If there is 1 emotion that most of us have felt over the past year it is distressed. Whether it is distress regarding concerns over the coronavirus, distress regarding our ability to work karma, or family related distress this has been one for the record books in terms of people not feeling well about themselves or their circumstances. If your family has become involved with Child Protective Services then you have a unique layer of distress to be concerned with.
I have worked with many parents and families who have dealt with Child Protective Services in our state. Many of them have experiences that ended up benefiting their family. Believe it or not, sometimes when a report of abuse or neglect goes to Child Protective Services the resulting investigation can help a family identify potential problems and eliminate them from their lives.
As a parent, you likely feel just like these parents before you who have run into CPS investigations: you just want what is best for your child. CPS may go about conducting their well happy anniversary investigations in a way that some parents do not like but the key thing is to remember that the caseworkers, investigators, and others involved in the investigation aim towards the same goals as you do about your children.
CPS caseworkers will act with a great deal of due diligence, professionalism, and respect towards families in most instances. However, I have heard a van been exposed to times where I thought CPS acted inappropriately. It could be something serious such as a recommendation made through their attorneys to a judge that I thought was not warranted. It could also be something minor based on how I have seen parents and grandparents be spoken to by CPS caseworkers. The key is understanding the context that an action is made or a word is said and then determining what you can do about any inappropriate behavior.
Believe it or not, I have had clients approached me with questions about how to file a lawsuit against Child Protective Services for emotional distress based on an investigation that did not go according to how the parent wanted it to. That a parent would get upset at CPS during a contentious and emotional investigation is not out of the ordinary. But what could be out of the ordinary is the idea of following through with a lawsuit to address perceived wrongs against you and your family.
For starters, filing a lawsuit against the government, of which CPS is a part, is very difficult to do. I don't want to take up a great deal of time discussing the legalities of using the state of Texas but legally speaking it is possible to file a lawsuit against Child Protective Services. However, I think it is more productive for us to discuss how you can overcome difficulties within a Child Protective Services case and take advantage of the opportunities within an investigation to not only benefit your family but to remove CPS from your life permanently.
Visitation issues as a part of a CPS case
If CPS is named as a temporary managing conservator of your child then the agency must make your child available to you in visitation no more than five days after the court date. During this time, the agency will work with you to ensure that there is a visitation schedule in place that allows you to be able to know when and for how long you will be able to visit with your kids. Keep in mind that if the judge determines that your child's best interest does not align with your having Visitation then though Visitation schedule will be created. A protective order would likely go into place during situations like this that limit or outright restrict your ability to see your child for the time being.
Another important detail to be aware of is that a judge can order Visitation to occur either unsupervised or supervised. This means that you could either have Visitation away from any other persons in an unsupervised manner or could have supervised Visitation either with a CPS employee, independent Visitation facility, or even with a relative of yours. The specific circumstances of your case and the allegations made in the report to CPS will be important and determining what sort of Visitation a judge awards you with.
Even if the Visitation you are awarded is not exactly what you want it to be in terms of duration or frequency that does not mean that you can afford to have a bad attitude or negative outlook regarding what you have been awarded. Keep in mind that these Visitation opportunities are all you are going to be allowed for the time being through the court. You may not agree with the determinations of CPS or the court in terms of allegations made against you of abuse or neglect of your child but you need to allow the legal process to work itself out in that regard.
For the time being these periods of visitation need to be taken advantage of by you and followed through with according to the plan outline by yourself, CPS in the court. Any supervised Visitation that is ordered by the judge was done because there are concerns about your child's safety regarding you or someone in your household. Keep in mind that a caseworker will be watching in observing your interactions with your child and if they feel like anything inappropriate is being said or done the Visitation session would end.
Something important to note is that even if your Visitation is supervised at this time you may be able to, and are very likely to in some cases, regain unsupervised Visitation of your child during the later stages of your case. You need to be patient with the process, with your child, and with yourself during the initial stages of your case if Visitation is supervised. As you display appropriate behavior with your child and fulfill the other requirements of your case supervised Visitation will likely turn into unsupervised Visitation.
The vast majority of supervised visits with your child would take place at a CPS office. Whoever is caring for your child while he or she is out of your home would bring your child to the CPS office where you would meet them. In most cases, CPS would reserve a room specifically for the Visitation session to occur where you all can relax and enjoy some time together. The CPS caseworker may be in the room with the wall or maybe in a room attached to the room where you are located. Your child may feel uncomfortable at first with this arrangement, and you may as well, but it is best to try and make the best of every opportunity you have to spend time with your child.
What role do these Visitation sessions play in the overall context of your CPS case?
It may seem like these Visitation sessions are a relatively small part of your life and that of your child but they can and do oftentimes play a large role in the actual CPS case that you are involved in. Besides anything having to do with the CPS case it is important to note that your child wants to be able to see you and you want to be able to see him or her.
