It can be one of the most frustrating experiences for a person to go through when it comes to being told that you did something that you did not do. Being accused of pushing your sibling when you were a child, stealing a piece of candy from the cupboard, or even speeding in your car when you were driving the speed limit. All of these instances occurred at different times, but they elicit the same feeling: frustration and helplessness. Being accused of doing something that you did not do is a tough situation to find yourself in.
It is not only frustrating to go through a CPS investigation, but it can also be downright scary. To become the focus of a state investigation into your children, your family, and your parenting abilities. As parents, we go through a lot. Giving up our own time to devote so much energy to parenting children is a huge sacrifice to make. However, it’s a sacrifice that we make every day and don’t think twice about it. Consider that those sacrifices don’t necessarily end when your children are young. Your older children may not need care when it comes to feeding them breakfast but do require care of other sorts. Advice, perspective, and assistance in helping them get off the ground as young adults.
The reality is that we parent our children and don’t think about how we are parenting them. We can try our best to be intentional about how we are approaching these issues but probably have little time to think about every single action we engage in as parents. Many times, all we can do is react to what our kids do. That's about all the opportunities we have a day in and day out. Being proactive is nice when it comes to co-parenting, but we sometimes don’t get that opportunity. Sometimes all we get is an opportunity to react as quickly as possible.
This brings us to the topic that we will be discussing in today’s blog post. When it comes to our daily lives, we don’t like to have our routines upended. What would you do if you found yourself on the phone or face to face with a CPS caseworker who was alerting you to a call made regarding the well-being of your child? Now you are facing a CPS investigation. If you did nothing wrong, what could you do? How would you proceed? That is what we are going to walk through today.
Consider what you can do in an immediate sense
A CPS investigation can take a turn for the worse very quickly. We see this happen when an investigation turns into a court case where CPS attempts to win conservatorship rights to your child. Suddenly, your child is living with a foster family, at a CPS facility, or with a family or friend of yours. This can happen quickly. Here is how.
CPS can decide that your child's well-being is at immediate risk if left in your home. This happens in situations where CPS investigates your situation and thinks that there is a need to get your child out of there without delay. CPS can obtain an emergency order from a judge that gets them permission to remove your child. You will have an opportunity, most likely, to be present for your child being removed. You can help him or her pack. But otherwise, they will remove your child and place him or her in their custody. CPS will then ensure that your child has a place to live, attend school, and generally live their lives until a conclusion can be reached in the case. These are far from ideal circumstances, but they will be what is made available to your child throughout the case.
If you find yourself in a position where you have been wrongly accused of having abused and neglected your child there are several things, you can do to keep your child safe and cooperate with the investigation. All the while you want to position yourself in a way that will give CPS ample evidence to show that you have done nothing wrong in caring for your child. however, you must act intentionally when getting to the point where you can present these people in a way where their testimony will make a difference to the CPS caseworkers’ investigation.
First, I would begin to provide names of people that can vouch for your credibility and skill as a parent. This could be done as simply as speaking to people in your family that have a lot of contact with you and your children and having them begin to consider the relationship with you and your child. Because the nature of a CPS case it's so sensitive you should consider what people you make available to CPS. Only those people who are intimately aware of you and your child's relationship in how you parent him or her should be made available. You also need to consider whether this person could pass a background test or otherwise pass scrutiny if called upon. You don't want to put yourself in a position where you are giving someone information who may cozy to look less than favorable in the eyes of CPS.
Moving someone to vouch for your parenting skill can be incredibly important if you are being accused of having abused your child. This is something where it can be difficult to explain your way out of a situation where it appears that your child isn't physically harmed. However, you should not assume that all is lost. Rather, you can take steps to provide CPS with information about people who can speak to your abilities as a parent and how the perception of abuse in your home is incorrect. CPS may have removed your child for no other reason than a Wellness checkup revealed something that looks like physical trauma to your child. CPS may have even removed your child based on only the recommendation of a CPS caseworker who is not a doctor or any other kind of medical professional. As a result, you should strongly consider providing CPS with the names of a person who can vouch for the nature of an injury.
For example, let's suppose that your child injured themselves walking up the stairs. However, it could look as though your child were injured because you pushed, pulled, or even hit the child. Without having another adult available to verify the mechanism of their injury you might be in a position where you could be accused credibly of having harmed your child. With that said, you should consider providing CPS with the names of adults who can verify the nature of an injury and how it arose.
Consider also how psychiatrists, counselors, or medical doctors can be of assistance when it comes to helping CPS learn about the nature of an injury or other issue with your child. It can be difficult to have to explain a condition for your child, either mentally or physically without having someone else available to help provide context. Rather than relying solely on your word, allow CPS to gain an understanding of your condition from an independent source like a medical professional. These folks would have a history with your family and be able to engage with an investigator about your child's condition from an objective standpoint.
