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HOUSTON CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES LAWYER
CPS LAWYER

Child Protection Services Questions

Julie Ketterman, Texas Child Protection Services defense attorney, has a statewide focus on representing the legal rights of parents with Child Protection Services (CPS) issues, click here for more information.

CPS issues include child abuse, child neglect, exploitation, abandonment, a child in danger, temporary removal and protective orders.

Ms. Ketterman has represented and advised thousands of individuals with Family Law issues throughout Texas.

Following are some typical questions regarding CPS:

CPS QUESTIONS

WHAT DO I DO IF CPS COMES TO MY HOME?

State law requires anybody who believes that a child has been abused or neglected to make a report to the Child Protective Services (CPS) program of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) or to a law enforcement agency. The law requires CPS to investigate reports of child abuse or neglect for the primary purpose of protecting children.

When investigating a report, a caseworker usually:

  • talksto and visually examines the child reported to have been abused or neglected. The talk with the child must be audio taped or videotaped. The interview may be conducted at any reasonable time and place, including at school. The caseworker may transport the child for purposes relating to the interview or examination and must notify the child's parent of the transportation.
  • makes a reasonable effort to notify you of any interviews and the nature of the allegations within 24 hours after an interview has taken place.
  • discusses the report with you to gain an explanation about the harm or risk of abuse or neglect to the child. You can ask to see the caseworker's DFPS identification card. The caseworker will tell you how he or she can be contacted during the investigation. It is illegal for the caseworker to tell you who made the report.
  • obtains criminal history information about people alleged to have abused or neglected your child. As necessary, the caseworker may also:
  • interview and visually examine all children in the home;
  • interview any other person alleged to have abused or neglected your child;
  • interview anyone with information about the situation, including those who can verify explanations of the harm to your child;
  • ask for access to mental health records on your child, yourself, or people alleged to have abused or neglected your child;
  • ask for a medical, psychological, or psychiatric examination of your child if it is necessary to establish whether abuse or neglect has occurred or if risk of abuse or neglect exists; and
  • visit the child's home.

You need to cooperate with the caseworker in taking these steps, which are authorized by law to complete the investigation. However, if necessary, CPS has the authority to ask a court for an order giving the caseworker permission to talk to or examine your children, visit your home, or receive health records.

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WHAT IS FAMILY – BASED SERVICES?

When CPS investigates an allegation they close the investigation by either "ruling out" the risk, "finding risk" or "unable to determine" the risk. If the latter is found, CPS will often (always) ask the family to "voluntarily" agree to family-base services. In this situation, there is no court interaction. There is no petition filed. The children are usually left in the home; however sometimes the children are "voluntarily" placed with a family member or friend. The parents are asked to do certain services: parenting classes, anger mgmt classes, drug / alcohol evaluation, psychological evaluations, etc. If the parent successfully completes these services (which are rarely ever done) then the case will be closed. If not, CPS will file a petition and ask that the children be removed. FBS can last indefinitely (even as long as 3-5 years). It really is a vicious cycle to get caught up in.

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DO I NEED A LAWYER IMMEDIATELY?

You have the right to consult with a lawyer at any point in the investigation at your own expense. If CPS files a lawsuit requesting Temporary Managing Conservatorhip and you don't agree, the Court will determine if you are financially able to hire your own attorney, or whether to appoint one to represent you. CPS staff are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.

Even if you are eligible for a court-appointed attorney, the court does not have to appoint an attorney immediately. They can wait as long as 6 months or so. At this point, it may be difficult for an attorney to "fix" anything that may have gone wrong in the case. So it is better to get an attorney as soon as possible.

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DO I HAVE TO DO WHAT THE CPS ASKS ME TO DO?

Yes. But you should do so with an attorney to guide you.

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HOW LONG WILL CPS BE IN MY LIFE?

If FBS: indefinitely. If a CPS petition is filed, 12-18 months.

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CAN I PLACE MY CHILD WITH OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS?

When children have been abused or neglected, DFPS may remove them from their homes to ensure their immediate safety. The court system is required to consider a temporary placement with a relative and asks the parents to provide DFPS with contact information for relatives who may be able to at least temporarily care for the child.

When placing children, the court considers their needs the most important consideration. All the parties involved in the decision making process may identify a kinship placement as the most appropriate as a result of a Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) conference. The placement may be court ordered, usually after DFPS completes a home assessment. The agency will try to take into account the parents' desires about the care provided to their child whenever possible. If placement with a relative is not available or appropriate, the child may be placed in foster care.

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WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF KINSHIP CARE?

  • Provides love and care in a familiar setting;
  • Provides parents with a sense of hope that children will remain connected to their birth families;
  • Enables children to live with people they know and trust;
  • Reinforces a child's sense of cultural identity and positive self-esteem;
  • Helps a child make and sustain extended family connections;
  • Continues lifelong family traditions and memories;
  • Supports the child in building healthy relationships within the family;
  • Supports the child's need for safety and well-being; and
  • Creates a sense of stability in the life of a child.

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