The opening of a CPS case can be an important date for any family. It's not that the day itself will be remembered as a birthday or anniversary in the future but that the beginning of this type of case can have a profound impact on your family both now and in the future. The decisions that you make regarding the CPS case can seriously impact your relationship with your children as well as the ability for your children to be able to live in your household for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, there is no need to go into one of these cases without any guidance and without the ability to understand the potential outcomes of a case like this.
When CPS receives a report regarding alleged abuse or neglect of one of your children then the agency will determine whether or not to investigate. The report will be forwarded to your local CPS office analysis of the report will be done. Yet there seems to be legitimacy to the report then an investigation will be launched. The investigation will likely involve contacting you directly about the possibility of interviewing you, your child depending on their age, are there adults living in your household and coming to your home to conduct an inspection.
All of this will be done to gather as much information as possible about the alleged incidents of abuse and neglect. Path to the conclusion of the investigation CPS will decide about the abuse and neglect. Specifically, the determination will be made whether or not abuse turn neglect likely occurred, likely didn't occur, whether or not there is insufficient evidence to decide one way or the other or if abuse and neglect were ruled out. From there, the CPS case can either be closed or remain open due to concerns over your child's safety.
Once the CPS case is opened up you will find yourself in a position where you will be playing by the rules of the agency to a large extent. A CPS case is different than a child custody or divorce case in that the timeline is set by the agency as well as the family courts if your case were to make it to that stage. This isn't like a typical family law case where you and your opposing party can negotiate with one another towards concluding sooner rather than later. In that way, you need to learn the process and be able to work with the agency as close as possible to resolve any outstanding issues in arriving at solutions that benefit everyone most notably your children.
One of the most fundamental aspects of a CPS case is adjusting to life if your child is removed from your home temporarily. Just because your child is removed from the home does not mean that he or she will never be able to return home. In fact, in most Child Protective Services cases reunification with your child is the stated goal of the agency. However, given the risks associated with your child's well-being, we need to be able to discuss Why your child could be removed from your home and what visitation with your child could be like as long as he or she remains in the temporary care of CPS.
What should you avoid in your initial Visitation sessions with your child?
Making promises to your child about circumstances beyond your or their control during a CPS case can be especially hazardous. Do not underestimate how damaging it can be to your child to get their hopes up regarding a return home. Even if you feel confident that your child will be able to return home sooner rather than later there is little reason for you to phrase this to your child in any way other than being extremely cautiously optimistic. To give your child the impression that he or she will be returning home so has the potential to harm your child psychologically. Getting their hopes up only to dash them would be a Supreme understatement.
Keep in mind that there are many moving pieces in a Child Protective Services case. With so many of those moving pieces beyond your control or that of your child, I would not recommend telling your child that he or she is on the fast track to being reunited with you and your family. Even though this is likely what your child wants to hear it can be extremely difficult to have to deliver secondary news when you are proven to be incorrect. From a personal perspective, I would not want to tell my child something and then have to go back on my word and then ultimately spend time away from that child. It would leave a sick feeling in my stomach and I imagine that many of your parents would feel the same way.
Facing assessments by CPS throughout an investigation
One aspect of your case that will likely take some getting used to is being constantly appraised and assessed by CPS in terms of your progression in achieving various goals along with the progression of your case. The main goal of CPS during this process will be to have you be in a position to be able to safely care for your children. Conditions related to modifying behavior that was seen as problematic for your family may be part of that process. Anger management and behavioral modification often go together.
One thing to be aware of is that CPS will shy away from using visitation periods as a carrot or stick situation. As in, the visits that you can share with your child during your CPS case should not be used as a punishment or reward. A reward is a sense that if you show "good behavior" that you will get expanded or additional time with your child. Punishment in the sense that if you do not meet their guidelines for "successful" behavior that you may have visitation pulled back and restricted in some way.
The only way that I have seen visitation impacted by parental behavior is if the behavior is related to putting your children in harm's way. This means that as long as you are modeling good parenting skills, attempting to work on whatever aspects of your parenting plan are in place while showing up on time for visits then you should be in good shape for visitation purposes. You may have heard stories from people who have horror stories about CPS visitation issues. My experience is that those types of issues are relatively few and far between.
What is supervised visitation?
If there are any ongoing and severe safety issues regarding your visitation with your child then you may be ordered or may agree to have supervised visitation. All of the above-stated goals of visitation: strengthening the parent-child bond, helping to reinforce lessons learned regarding safety planning, and helping to ensure that reunification is possible are all in place during supervised visitation. However, additional concerns regarding the safety and well-being of your child will also be stressed by having another adult present with you during visitation periods.
