CPS Caseworker – When your child is removed from your home, you will be given a notice of removal and the name and phone number of the CPS investigative caseworker. After approximately two to three weeks, your investigative worker will transfer the case to another caseworker. The caseworker will:
Contact you to give you more information and ask you some questions;
Visit your child regularly;
Help you understand the problems that brought you to court; and
Help you work on your service plan, which lists the steps you must take tohave your child returned to you.
If you do not hear from your CPS caseworker for awhile, or if you have questions or problems, call him or her.
Your Attorney – When you go to court, the judge will ask if you have an attorney. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford to pay for an attorney, and CPS
Talk with you before every hearing;
Speak for you in court;
Help you understand your rights;
Tell you about the hearings you will attend; and Tell you what to expect at each hearing.
If you do not hear from your attorney for awhile, or if you have questions or problems, call him or her. It is up to you to make sure your attorney can find you.
The Attorney for CPS – CPS also has an attorney. The attorney for CPS repre- sents CPS in court, and must prove why your child should be in CPS custody now.
Your Child’s Attorney – the Attorney Ad Litem (AAL) – Your child will have an attorney appointed by the court. This attorney is called an attorney ad litem (AAL). The attorney ad litem’s job is to meet with your child and act as an advocate on behalf of your child. Often the attorney ad litem also serves as the guardian ad litem (GAL) for your child.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) – The judge may also appoint a special advocate. This child advocate is a trained volunteer who will meet with you and your child, as well as others involved in this case. The child advocate reports to the court about how your child is doing and what they feel is in your child’s best interest. Sometimes the child advocate may be called a guardian ad litem (GAL).
Mediators – During the case, the judge may order that your case be sent to medi- ation or family group conference. Mediation is a meeting between you, your attorney, the child’s attorney, CPS, and the CPS attorney to try to reach an agreement instead of going to court. Mediators are independent, neutral individuals who have been spe- cially trained to help people work out differences. Mediation is not a court hearing. If you wish to use a mediator to help with your case, ask if mediation is available in your area.
When will you have to go to court? You may be asked to attend several court hearings and other meetings so that the judge and others can listen to all sides and decide how to help your family. Each court hearing and meeting has a different pur- pose. Most child abuse and neglect cases have at least eight different court hearings and meetings during the first year:
Adversary Hearing (Show Cause) or Mediation
Initial Permanency Planning Team Meeting or PPT
Initial Permanency Hearing
Additional PPT meetings
Final Hearing (Trial)
It is important for you to be on time for all these hearings. If you are not present in court at the time a hearing or trial is scheduled, the proceeding may begin without you.
Emergency Hearing – If your child has been removed from your home without a court order, the emergency hearing will be held within one working day of when the petition is filed in Child Protection Court and may take place without you being there. The hearing gives the judge the chance to find out why your child was removed from your home.
At the emergency hearing, the judge will decide if your child should stay in the temporary custody of CPS until the adversary hearing. The attorney for CPS will present information about the case to the judge. Information will include the allegations made and what the investigation by CPS has revealed so far. CPS will also let the judge know what actions have been taken to find a placement for the child, other than foster care.
Adversary Hearing (Show Cause) – The adversary hearing will be held no later than the 14th day after the date the child was removed. The Court may, for good cause shown, postpone the adversary hearing for not more than seven days to allow a court appointed attorney sufficient time to prepare and defend the suit filed. In that event, the Court will extend any existing temporary restraining order in effect until such time as the adversary hearing can be had.The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether the child’s emergency removal was proper and to get temporary orders for the protection of the child until the case is over.
The judge may decide to return your child to you, or to place the child with a family member, a family friend, or another appropriate adult who is willing to help and cooperate in this matter. You should come to the hearing with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of people who might be able to keep your child temporarily. Finally, the judge may decide that for the safety and protection of your child it would be best that your child remain in the care of CPS.
This hearing is your chance to explain the situation from your point of view and let the judge know how you intend to protect your child now and in the future.