No matter what happens within the case, it is always best to stay calm and never lose your temper or control over your emotions. It may feel good at the moment to lash out in anger at another person. However, that will not allow your child to come home any sooner. Rather, it may result in a great deal of harm to your case that otherwise could have been avoided. Use your frustration and your anger to build a solid case for your child so he or she can be returned home. Do not give in to the anger and do not lash out at a CPS caseworker simply for doing their job. Remember that these folks work in conditions that are not exactly desirable and you can assist the investigation by providing truthful information.
What to do if you believe that CPS is not treating your family fairly
Although sometimes the feeling of being mistreated by CPS may just be your struggles with having to deal with an investigation, in other instances it could be that CPS is treating your family unfairly or otherwise abusing their power or discretion. In that case, you need to know how to proceed delicately and with respect. It is not appropriate to ever lash out in anger at a CPS caseworker. However, it is appropriate to be direct with your feelings to show that you are aware of their actions and how they have impacted your family. Here are some other tips on how you can proceed when it comes to sharing your thoughts and concerns regarding an investigation and how it is being conducted. If you follow these steps, you may be able to have a more fruitful interaction with the CPS caseworker and can benefit your family in the process.
Speaking with an experienced family law attorney is probably the first step that I would take if I felt like CPS was trying to take advantage of me and my family during an investigation period to be sure, a CPS investigation here's one where the agency typically does hold most of the cards when it comes to decision making in a case. For example, the agency can make decisions regarding the investigation and does not have to disclose all the details to you or your family. This can be a frustrating proposition given that the well-being of your child and your relationship with him or her hangs in the balance. You do not want to feel out of the loop when all of this is going on. However, the reality of a CPS investigation is that you can oftentimes be made to feel like that.
Additionally, even the courtroom processes can seem complicated and difficult to understand without the assistance of an attorney. Consider that many of the steps taken during a case will be in connection with court orders and things of that nature. While you will have an opportunity to attend every hearing, ask questions of witnesses, and otherwise provide Updates to the judge during an investigation in some ways if your case has made it to the courtroom you are already at a disadvantage. It is beneficial to be able to have an advocate present in the courtroom. An attorney will be able to speak the language of the court, communicate effectively and understand the law and how it applies to certain circumstances. Many times, you can avoid misunderstandings and otherwise shortened the length of the case simply by understanding the process better. If you find yourself in a position where you feel overwhelmed by the proceedings of the case and have no place to turn, then you should certainly consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney. These are people that work every day for Southeast Texas families. You can go to them with your concerns and learn more about how CPS cases can affect your life. However, the best attorneys are ones that do as much listening as talking. Allow the attorney an opportunity to listen to what you are going through and then provide him or her with a chance to weigh in the period from there you can determine what attorneys you feel most comfortable with and decide about hiring one if you believe doing so will be in your best interest. Remember that you cannot be appointed with an attorney by the court unless your parental rights are in danger of being terminated.
Additionally, you may also ask for the CPS caseworker's supervisor's name and attempt to address any concerns with him or her. Again, this is a little bit like asking to talk to the manager at a restaurant. Odds are that he or she may take the side of their employee and brush aside your concerns. You can imagine that many parents are probably fed up with investigations like this and become frustrated with having to deal with a CPS investigation. However, that should not stop you from voicing your concerns if they are based on real-world circumstances where you feel like you are being taken advantage of or otherwise not respected.
Bear in mind that CPS and their investigation may change substantially from the beginning of your case until the end. It may be that additional information is uncovered during an investigation that is not discussed initially with you or your spouse. In those types of situations, you need to be flexible with the type of questions that are asked or the type of information that you are responsible for providing them with. Many times, the more information that CPS uncovers the more favorable it is for you. This is true in a situation where you believe you have done nothing wrong and that a report was made in error to CPS.
What you should be aware of is that your behavior will be constantly monitored by CPS throughout this process. For example, suppose that CPS was initially investigating your family due to a concern regarding the neglect of your child. If in the course of that investigation CPS subsequently determines that you have engaged in drug use in front of the child or even catches you using drugs at home, then that may also become part of their investigation. I mention this because you should not let your guard down with the CPS caseworker under any circumstances. Remember that they have a job to do, and they do not play favorites or ignore warning signs at home. As such, you should be careful with your behavior around these persons and should be as diligent as you can be when it comes to acting like the concerned and responsible parent that you are. In many ways, it is not fair to have your parenting style continuously judged and scrutinized. However, allegations of abuse are neglected children are serious and
The actual investigative process that CPS engages in with your family can be significantly different than what other people experience depending upon the allegations made against you or another member of your household. This is where the way you present yourself to CPS can be especially important. In tomorrow's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss the investigative process with the CPS caseworker and what you can do to present yourself as responsibly as possible to ensure a timely conclusion to your case and end any disruption that you experience because of the CPS investigation itself.
Questions about the material presented 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 consultations 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 or child custody case.