In one of the previous blogs, we discussed the role of Child Protective Services (CPS) or as it referred in Texas, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Now, let’s briefly discuss the various hearings and meetings that are associated with the child abuse & neglect cases. In majority of such cases, the different processes involved are: emergency hearing, adversary hearing (also known as show cause), initial permanency planning team (PPT) meeting, status hearing, initial permanency hearing, additional PPT meetings, permanency hearing, and final hearing (i.e. trial).
If a child is removed from his parents/guardian without a court order, then the DFPS has the responsibility to get one within a working day from the date when the petition was filed with the court. This hearing for obtaining a court order is known as emergency hearing. The next hearing is the adversary hearing which must take place within the 14-day period from the date the child was removed from home. In this hearing you will get the chance to explain your side of the case and the court after taking into account the evidences presented by the DFPS will decide whether it’s in the best interest of the child to return him/her back to you, to place him/her with another family member/friend (or any other appropriate adult), or continue to keep him/her with the DFPS.
In most cases, 30 to 45 days after the removal of the child from home a meeting known as initial permanency planning team (PPT) meeting takes place which is not a court hearing but all the interested parties are present in it. The primary goal of this meeting is to create a service plan which will allow the parents/guardian to get back the child and also to find other alternatives to keep the child safe (like foster care, adoptive placement, etc.). A Family Law attorney will present your side of things at the meeting and must give inputs on how you intend to follow the service plan. This service plan created by the DFPS is then presented to the court which approves or modifies it.
Status hearing, which must take place within 60 days from the day the child was placed in the temporary care of the DFPS, provides you with the chance to discuss the content of the service plan with the court. This hearing is used by the court to ensure that you understand the service plan and comply with its content. It’s important that you follow the service plan to a tee or else your parental rights to the child will be restricted or completely terminated. In fact, the judge might ask you about the status of your compliance with this service plan till the day of this hearing.
Initial permanency hearing takes place within 180 days from the day Child Protective Services (DFPS) was named the temporary managing conservator by the court. This hearing is used by the court to analyze the compliance with the service plan by the parents & other parties (including CPS) and based on it, the court may return the child to the parents and decide on plans or temporary orders that are required to render the final order before the dismissal deadline of the case. However, if the court is of the opinion that the child cannot be returned to parents and the service plan must be continued, then subsequent permanency hearings will take place (not later than every 120 days till the final order is rendered).
A final order must be rendered by the court prior to the first Monday from the date of completion of one year when the Child Protective Services was made the temporary managing conservator of the child. This particular date could be extended if the court on or before this date has allowed an extension of not more than 180 days. This final order will decide whether the child will be returned to the parents or the court with or without terminating the parent-child relationship makes a family member, another adult, or CPS as the managing conservator of the child. It’s highly recommended to sought legal advise from a Family Law attorney as soon as you receive the Notification for Removal from the DFPS so that you are fully aware of various legal options available to you.