Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is also known by the name ‘Child Protective Services (CPS)’.
I, Michael Busby, CPS Defense lawyer, Houston, Texas have tried and won cases against Harris County Child Protective Services. I have had Child Protective case workers resign after being cross-examined under oath as to the investigation and cause of continuing the lawsuit. If your family has been targeted by an investigator who works for the child protective services, you and your children are at risk.
My team of Family Law attorneys and I provide legal representation for all types of false Child Protection Services allegations including child abuse, child neglect, exploitation, abandonment, a child in danger and temporary removal for safety reasons.
1) Everything you say could be used against you! There is no such thing as a casual or “off the record” conversation with a Child Protective Services investigator. This initial investigator is the “accuser”. This person will testify against you in the court, but when at your house will exhibit a friendly disposition as they have coffee and donuts!!
2)Take the accusation seriously! Before the investigator comes into your house, clean up, buy groceries, wash the car, vacuum the house, do the dishes, cut your hair, wear your casual Sunday church clothes during the interview.
3) Do not sign the safety plan until you have consulted with an attorney!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Almost all the Judges in Harris County hate the safety plan and the leverage that the investigator has over the family once signed.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q. I have received a call from Child Protective Services, What do I do now?
A. Call back to the worker and set up a time for the interview. They will typically want to come to your home and talk privately with you and your children. Talk with your children before the meeting. Make sure they know what is going on. If you are married or are together with the parent of your children, have a family meeting and get a game plan to get the case worker out of the house as soon as possible. The case worker will attempt to “suck up” and “Schmooze” everyone in the house. They may want to take pictures. Ask for the identification and the handout that they are supposed to give you. Get the name of the supervisor. If you feel that the investigator is vulgar, belligerent or threatens you, excuse him/her from your house and tell that you are going to see an attorney. Make them be on their best behavior and sign nothing!
Q. Do I need a lawyer if CPS isn’t looking to terminate my parental rights?
A. Yes. They will continue to push you for signing plan after plan and will delay the process until they complete the investigation. You may have 3 to 5 case workers assigned to you because of the high turnover. Thus, you will have to tell your story multiple times.
Q. What is a “Show Cause”, “Adversary” and “Initial” Hearing?
A. The terms “Show Cause Hearing”, “Adversary Hearing” and “Initial Hearing” are used when the court decides whether or not to return your child. If the court finds that there is a continuing danger to the physical health or safety of your child, it will name CPS as the Temporary Managing Conservator. Essentially, this means that the CPS has temporary custody of your child for the next 12 to 18 months. You will have to undergo periodic drug tests and be asked to take parenting classes. You may get to see your children once a week at a CPS center for about an hour. This is the opportunity to get the case dismissed. Many times parents do not show up with an attorney and CPS is also not prepared. They will only have one witness during the hearing who is mostly the investigator. If you show with all of your witnesses, then this is your best chance to dismiss their case.
Q. How long does a CPS case last?
A. The suit to Terminate Parental Rights can last up to a year with the possibility of a onetime six-month extension.
If CPS has chosen not to file a suit, then there is NO LIMIT to how long CPS would be involved in your family’s life. This means that you can be asked to sign multiple safety plans while working with Family Based Services.
Q. Once a suit has been filed, does anyone represent my children? If so, what are their responsibilities?
A. Once a suit has been filed, the court will appoint your children an attorney whose job is to provide legal services and give undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation. In other words, the Attorney ad litem is your children’s attorney and must represent their interests. Texas Family Code sections 107.003 and 107.004 state that the attorney ad litem duties include:
1. Interview and advise your children;
2. Interview each person who has significant knowledge of the your children’s history and condition, including any foster parent of the child;
3. Interview the parties to the suit;
4. Investigate the facts of the case to the extent the attorney considers appropriate;
5. Obtain and review copies of relevant records relating to your children;
6. Participate in the conduct of the litigation to the same extent as an attorney for a party;
7. Take any action consistent with your children’s interests that the attorney considers necessary to expedite the proceedings;
Be careful with the Harris County’s Child Protective Services. They are the worst when it comes to follow up and getting back to you. I would never sign a safety plan with the Child Protective Services. It’s usually a blank check to the state.