The sheer number of people involved in a CPS case can be daunting at best. Often, it seems like parties who may be aligned as filling the same role, but in reality they serve distinct purposes and it is important to tailor your behavior regarding each of the parties differently. Rather than go over each of the specific people directly (which the guide does a great job of already), there are some general categories that are good to be aware of.
The first category is people who are employees of CPS. This includes investigators, caseworkers, kinship workers, supervisors, etc. All of these people may have slightly different roles, but realistically when it comes down to it, they will act in lockstep according to the company line. You may occasionally get some dissent from a worker here or there, but realistically they act based on edicts that come from higher in the bureaucracy. They act in what they believe is in the best interest of the children, but often have their hands tied by policies. They also are responsible for reunifying children with their families, and setting up services to achieve that goal.
The second category is the guardian ad litem. This is a role that is overwhelmingly taken by a group called CASA. They are not affiliated with the department, and can have differing opinions from them in regards to best interest. Don’t assume that because you tell your caseworker something that the CASA will know it too, communication between parties is not always as it should be. You will likely have interactions with a supervisor to start with, who is a staff member of CASA, and then eventually be assigned a volunteer. These volunteers can be very influential, and are often one of the best parties to “get on their good side”.
The third category is attorneys. There are often lots of these in a CPS case. If you have your own attorney, be aware that these parties typically won’t talk to you without your attorney present, so if you want to have communication with them, the best course is to do so through your attorney. This is done as a matter of ethics so don’t assume any disrespect. Attorneys advocate for whatever their client’s interest is, and you should keep that in mind when they are arguing before the court. It is important not to take things that are said by opposing attorneys personally and lash out (especially in front of the judge!!), as for the most part, they are simply doing their jobs. Attorneys don’t testify or provide evidence themselves, they are merely directors of it and often they get wrong information from their clients.
The fourth category is judges. These are ultimately the people who decide your case, and it is vitally important to keep that in mind. Be aware of how the judge perceives you, as that has a huge effect on the proceedings. You will likely have the same judge throughout most all of the case, except for a final trial. If a judge is sympathetic to your position, they can overrule the department, but if they dislike you, it makes the other parties more bold in requesting orders to be made that are not in your favor.
The final category is service providers. These are usually paid for by the department and do tend to act accordingly at times. That said, they can often be your best advocates at a hearing, as they provide a neutral source to the court of how you are doing and can testify on your behalf. On the other hand, if they don’t like your progress, they can provide more evidence against you. There is no one way to interact with them, just keep in the back of your head that this is a person who may be testifying at a trial and act accordingly.
For the full text of this guide, click here.
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