The Hale County Attorney’s Office is charged with representing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (commonly known as “CPS”) in court when a case is filed to remove children from their home for abuse or neglect.
Although the County Attorney, like any other attorney, has an ethical duty to examine a proposed case to determine whether it has merit before filing it with a court, the County Attorney does not initiate or control CPS investigations. Referrals are taken by CPS either by phone or online and are sent to the local investigations unit for investigation. The CPS investigator then makes a full investigation to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred.
If abuse or neglect is determined to have occurred, the investigator and supervisors decide whether removal of the child or children is necessary. In many cases, children are allowed to remain in the home, and family-based services are arranged. In other cases, the children are placed with a relative and family-based services are offered to the parents.
Only in cases where the risk of remaining in the home is too great or in which there is no appropriate relative placement immediately available, will CPS remove children from the home. At this point, the County Attorney’s Office becomes involved and files the necessary pleadings to begin the removal process.
Cases involving children and CPS are filed in the district courts. The court considers the evidence to determine whether children who have been removed should remain in CPS custody. If children are placed into CPS custody by the court, the court holds periodic hearings to review their placement and their parents’ progress toward reunification with the children.
Plans of service are developed for the parents with specific services designed to address the problems which led to removal of the children. For example, a parent whose children were removed because of illegal drug use would be referred to either an in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation facility in order to control the parent’s addiction.
The legislature has placed a time limit of sorts on CPS cases. The Texas Family Code provides that a final hearing in a CPS case must be held prior to the Monday following the one-year anniversary of removal of the children. If no final hearing is held by that time, the case is dismissed by operation of law. The court is allowed to grant one 180-day extension of the dismissal date. When an extension is sought, it is generally in cases in which the parents have nearly completed their plans of service, but need more time for full completion.
CPS has a statutory mandate to work toward the reunification of families. CPS also is mandated by statute to attempt to place children with relatives. Therefore, CPS works closely with parents to encourage completion of services. CPS also performs a home study on any relative that might be identified as a possible placement during a case. The home study consists of criminal and CPS history checks as well as home visits and interviews with family and friends regarding the potential placement.
In every CPS case, an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem is appointed for the children involved. Sometimes the attorney and guardian ad litem is the same person. Frequently, however, the guardian ad litem is a CASA volunteer. This volunteer is responsible for visiting the child or children and for advocating for their needs with CPS and the court. CASA is an extremely valuable and worthwhile program and provides great help to the courts and to the County Attorney’s Office in these cases.
The information provided on this web page is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. No warranty is made as to the accuracy or correctness of any information contained on this web page. Every legal problem has a unique set of facts and circumstances behind it. Persons seeking legal advice should contact their own attorney for that advice and should not rely on anything presented herein.