Those who find themselves in the midst of a CPS investigation, in which they temporarily lose the right to parent their children, will experience an extremely trying process. The claim that sets an investigation in motion might be unfounded, but the investigation has to run its course, because neither you, nor the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, can take any risks when it comes to the welfare of a child.
Parents in those situations wonder what they can do. At some point during the process, CPS will typically present a checklist of items that a parent will need to complete in order to regain access to their child. Even though you can’t know ahead of time what each specific CPS case will require, parents can anticipate what CPS will ask and be proactive in meeting those requirements. That way, when CPS reviews the case, those parents will be prepared and will have demonstrated a desire to return to active parenting and possession of their child.
If you find yourself in this situation, know there are a couple of core things you can do that will help no matter what. One is to take a parenting class; that shows a commitment to the process and that you want to understand your child better. Seeing a family therapist is also a crucial choice, to show that you want to work on whatever issues led to the situation around the CPS claim and are committed to improving your parenting. Also, courses in anger management can be helpful if the situation relates.
The other important thing to do is keep records of your communications. CPS investigations can be, in part, a difficult game of telephone. It can help CPS to sort out what’s going by taking complete notes on what’s being said. Once an interaction or visit is finished, getting it down on paper (or on your computer) while it’s still fresh in your mind can help. Anything that will help you credibly and accurately shows the progress you’re making will help you in the CPS investigation.
But you don’t want to do anything that might be intrusive to your child–so you don’t want to record interactions with your child during a visit itself, beyond taking pictures together. Children don’t need to have anything that interferes further with their parental relationship and natural, organic interactions. Children are accustomed to posing for photos, but you want to be careful even there, and not necessarily count on photos to be a determinative part of the case you’re building up for CPS. (In photos, as anyone with a Facebook account knows, we self-edit and like to highlight just the positive.)
People in these situations want to know how long they last. Know that an investigation and the court proceedings may run the full course of a year and may be extended if circumstances allow. It may similarly be dismissed by the Department at any time. The reality is that you will attend several hearings over the course of your case. If you’re trying to take care of a service checklist of items and can’t do it within the 12 months allotted, you can always ask for a six-month extension in CPS cases, however the Court must weigh whether the circumstances that prevented your completion of the service list are extraordinary AND whether such an extension would be in the best interest of the child. It is in no way guaranteed.
Proactive parents will make the best of an unfortunate situation and avail themselves of the resources CPS provides. The therapy and parenting classes might cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their own. But they’re provided by CPS with the intention serving the best interest of the child. I advise parents to take CPS up on their offer–again, proactively if they’re able–in order to move forward, as positively as possible, once parent and child are reunited.
Any CPS matter will be complex and emotionally charged, and even the clearest thinking parents will be tested. An attorney can help provide you with the guidance and counsel to assist you navigate these difficult waters. We recommend you consider your legal options whenever faced with a matter so important.