairly uncommon. The result of having your parental rights terminated would be that you have no legal relationship with that child moving forward.

Attending mediation in a Texas CPS case 

You may be able to work with a professional mediator in hopes of resolving your case quickly so that your child does not have to stay in foster care for all that long. A mediator is a person who has experienced in dealing with family law and CPS circumstances who would be able to help you and CPS arrive at solutions to your problems that can eventually help CPS get out of your life and have your child returned home to you. Doing so would not only help you avoid having to go to court for a trial but would also help you to arrive at solutions that could cause your case to come to an end sooner rather than later. 

The mediator would not work for CPS nor would the mediator work for you. The mediator is likely a family law attorney himself or herself who has experience in working with families like yours who are going through tough circumstances. The mediator plays a sort of devil's advocate role where he or she would help both sides think about how their case could be perceived by a judge in what would likely happen if the case was taken to a trial. Mediation is more casual than a trial and can help both parties feel more comfortable in coming to conclusions and working with one another outside of court.

Is a family group conference the same thing as mediation? 

A family group conference is a large meeting where families come together with friends, their community, and relatives along with CPS to develop a plan that will help ensure that your children are protected from future risks of harm in that you have the skills necessary to successfully parent your children in the future. What is sometimes lost in a CPS case is that you as a parent know what is best for your child much more than does Child Protective Services. After all, your family is just one of many who is working with Child Protective Services at this period your CPS caseworker cannot learn as much as he or she needs to regarding your family due to time constraints. As a result, you know your family better than anyone.  

Children can attend the family group conference whereas they are typically unable to attend a trial or hearing in court. The reason being is that the environment is much less intimating and children can be made to feel more comfortable in a family group conference rather than in a hearing. Keep in mind that the material discussed in your family group conference will not be as bombastic or inflammatory as what a child may hear in court. From my experience, all parties typically engage in family group conferences with a great deal of respect and families can identify support in their community with greater ease when everyone can talk through the issues that your family may be experiencing.  

What role does the CPS caseworker play in your case and in developing a plan of service? 

From the very beginning, the CPS caseworker will be your main point of contact when you and your family are being investigated by the agency. The caseworker is the person who will come to your home and introduce him or herself and notify you of the pending investigation. Overall, I find that CPS caseworkers have good intentions but are typically overworked and underpaid. This means that it is up to you to stay on top of your case because your CPS caseworker, while good-natured, will simply not have the resources or time to be able to devote to you.

With that said, you need to be the one to stay on top of your case and stay on top of your Service plan. Allowing the CPS caseworker to take the lead on contacting you for updates or in seeking information is a bad idea. The reality is that the caseworker has many other families to visit with and work with through their problems. The one thing that you will likely have an advantage over the CPS caseworker on is the period you will simply have more time to work on your case then will the CPS caseworker. Use this to your advantage and perform the necessary work to be reunited with your child sooner rather than later.

It is a good idea for you 2 speak with your CPS caseworker early in your case about expectations surrounding their uniting of you with your child. This is how a Service plan is developed. Both sides will learn from one another what their specific expectations are and reasonable steps towards a reunification occur within the context of a Service plan. Consider family and friends who may be willing to house your child during a case and provide their information to CPS. The caseworker will identify those people who are eligible for placement and inquire as to whether or not they are willing to house your child for the foreseeable future. 

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 the world of Texas family law as well as about your specific circumstances. Thank you for your time and interest in our law practice and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow on our blog as we continue to post relevant information that may impact your family.

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