Teenage Parents and Former Foster Youth Parents
Teenage parents, those under the age of 18, can become involved with CPS as a child, as a parent, or both. For children under the age of 18, CPS becomes involved if the child is being abused or neglected, and as a parent CPS becomes involved if the parent are neglecting or abusing their child.
Just like any parent, teenage parents are responsible for keeping their child safe. Everything in the guide applies to teenagers as parents, and teenage parents can have their children removed. Because you are a teenager, your lawyer can ask for special kinds of help. For example, you might be able to get help finishing school, home services so that you can care for your baby while working your Service Plan, or one-on-one help from people who are trained to work with teenagers. Other help might include things like getting your driver’s license, opening a bank account, getting transportation to visit with your child, or finding housing.
In the end, even though you are a parent, you are also still a legally a child, which means you may need more or different kinds of services than older parents.
Finally, if you are a teenager who is involved with CPS, as a parent AND as a child,
you can ask CPS for birth control, if that is something you want or need. This is your right; you do not need the consent of your parents, your caseworker, your foster
parents, or anyone else. If your CPS worker does not assist you in acquiring birth control, then you can talk to your doctor.
If your parent is hurting you or your child, you need to get help. You should immediately call the police. You can also contact CPS at 1-800-252-5400.
As a former foster youth, you also have the right to an “After Care Case Manager,” at least until you turn 21 years old (and sometimes later than that). Your After Care Case Manager can help put you in touch with services for housing, employment, job
training, public benefits (health care or food stamps, for example), education, and
other community resources.
If you need help getting after care started, contact the CPS Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) office and they will refer you for case management. To get started, call the state PAL office at 512-438-5442 or go to http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/Youth_and_Young_Adults/Preparation_For_Adult_Living/PAL_coordinators.asp.
DO NOT discuss your case or give details of CPS’s investigation or case against you to the PAL office, which is part of CPS; say only that you want case management services.
A court can terminate parental rights if a parent’s arrest or incarceration leaves a child without appropriate adult supervision or living in a home that is not safe. In other words, it is the risk to your child that comes from your incarceration that can cause problems with the CPS.
Do not fear, being incarcerated is enough of a burden, in general incarcerated parents are entitled to the same rights as duties as parents who are not incarcerated.
Although being incarcerated limits your ability to be involved, you are still entitled by the law to the following:
- Notified of any court hearings
- Given updates about the case on a regular basis
- Interviewed so you can provide information about whether your child is safe at home
- Provided information about where and who your child lives with
- Given any services that are available where and while you are incarcerated
- Included in any plans developed about your child as much as possible
- Allowed to provide the names of relatives and close friends who may be able to take care of your child
- Given a copy of the plan about what will happen to with your child
Your child’s caseworker may be able to keep in touch with you in person, or otherwise they will keep in touch by mail and by phone calls.
What Can I Do to Help My CPS Case?
You should first and foremost have regular contact with your child. Secondly, you should make a list of your family and a close circle of friends who would be willing to care or have regular contact with your child. Stay on top of your case, and be sure to read and return all correspondence that you receive from CPS, the courts, and your children.
Any Special Issues I Need to Consider?
Be sure to talk with the CPS lawyer about any impending criminal charges, especially if the reason CPS is involved is the same reason as your incarceration.
Being able to talk with your visit your child is different in every case. It depends on the child’s safety and well-being in deciding how much contact you can have with your child, which will be determined by your CPS case worker.
Additionally, there are different options for contacting your child, depending on the rules where you are incarcerated and your caseworker’s decision. For example, you might be able to see your child in person, write letters, talk by phone, talk online using video chat, or share photos.
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Getting Visits?
In most facilities, there are programs to help you prepare for visits and to improve your parenting skills. MATCH/PATCH, which stands for Mothers And Their Children/Papas And Their Children, for example, helps parents improve parenting skills. You must apply to be a part of this program, but not all programs require applications. Ask what is available in your facility and sign up as soon as possible.
Whether you will be allowed to go to the actual CPS hearing varies county to county. Some counties issue a bench warrant that allows you to leave the jail and travel to court. You need to let your lawyer, CPS, and the court know as soon as possible if you want to come to court so they have time to make the needed arrangements.
Even if you are not able to attend the hearing in person, you always have the right to
participate by telephone. Talk with your lawyer about making the needed arrangements.
Parents Who Do Not Speak English As a First Language
If you are a parent who does not speak English you are entitled to an interpreter every time you go to court. Do not rely on family and friends to interpret for you, but instead inform your lawyer and CPS caseworker that you wish to have a certified interpreter at the case hearing.
Even if you speak a language that is not common in the United States and an interpreter is hard to find, the court must still find you someone who speaks your language before the case can go forward.