CPS cases in Texas

Dealing with Child Care Protective Services (CPS) can be a difficult and emotional time for any parent.  It is not an easy process to navigate alone.

WHAT IS CPS?CPS

CPS is organization designated to protecting the health and welfare of children.  Their job is to investigate reports of abuse and/or neglect against children.  They do this by speaking with the parents, current caregivers, and other important people involved in the child’s life.  Their goal is to solve the issues that lead to the abuse and/or neglect.

During CPS’s investigation, their number one objective is family reunification.  CPS works directly with the parents to try and reunify the family.  However, this is not always possible.  In that instance, CPS may move to terminate the parent/child relationship.

After CPS has completed their initial investigation, they will usually take one of three actions:

  • Leave the child with the family if they find no further harm will be done to the child;
  • Remove the child from the home, place the child in substitute care, and work with the family towards reunification; or
  • Remove the child and seek termination of the parental rights.

ABUSE AND NEGLECT

“Abuse and neglect” are defined in the Texas Family Code.  “Abuse” generally includes emotional or mental injury, physical injury, sexual abuse, or allowing a child to be subjected to abuse.  “Neglect” generally includes leaving a child in a situation where they are unable to care for themselves or failing to provide a child with food, shelter, clothing, or possibly medical care.

REMOVAL BY CPS

After it’s initial investigation into abuse and/or neglect, CPS may determine that removal of the child is necessary to protect their health and welfare.  If this happens, CPS must now go through the Court system and are bound by certain timelines.

  • Day 1 – CPS has removed the child from the home and must now hold a Court hearing on the “first working day” after removal, but no later than third day after removal to determine whether the child is in present danger of serious harm at the home, the caregiver cannot protect the child from harm, and/or CPS has made reasonable efforts to prevent removal but letting the child remain in the home would be inconsistent with their welfare;
  • Day 14 (after removal) – the Court will hold a Temporary Orders hearing in which it will make orders necessary for the protection and welfare of the child, which may include returning the child to their home or designating CPS as the temporary managing conservator and setting out the terms and conditions for visitation, child support, and services;
  • Day 60 (after removal) – the Court will hold a Status Hearing to review the child’s status and the permanency plan;
  • Day 180 (after removal) – at this stage, the Court has it’s Initial Permanency Hearing where it will review CPS’ efforts to reunify the family or place the child with relatives, evaluate the parties’ compliance with the Temporary Orders and service plan, determine whether the child’s current placement is meeting all their needs, and make any additional orders, if necessary;
  • Day 270 (after removal) – every 120 days, the Court will now have a Permanency Hearing to monitor the status of the case;
  • Day 360 (after removal) – at this hearing, the Court must do one of three things: enter a final order, dismiss the case, or extend the deadline another 180 days for extraordinary circumstances.

PERSONS INVOLVED IN CPS CASES

If CPS files a lawsuit, there are quite a few people who will be involved in the case.

  • CPS attorney – this attorney represents CPS and will have the burden to show why the child should be removed from their home;
  • Attorney Ad Litem – this attorney is appointed by the Court to represent the child’s wishes;
  • CPS caseworker – this is the person assigned to the CPS case that will be investigating the case throughout the life of the Court case;
  • Guardian Ad Litem – this person is appointed by the Court to represent the best interest of the child (usually a CASA volunteer); and
  • Parent’s attorney – this attorney represent’s the parent’s wishes; if CPS is seeking to terminate the parent’s rights, the parent is entitled to have an attorney to represent them if they cannot afford an attorney.

The above-mentioned people are typically the people involved in every CPS case.  However, more people may be entitled to file an intervention and insert themselves in the case.

SERVICE PLAN

If the child is removed from the home, CPS will issue the parents a service plan that they must follow in order for CPS to consider family reunification.  These plans are created on a case-by-case basis and are designed to help that individual parent.  The plan may include attending parenting class, random drug tests, obtaining and maintaining a job, rehab, mental evaluations, finding a new home, among other requirements.  However, completion of the service plan does not guarantee return of the child.  It is one factor the Court considers in returning the child.

Ultimately, in determining whether to return a child to their home or leave the child in current placement, the Court is going to look at what is in the best interest of the child.  This is the Court’s paramount concern.

Once a child has been removed, it is sometimes an uphill battle to have them returned.  It is not an easy process and can be emotionally and physically draining.  Parents need to gear up for the “fight of their life” once CPS is involved.