When it comes to unpleasant experiences as a parent, few can match that of being contacted by Child Protective Services. Child Protective Services, or CPS, can become involved in your life if your child is suspected of having been abused or neglected by an adult. The person who may have engaged in abuse or neglect may have been you, your spouse, partner, another adult living in your household, or a stranger to you. You may have been aware of the incidents in question or CPS may be providing you with brand new information. Either way, when CPS knocks on your door or gives you a phone call it is a serious situation.
The question that you need to ask yourself as a CPS case becomes part of your life is how do you act in the best interests of your child while protecting your rights as a parent. Without question, the desire on your part to move past this case as quickly as possible will be understandable. However, the reality is that CPS cases can and oftentimes do take some time to complete. In many cases, CPS will become involved in your life for months at a time. Therefore, the chances of a quick and easy resolution are minimal at best. As a result, your best bet is to figure out how to operate within the case and discover how you will be viewed by CPS as a parent.
Without a doubt, there is only So much you can do to prove to CPS that you are a fit parent. The definition of a fit parent can change depending on the context that you are in or even the persons involved. However, that does not mean that you do not have to cooperate with the investigation or that the consequences of a CPS case cannot be significant for you and your family. Rather, understanding what is at stake in your case and what the possible consequences are needs to be the first place you begin to collect information.
An overview of a Texas CPS case
CPS cases in Texas follow a specific timeline in terms of how your case will progress through their system. If CPS removes your child from your home without your agreeing to it then this information becomes incredibly important as far as providing you with a basic timeline. That’s not to say that CPS will certainly take your child out of your home but that this is a possibility. When we are talking about your child being removed from your house it is a serious situation that you need to have a firm basis of knowledge on. With that said, let’s jump into the timeline of a CPS case so you can know what to expect in a case involving your child.
The first step in a CPS case occurs when your child is removed from your home. In truth, this does not happen with every or even most CPS cases. Rather, CPS will only remove your child from your home if a CPS caseworker finds that there is a present danger of serious harm to your child if he or she remains in your home, you are unable to keep the child safe from harm, and that there is no alternative to removal that could keep your child safe. If all of these conditions are met then your child will be removed from your home.
Importantly, if CPS does remove your child from your home before a hearing is held then CPS would need to keep the child safe until a hearing can be held. This must occur within three days after your child is removed. This hearing is a crucial step in the process given that the judge in the hearing will be asked to determine whether the above three factors exist and whether it is warranted to continue to keep your child outside of the home.
A full two weeks after the removal of your child from your home then the court will do one of two things. The first would be to enter temporary orders regarding your child or to return your child to your home. If your child is not returned to your house then CPS will be named as the temporary managing conservator. Furthermore, the court will set forth guidelines regarding your rights as a parent to visit your child, make decisions on behalf of your child as well as any services that you need to complete to have your child returned to your home.
The services will be provided to you by CPS. It could be that you need to begin taking substance abuse classes or therapy. These are treatments that are a lifetime in nature and will not be completed by the time your CPS case is over with. However, to show your CPS caseworker that you are serious about the nature of the case, attending classes or therapy is essential for you to be able to get your child back in your home.
At two months after the removal of your child, you will be required to attend what is known as a status hearing. The judge will check back in with the parties in this hearing to see where everyone is in terms of completing any parenting plans or social services (you), and how your child is faring with living outside the home. Court Appointed persons who will work with your child by conducting interviews and inquiring as to their well-being. This person is likely a volunteer who is appointed by the court to work directly with your child on matters related to his physical or mental well-being. Remember that the judge will not be able to personally investigate matters related to your child’s situation with CPS. therefore, this person’s perspective will be important.
Importantly, you will be able to present testimony in this hearing and be represented by an attorney. The stakes are extremely high in these formats and you should seriously consider hiring an experienced family law attorney to help guide you during this time. When the outcome could be that your child is removed from your home permanently you want to make sure that you are doing everything possible to prevent this from occurring with your child. Hiring an experienced family law attorney is probably the best place you can start and the most worthwhile effort you can make when it comes to protecting your child and your rights as a parent.
From there, you will not be in court until six months after your child has been removed from your home. The reason for this is that Child Protective Services will allow you during this time to complete any steps necessary to have your child returned home to you through attending counseling, fixing any dangerous conditions in your house, and generally performing due diligence to ensure that your child is not abused or neglected. Four months would seem to be sufficient in terms of taking steps to better your life in that of your child.
