Parents Who Are Undocumented Immigrants
The most important thing to remember is the CPS (child protective services) does not deport parents or their children. CPS is not an immigration agency of the United States. Children and their families are given the benefits, protection, and care of CPS whether or not they are here legally.
However, if a child who is not a U.S. citizen is brought into CPS custody, and is here illegally (undocumented), then the home country will be notified. This is a legal requirement and does not apply only when the child is a citizen of another country AND a U.S. citizen.
Be sure to always give accurate statements, as well as to cooperate with CPS as much as possible, in order to obtain all the benefits and protections that you are rightfully entitled to as an undocumented immigrant with CPS. Finally, remember that the CPS is not an immigration agency and cannot deport you or your child.
Parents With Native American/Indian Heritage
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law that protects the best interests of Indian children. If you know or think your child has some Native American/Indian heritage, tell your caseworker or the judge at your first hearing because Indian Child and Custody Proceedings have specific definitions under federal law. The ICWA exists to preserve Native American culture and families.
Once a case has been made, the tribe can choose to get involved in the state court case or ask for the case to be transferred to a tribal court. You always have the right to be notified of any proceeding that involved your child in tribal court. Additionally, you have the right to object to a transfer to tribal court, however, the tribe’s decision to transfer the case is given deference to the parent’s choice.
Special Protections Under the ICWA:
- CPS must take extra steps to avoid breaking up the family
- CPS must take family’s culture into account
- CPS must try to place your child in care of extended family or foster family approved by the tribe
- Special Protections are available if you consent to foster care placement or consent to termination of your parental rights
A non-Indian parent of an Indian child has the same rights as an Indian parent, if the child is considered a member or eligible for membership in an Indian tribe.
Victims of Domestic Violence
Who is Affected?
It is crucial to remember that children can be removed from your care even if they themselves are not the victims of the domestic violence. Domestic violence is a risk factor for children, and children in an atmosphere of domestic violence are experiencing that type of neglect. It is proven that “abusers” are more likely to abuse their children as well, and children raised in homes with domestic violence are more likely to abuse their children as well. Finally, it is important to remember that your parental rights may be terminated if you are not willing to break up with your spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend.
What You Can Do to Keep Your Children Safe
- Find a safe space from the abuser: going to a shelter for domestic violence victims, a trusted family member or trusted friend’s house, or taking steps to remove the abuser from your home. Your CPS worker can discuss these options with you
- Consider getting a protective order to limit the abuser’s access to your house and/or your children, or custody orders that keep the abuser from having unsupervised contact with your children
- Find supportive services for you and your child to help you heal. Examples include counseling and parent/child positive bonding activities.
- Make sure that anyone caring for your children is able and willing to keep the children safe and not let the abuser near them; this includes anyone who is caring for your children, even grandparents and other family members
- Make a safety plan and share it with your children if it is appropriate and will help keep them safe; you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for help in creating a plan
Remember that CPS will not automatically be notified when you go to a domestic violence center. In order to get CPS involved you must report abuse or neglect that affects your child. If you already have an open case with CPS, tell your caseworker that you have moved into the shelter. Your caseworker, as well as the shelter staff, will help take care of you. Have a safety plan in place before you leave the shelter. Additionally, by law, CPS must tell both parents when an investigation is started, but CPS does not need to tell the location of the investigation or where you or your children are staying. Talk to your CPS case worker if you are worried about the abuser having information about you or the investigation.
Parents Who Are Not Able to Care for Their Child
If you are a parent who simply cannot care for their child whether it is because of financial resources and/or because of personal or behavioral issues, then you might have a situation which can lead to a “voluntary relinguishment of parental rights.” This means you are agreeing to have CPS take custody and for the court to limit or terminate your parental rights.
If your child has such severe needs, behavioral, emotional, or medical that it can be extremely difficult to keep them at home, then this is sometimes called a “refusal to accept parental responsibility” and CPS takes custody of the child so the child can receive necessary mental health services. You will need to talk to your lawyer and your caseworker to see what options are available to you in this situation.
A difficult parents face here is that there are not enough agencies or services to help their child. Stay strong and remain an advocate for your child! Document everything, create a support system, ask questions, do not be afraid to say no if you don’t like the option presented to you, and be patient it is a long process with many ups and downs!
Parents With a History of Drug/Alcohol Use
At the beginning of your counseling, you may have to present a Service Plan to the CPS worker to tackle the drug/alcohol issues you are battling. Know that your CPS worker will probably ask a lot of you to insure the safety of the child, whether or not you are currently using. This includes but is not limited to: Unannounced drug testing, Talking with your caseworker about why you use drugs/alcohol and how your use affects your parenting; the conversations may be hard, but they will be necessary if you want to get your children home, A Drug and Alcohol Assessment to make sure that you receive the appropriate treatment for your addiction; the caseworker will expect you to follow the recommendations of that evaluation even if it recommends that you enter an inpatient facility, Supervised visits with your child so that the caseworker can pay close attention to your behavior when you are around your child and to make sure that you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the visit.
These steps are taken so you can prove to CPS that drugs/alcohol are no longer a concern. Additionally, your child probably cannot stay with you during drug/alcohol treatment as this is usually not the best route for long term success. Your child’s safety and your recovery are the number one priorities.
Here are just a few examples of the way that you can harm your child if you choose to use drugs or alcohol:
- Exposing an unborn baby to harm by using drugs or alcohol while you’re pregnant
- Exposing them to harm through breast milk, second-hand smoke, or drugs/alcohol left lying around the house in reach
- Dangers from impaired decision-making include children drowning, children being smothered by their sleeping parent, or children who wander away from the home or are left unsupervised
- Spending money on drugs, rather than on food, housing, or other household needs
- Getting arrested or locked up, which can result in large fines and can cause you to lose your job or housing, or to get kicked out of school
- Using your time to find drugs or ways to pay for drugs, rather than spending time with and caring for your children
- Making your home unsafe by hanging out with other drug users and dealers who want to sell you drugs