To justify supervised visitation, CPS should have a specific list of what safety concerns are in place for you about your child. They have to document and provide you with paperwork on just about every step taken in your case so you can review what is being assessed. You should press CPS to provide you with a specific reason why supervised visitation is being recommended. If you are in the stage of your case where you are going off a court order, you should be able to provide evidence as to why supervised visitation is not necessary.
There must also be an opportunity for you to phase out of supervised visitation and into traditional, parent-child visitation. This process is possible through goal-oriented achievement. It could be that a goal for your family is to limit interactions that result in angry interactions between you and your child. Maybe a goal would be to have you refrain from using vulgar or offensive language. Some parents threaten their children when attempting to discipline them. Whatever the case may be for your family. Assume that you will be judged according to these types of goals.
What factors will be utilized to prepare for the visit of your child with you during a CPS case?
CPS is going to look at the age of your child when determining how to approach the issue of parent-visitation. Younger children will more readily take to visitation early on due to their likely stronger bond with you. Older children may be more hesitant to engage in visitation depending on the nature of the circumstances that led to their removal from your home. Older children may detach easier from you as their parent- at least for a short period.
Some children display an overwhelming desire to see their parents as much as possible after removal. Other children have little or no desire to do so. In a way, this is not much different from what parents face during a typical divorce or child custody case. CPS caseworkers and foster parents will work with your child to prepare them for visitation periods. You should talk as honestly and plainly as possible to your child about what the purpose of visitation is and how important it is to the future of your relationship. Depending on the age of your child you may be limited in what you can say, however.
It is not uncommon for a child to need a break during visitation periods with a parent. If your circumstances involved violence or less than ideal circumstances then your child may feel fatigued at a certain point during visitation. These visitation sessions can be emotionally draining in the same way that a long therapy session may be for an adult. You should anticipate that this may happen with your child. Children feel emotions just as readily as adults but do not have the maturity to process those emotions. Remember to not place adult expectations upon your child.
Who may act as a visitation session monitor for your family?
While supervised visitation is not the norm in a CPS case, it may be determined that it is in the best interests of your child. A person who will be acting as the monitor for your child may be selected by CPS or by you and CPS as a team. The monitor will need to be someone who can identify potential sources of conflict in your relationship with your child. Any behavior that could be a threat to your child's safety needs to be identified quickly in these sessions. CPS will work with you to minimize the possibility that these types of behaviors come up in visitation sessions.
Your CPS caseworker will also have a responsibility to work with you to develop a visitation plan that is functional and flexible based on the changing circumstances of your case. Probably the most frequently encountered problem that people have when it comes to visitation during a CPS case are problems with making it to their sessions on time or missing them completely. One thing that is helpful to parents in your position is having a set visitation schedule. Being able to plan for a visitation schedule makes it a lot easier to have productive visitation sessions with your child. This would be opposed to sporadic visitation where you would not know that far in advance when you would be able to see your child.
What should you know as a father involved in a CPS case?
If you are a father who is involved in a CPS case then you may feel like you are at a disadvantage compared to your child’s mother when it comes to being kept in the loop about the case. It is more likely than not that your child is living with their mother primarily in you may not even have a set visitation schedule with your child. This could be as a result of separation in your marriage from your child's mother or a circumstance involving you and the child's mother and having never been married and having never gone to court to establish any kind of Visitation or possession orders.
Not only does this prevent you from being able to see your child as frequently as you might like but it puts you at a supposed disadvantage that you may not feel like you are as actively involved in the CPS case of your child. This can be an incredibly disheartening feeling given that the future of your relationship with your child may hang in the balance. It is recommended that you present yourself as well as possible throughout the case in that you may be considered as a permanent place where your child could reside if it is determined that reunification with your child's mother is not in their best interest.
When it comes to planning issues surrounding Visitation in a CPS case the agency will give you equal time its opportunity to contribute to the Visitation schedule. When your child is placed in foster care then you will be contacted immediately. Even if your child's mother is recommending that you not have a role to play in the process it is still the case that CPS will seek you out absent evidence or circumstances showing why this would not be a good idea. You can be involved in the case as you want to be. CPS will not box you out of the case or keep you out of the loop. However, as with anyone involved in a CPS case it is up to you to become involved and to stay on top of anything that is happening.
What is included in a Visitation plan?
CPS will work with you, your child's other parent, and any other person involved in the case to create a Visitation plan for your child. Any person who can visit with your child including parents, grandparents, and siblings will be included in the Visitation plan. The logistics surrounding the Visitation periods as well as the beginning and endpoints of each will be stated. The location of the visits and whether or not supervised Visitation is recommended will be gone over in detail. If any transportation issues need to be worked out then those will be thought about in advance and contained in the Visitation plan. Every few months the Visitation plan will be updated and there will be language included in each plan to reflect this fact.
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 how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce, child custody, or CPS case.