At this initial permanency hearing the court will decide as far as whether or not to return your child to you, place your child with a nonparent or relative, look to your compliance with any temporary orders, and generally determine if your child is on the right course as far as Their living situation is. These are all extremely important questions that the judge will be Not answering. Therefore, you need to be able to comply with any plans but you participated in creating. These sorts of family-based social services are critical to better your life as a parent and your child’s life. Do not expect a judge to look favorably upon a situation where you are not abiding by temporary orders are planning that you participated in the creation of.
At the 9 month mark of your case, a permanency hearing will be held for a second time. This will be the same review that was conducted at the six-month permanency hearing that we just finished describing. After that point, every four months after the six-month point will involve another permanency hearing. This is at a bare minimum. If the court believes that it is in the best interest of your child then it can hold hearings even more frequently. What this should tell you is that You will be given ample opportunity to make impressions app and the judge that you were doing what it takes to get your child back. Please note that what it takes for today’s blog post will mean different things for different people. However, you know what those particular circumstances are for your case it will have the ability to progress in your performance of those requirements. Your child and their relationship with you hangs in the balance.
At one year after your child has been removed from your home, the CPS court must enter a final order or dismiss your case. The final order will either return your child to you, place permanent conservatorship rights in another person such as a relative, appoint CPS as the permanent conservator of your child or terminate your relationship with your child on a legal basis. The court can extend the period to do this by an additional 180 days but in all likelihood, this is the final step in your case. That one year you can expect to have a great deal of knowledge about your case and what it means to get your child back in your home. Whether or not you were able to do what was necessary to have your child returned home to you is a different matter altogether.
As you can see, while a CPS case may be lengthy that does not mean that you will not have an idea of what steps are next in the process. Rather, the one thing you can say about a CPS case is that they do follow a plan and timeline. you will have a clear set of expectations laid out for you and if you are intentional about accomplishing the goals set for you in your parenting plan then the chances of your child being returned home to you are significantly higher than you would have in a circumstance where you are not intentional with your goal setting or following the plan that you created for yourself with CPS. take solace in this and understand that the more you follow the plan from the beginning of a case the greater the likelihood of your case ending sooner rather than later.
What does it mean to be an unfit parent?
This was the question that we posed at the beginning of today’s blog posts and I wanted to answer it now that we know what a CPS case looks like. Ultimately, being an unfit parent is in the eye of the beholder as far as CPS is concerned. Your definition of being unfit may differ dramatically from what CPS determines to be an unfit parent. However, since CPS will be in charge of deciding on this you can safely assume that their opinion matters a great deal when it comes to this determination. For that matter, we should pay special attention to 2what factors they will be looking to and what you can do to help prevent being found to be an unfit parent.
The definition of being an unfit parent is fairly broad in terms of the factors that are considered. Even parents who are going through divorce cases or child custody cases come into contact with questions about their fitness as a parent. We know that parents in many different settings tried to look for additional vantages when it comes to being assigned Cassidy, possession, and conservatorships rights. Asserting that your Co-parent is an unfit parent or drawing into question their fitness as a parent can be a way for you to be assigned greater rights and duties or more time with your kids.
When it comes to a CPS case, Bing deemed an unfit parent can mean your child is removed from your home temporarily while you work on whatever issues are impacting you as a parent and caregiver. In the extreme, your ability to maintain a legal relationship with your child can be impacted five whether or not you are found to be a fit parent. When it comes to a situation like this where a broad definition is utilized to determine fitness then you should pay close attention to what qualities and attributes are looked at in terms of fitness as a general concept.
The most fundamental question that a family court will ask regarding your fitness as a parent will be whether or not you are committed to ensuring the best interests of your child. This is a standard that is utilized by family courts across the United States. For the most part, what is in the best interest of my child is also in the best interests of your child. However, you should consider you are specific circumstances and whether they impact this determination. For example, does your child have special needs or conditions that may require additional time more attention from you? If so, this will certainly be a factor that a court would consider when determining your fitness as a parent.
Next, your child’s emotional development will be considered when determining your fitness as a parent within the context of a CPS case. For example, whether or not you provide a loving and nurturing environment for your child will be an important factor in determining whether or not you can lookout for the best interests of your child. From my experience, this would mean not putting your child in a position where he or she is likely to encounter abusive or neglectful persons as well as supporting their basic mental health.
The bottom line is that as a parent involved in a CPS case there is a bit of a presumption of guilt rather than a presumption of innocence. This is not necessarily fair but it is the reality of being involved in a CPS case. You can look at it as having to establish your innocence when you are being presumed guilty. This is difficult not only for you but also for your child. Rather than leaving to chance all of the circumstances surrounding fitnesses apparent and the opinions of Child Protective Services, you are best off by adjusting to the pace have a CPS case and learning how you will be viewed by CPS. The better prepared you can be the greater success you are likely to have in any CPS case.
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 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.