The right to visit with your child will be one of the most important rights you have during a CPS (child protective services) case, and it is important to take advantage of the visitation that is allowed/ordered both from a bonding perspective as well as a legal one. Under current Texas law, CPS must arrange for you to visit with your child no later than five days after CPS is granted TMC. CPS should work with you to create a visitation schedule. This right can be limited if the court or the DFPS does not think it is in your child’s best interest to visit with you or if allowing visitation conflicts with another court order, such as a protective order. Visitation is important so your child can see you and it will also 1) help you become a better parent, and 2) Visitation can show CPS that you are working your services and making the changes needed to help you become a safer parent!
Supervised vs. Unsupervised Visitation
A judge can order visitation to be either supervised or unsupervised and order other limits as needed. For example, the judge may order where the visits will occur, who will supervise, or who may be there during them. The rules about visitation should always take into account what is in your child’s best interest at that time.
- Supervised: someone will be watching while you and your child spend time together. CPS is present because they want to make sure the child is safe during the visit. In most cases, your first visits will be supervised. If visitation goes well for a long time and you have shown that your child can be with you safely, the judge or CPS may decide that visits can be unsupervised.
- Unsupervised: you can be alone with your child without supervision or anyone watching. This takes time and it is important to be patient and not expect to get unsupervised visits right away or even within the first few months.
What to Expect with Supervised Visitation
- Your CPA caseworker or another CPA employee will be monitoring the visit either in the room with you, or behind one-way glass.
- There will usually be a table and chairs, a sofa, and there will usually be toys and games in the room.
- Most of the time you do not need to interact with the supervisor during this time with your child. However, if if there is an emergency or if your child gets very upset or starts acting out and you do not know how to handle the situation, you can always ask the visit supervisor for help. You should also always tell the visit supervisor if you or your child needs to leave the room to use the bathroom or for any other reason.
- If you have been accused of physically or sexually abusing the child, there will be limits on how much contact you can have. It is important to discuss these limits with your CPA caseworker before the visit.
- Otherwise, be affectionate with your child as you normally would!
- It is encouraged for you to bring toys, snacks, and games for your child! However, it is also wise to double-check with your caseworker beforehand if it is allowed.
Remember: During the visit you are completely responsible for your child’s needs. This means if your child is a baby, you are responsible for changing the diaper, and if your child is older you are responsible for their behavior.
Finally – Stay Positive! Supervised visits can be tough, as you may feel like you are being punished. However, remember that anything negative you say or do (such as texting during the visitation or talking on your cell phone absent some emergency circumstance) can negatively impact getting your child home!
Before Your Visit
- Call and Confirm your Visit! A lot of work goes into planning visits and you don’t want to leave your child disappointed or give the CPS caseworker the impression that you do not care about your child. (You may have to leave a voicemail, and if so make sure it states your and your child’s name, the date and time of you scheduled visit, and confirmation that you will arrive on time)
- Know How You Will Get There: If you do not have a car, make sure you have a way to get there lined up in advance. If a friend or family member is driving you, call and confirm with them the day before. If you are taking a bus, know the bus schedule and have a back-up plan. Do not wait until the last minute!
- Ask for Permission: If you plan on bringing anything out of the ordinary such as clothes or gifts, or another family member with you, ask your caseworker for permission a couple of days ahead of time.
- Be Early: Although it is important to be on time, it is even better to be prepared and to arrive early in the event of anything unexpected such as traffic or road blocks. Additionally, it is common courtesy as caseworkers are busy and have a lot going on. If you are running late, it is imperative that you call and let your caseworker know what is going on!
After Your Visit
- Make Goodbyes Easy: Goodbyes are always hard. You should work to make them as easy as you can on your child by starting the goodbye about five minutes before time is up, and/or perhaps doing the same goodbye each time.
- Consult with the Supervisor: After each visit, meet with the person who monitored the visitation and ask “How did I do?” and “What can I do differently?” Don’t be afraid of helpful criticism! Remember we can all improve our parenting skills!
Final Tips to Remember!
- Stay Positive! Do not talk about your CPS caseworker, the child’s foster parents, your case, or anyone involved in the case.
- Do NOT Talk to or Text Your Friends While On Your Visit
- Do NOT Punish your Child By Spanking, Grabbing, Punching, or Yelling
- Do NOT Talk to Your Child About Problems You are Having
- Do NOT Tell your Child That He Will be Coming Home Soon (Unless your caseworker told you to say this! J)
- Remember How Important it is For your Child to be Happy and Healthy! Do not get annoyed or jealous if he/she expressed happiness or love towards their foster home and foster parents.
- Never use curse words or foul language
- Never show up under the influence of drugs or alcohol.