As we have already touched on in this blog post even if you are not a fan of supervised Visitation schedules with your child it is in your child's best interest to spend as much time with him or her right now. Remember that he or she was removed from your home and as a result is likely feeling insecure and unstable. You have the ability and the responsibility to act as a stabilizing force for good in your child's life.
Especially in supervised Visitation settings, you should always ask the caseworker or investigator who supervised the Visitation session how it went in their opinion. It may be fair to say that your view of normal or typical parenting is not shared by Child Protective Services. As a result, both you and the agency may differ in your interpretations of how a Visitation session went. If he or she has any suggestions or interpretations of any events that occur be sure to ask them for feedback. The feedback you receive can be communicated to your attorney and will go towards creating additional Visitation times and also towards creating an exit strategy for you and your family from the CPS case.
Another reality that is a part of these supervised or even unsupervised Visitation sessions for you and your child during the case is that it will show CPS first hand just how much you care for and love your child. The whole reason you are involved in a CPS case at the moment is that there is a reason for CPS to believe that your child has been put in harm's way due to a problem with your care for him or her. Again, this may be something that you disagree with but it is the reality for you in your case.
The other end of the spectrum finds that if your Visitation sessions do not go well with your children then you may end up with even fewer Visitation opportunities in the future. Not being on time, completely missing appointments, or acting or behaving in inappropriate ways could result in an abrupt end to your current Visitation session as well as a limiting or restricting of Visitation sessions in the future. This is one of the areas of your case where you have direct control over what happens.
What not to do during a Visitation session with your child
many parents tend to want to discuss the CPS case with their child and the future of their relationship. I can appreciate how it feels like your child is one of the few people who understand what is going on in your life and that of your family. He or she is at the center of your family and the center of this CPS investigation. However, although you may view your child as something of a confidant if no other people are available to fill that role in your life it is still not appropriate to discuss or speculate about the case with them especially in a supervised Visitation setting. You are better off using the time to reconnect with your child about other things happening in their life like school or other activities that they can participate in.
Part of this discussion centers around not trying to speculate with your child as to when he or she will be able to come home. As I mentioned earlier in today's blog post a lot of a CPS case depends on factors that are beyond your immediate control. As a result, even if the case proceeds as smoothly as possible from the perspective of your Visitation sessions with your child that does not guarantee you any particular result when it comes to your child being able to come home at a certain date or time. Ultimately it is up to a judge whether or not to allow your child home and to restore your parental rights in full.
You do not want to put your child in a position where you are building up their expectations towards reunification with you and return home. That will end up working out negatively for everyone involved. Instead, you can affirm the feelings of love you have for your child, ensure that your child understands that you are doing everything possible to prepare for his or her return, and to answer any questions that he or she may have to the best of your abilities. Outside of this, there should be no pressure on you to give a timeline to your child's to win or if he or she will be able to return home.
How well will CPS communicate with you throughout the investigation?
This is a question that I receive with some frequency from parents who are involved in a CPS case. The experience of most parents is that they will go through rather long periods in between hearing from a CPS caseworker regarding the case. Outside of scheduled Visitation sessions or court appearances, the contact you have with CPS may be sporadic. The reality of being a CPS caseworker is that you are oftentimes overworked relative to your ability to complete the task throughout the workday. This isn't offering an excuse for the CPS caseworker but it is explaining why communication may be sparse at times during the case.
Therefore, it would behoove you to prepare questions and information for the caseworker whenever you do have an opportunity to interact with him or her. many CPS caseworkers will take hours to get back to you if you leave them a voicemail or attempt to reach them in their office. If there is a pressing issue that you need to be addressed then you should reach out to that caseworker as frequently as you are able. However, once you get the person on the phone you need to have your questions prepared in advance so that you are not caught off guard.
Additionally, you will have a safety plan in place that you are responsible for completing before certain stages of your case. Your ability to fulfill the requirements and expectations of this safety plan will play a large role in how quickly your CPS case can come to an end and how quickly your child will be returned to your home. If you have any questions about your responsibilities under the plan then you should contact your attorney as well as the caseworker. It is very unlikely that the caseworker will reach out to you independent of you reaching out to him or her. As a result, you bear a lot of the burden of making sure the lines of communication are open between you and Child Protective Services.
Otherwise, a CPS caseworker will understand that you are under an intense amount of pressure and are feeling a little uneasy about their involvement in your life. As we mentioned at the beginning of today's blog post Typical CPS workers will be professional but oftentimes hurried or short with you. That does not mean that you should view this as disrespect, necessarily. However, if you truly believe that you have been wronged or have had your rights taken advantage of by the state of Texas in this regard then you should contact an experienced family law attorney immediately.
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 can go a long way towards helping you learn more about your family's circumstances as well as how the law in Texas can impact you and your family moving forward.