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What do I do when Child Protective Services lets me know I'm under investigation?

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The first thing to do, when you're notified by Child Protective Services (CPS), is to remain calm. It's certainly a frightening prospect to lose your children, and that can be the ultimate outcome in some cases, but know that CPS doesn't want to separate a child from a parent permanently unless the parent poses a clear and profound danger to the child.

The fear induced by CPS can manifest in panic or anger. Neither of those emotions will helps reassure CPS or, more importantly, the child in question that the parent has their emotions in check. So, remaining calm is critical.

You also want to make sure you know what's going on. If there's an investigation underway, and there's a home visit planned, find out as many specifics as you can prior to the visit. And then, of course, you'll want to prepare for the visit by taking obvious steps like cleaning the house and stocking the fridge.

You also might look at your social media accounts to make sure there's nothing there that could be used against you in an investigation. You don't have to delete accounts entirely, of course, but do be sure to look at how you appear to anyone coming across your profiles from the outside.

You should also be ready to ask questions and take notes. If you don't involve a lawyer at this stage, but plan to involve a lawyer at some point, it's best to take thorough notes and then have them available for the lawyer when you do finally meet. Even if you don't think you'll involve a lawyer at all, the notes will help you understand CPS's case and how to best deal with it.

You should also be as courteous and respectful as possible to anyone with CPS. Though CPS officials are bound by certain laws and guidelines on how to proceed, they're also human beings, and the better you can make the interactions, the better chance you have of creating sympathetic and even productive relationships with caseworkers and other CPS officials who will work on your case.

If your child is to be removed from your home, CPS will have to notify you in writing about their decision, which will include a legal document known as the "Petition" that will state specific reasons for the removal. Once you've been able to review that and understand the state's case for removal, it's possible to work with CPS on a plan for reunification.

The Texas Bar Association has produced this online brochure detailing the CPS process and your rights within that process. It's a good idea to read this and to make sure you understand it. If you determine, from reading this, that it's too daunting to try to deal with this process alone, the Law Office of Lisa Vance can help you. Call to schedule an appointment - we can step in, help you understand what you're facing, and how to best address the situation. We've seen all kinds of CPS cases over the years, and it's very likely that your situation is similar to others we've successfully resolved.

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