Many of our clients find that when they are charged with an Injury to a Child in Houston (or other type of child neglect / child endangerment case) they also become the target of an investigation by the invasive Child Protective Services bureaucracy. The knock on the door by a CPS caseworker can inspire a fear even greater than a sheriff deputy because CPS strikes at what is nearest and dearest to us ‐ our children. CPS investigations usually begin with an adversarial hearing and a visit by a caseworker, who is permitted to enter the home and take photos ‐ without the permission of the parents or a warrant (as in criminal investigations.) If they can prove there is continuing danger to the child, temporary custody is given to CPS and the parent is required to begin, variously, parenting classes, counseling, therapy, anger management, assessments, in or out patient treatment ‐ according to the perceived issues of the parent. The parent is also forced to sign a HIPAA release allowing CPS access to all medical and mental health records. And all of this evidence, including the testimony of the caseworker, can be used against the parent in a criminal case.
Our law firm does not handle CPS cases directly but we have successfully dealt with child protective services through our legal defense of child abuse, child endangerment, and neglect cases. For our clients who cannot afford a family law attorney to represent them in the CPS case, we provide basic advice on how to deal with CPS personnel, how to best protect their criminal case if the CPS goes to court, and on plea consequences in the criminal case that can result in the termination of their parental rights.
The problem here is the inherent conflict that exists between defending oneself on the CPS case vs. the criminal case. Statements you make ‐ whether in or out of court ‐ to help resolve your CPS case can and often will be used against you in your criminal case. And what you do or do not say in your criminal case can and often will be used against you by CPS. The CPS investigation forces the parent to give sworn evidence against himself or herself. And if the parent invokes their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the CPS investigation ‐ this in itself can be used against them in the criminal case.
Further, like the police, CPS is allowed to lie and make promises they have no intentions of keeping such as, if you admit what you “did” to the therapist you will be able to work towards getting your children back. Innocent parents who believe this lie end up dooming both their CPS case and their criminal case.
Dealing with Child Endangerment and CPS Cases
The ideal solution is to hire a separate family law attorney. But since many can’t afford to hire two attorneys, our clients ask us if they can request a court-appointed attorney (CAA) for their CPS case. Yes, court-appointed attorneys are assigned in CPS cases – but only very late in the game ‐ only after CPS has moved to terminate parental rights. CPS is aware of this and so will often state the official goal as placement of the child with a relative, thus ensuring the parent won’t qualify for a CAA. In this event ‐ no retained counsel and no CAA ‐ we advise our criminal case clients to avoid testifying under oath in family court until the criminal case is resolved.
You also need to be aware that if you take a Plea Agreement that results in imprisonment of 2 years, or if you accept a conviction for an offense of Family Violence, this will result in the automatic termination of your parental rights. If your attorney is not aware of this, you could find out after it’s too late that your plea had far worse consequences than you realized.
Therefore, if funds permit, the best solution is to hire an experienced family court lawyer and a separate experienced criminal defense attorney. These two will then communicate and confer with each other on the progress and strategies in their respective cases. But since many people cannot afford to hire both, we recommend you hire the best criminal defense attorney possible to fight your criminal case, and one who is experienced in dealing with CPS as a part of the defense of child neglect and child endangerment cases since, if you end up incarcerated, you will not be able to work with CPS to reunify your family and get your children back.
At The Haggard Law Firm we have over 30 years of experiencing helping people with child endangerment cases. We understand this is a very difficult time and we are here to do everything that we can for you. Do not hesitate to call us at our Houston location at 832-328-0600 or email us using the short form for a free confidential consultation about your charges. We will immediately go to work to provide you the best defense possible.