Permanency Planning Team Meetings – The Permanency Planning Team meeting (PPT) is usually held between 30 and 45 days after the removal of your child from your home and again in the 5th, 9th and 13th months. Although this is not a court hearing and the judge will not be present, all the people who are involved in the case, including the attorneys, the child if over 12 years of age, foster parents, parents, CPS staff and other caretakers can be there. Family members who are interested in your child are also encouraged to attend.
At the first PPT meeting (or staffing) a “service plan” will be developed and dis- cussed. The service plan will include the goal for the child that may be:
Reunification with parent(s);
Termination of parents’ rights to the child;
Placement of child with relatives;
Placement of child in foster care;
The purpose of this meeting is to talk about why your child was removed from your home. The other purpose of this meeting is to come up with a service plan for your child and your family that will help get your family together again, or whatever is best for your child. That service plan will be presented to the Child Protection Court. Be aware that the plan may change, but it will remain in effect until amended by CPS and approved by the court.
It is very important that you attend the PPT meetings, so that your ideas about what is best for your family and what can be done to make sure your child remains safe can be heard. You will receive a letter telling you about PPT meetings: the date, time and place. You may also call your CPS caseworker to find out about your child’s next PPT meeting.
Status Hearing – You have the right to a hearing before a judge to discuss the service plan prepared by CPS. This hearing is called the status hearing. It will be held within 60 days of when your child was ordered into the temporary care of CPS.
The purpose of the status hearing is to make sure that there is a service plan in place for your child, that you are aware of this service plan and all of its contents, and that you understand that you must complete all of the requests made in this service plan (which the judge adopts) in order to have your child returned to you. At this hearing the judge may also ask about your current compliance with this plan.
You will be warned that unless you do what is asked of you in the service plan, your rights as a parent may be restricted or terminated. It is very important that you attend the status hearing.
Permanency Hearing – The initial permanency hearing must be held no later than 180 days after CPS is named as temporary managing conservator of your child.
The purpose of the permanency hearing is to evaluate the permanency plan for the child to ensure that a final order consistent with that permanency plan is rendered before the date for dismissal of the case.
The judge will review your case to make sure that the service plan is being followed. The judge will check to make sure you are doing what is ordered in the plan. The judge will check to make sure the CPS caseworker and others are doing what is ordered in the plan. If everyone agrees that the service plan needs to be changed, the judge may order those changes.
You will be told in court that your parental and custodial rights may be subject to restriction or termination unless you are willing and able to provide your child with a safe environment. If the judge believes your child will be safe, and that it is in your child’s best interest to be returned to you at this time, the judge can decide to return your child to you.
At this hearing it will be decided what plans, services, or other temporary orders are necessary to ensure final orders are rendered prior to the dismissal deadline. At the close of the hearing, the judge may set a dismissal date and give notice in open court to all parties of that date, the date of the next permanency hearing, and the date the case is set for trial.
Subsequent Permanency Hearings – If the judge decides at your first permanency hearing that your child cannot be safely returned home, another permanency hearing will be held to allow you to continue with services and determine the progress you have made, or decide if your child’s plan should be changed to adoption, or some other permanent arrangement outside of your home.
Subsequent permanency hearings must be held no later than every 120 days until entry of a final order. The court can hold the hearing at an earlier date. The requirements and procedures are the same as for the initial permanency hearing.
Final Hearing (Trial) – The court must enter a final order before the first Monday after the anniversary of the order appointing CPS temporary managing conservator, unless on or before that date the court has granted an extension of no more than 180 days.
A final order is one that:
Requires that the child be returned to the parents;
Names a relative of the child or another person as the child’s managing conservator;
Without terminating the parent-child relationship, appoints CPS as the
managing conservator of the child; or
Terminates the parent-child relationship and appoints a relative of the child,
another suitable person, or CPS as the managing conservator.
For all final hearings, testimony and evidence will be offered regarding your child’s best interest.