The removal phase is one where there start to become an increasing number of legal protections in place. The most important thing in this phase is to be careful not to consent to things that you do not mean to, and end up waiving your rights before you even know they exist. At the point where CPS wants to physically remove a child, they either need a court order or parental permission, and too often I see situations where it is the latter even though the parents simply felt pressured into agreeing.
That said, on the flip side, I also see a lot of cases where parents do not agree despite an overwhelming amount of evidence, and end up on the witness stand forced into making statements under oath that they later come to regret. The discussion of whether or not removal is legally appropriate is a nuanced one, and is virtually impossible to have without your attorney. Ultimately, it is your decision as to what to decide, but the decision is one of the most important ones in the life of a CPS case, and it is vital to make it with as much information and good advice as possible.
The other important step here, is to make that you are cooperative with the department in providing relative options that they can consider. If you provide no options to them, and a judge sides with CPS, there will be no alternative at that point but for a removal to foster care, which is significantly more traumatic than a removal to a family placement. Providing names of relatives does not waive your right to contest removal, it simply gives time to explore family options which they are legally mandated to do. If you don’t provide them with the information, all it serves to do is alleviate their requirement to look into them. Be careful with the people that you bring to their attention though to ensure that they have clean backgrounds and CPS history. If you put forth individuals that are deemed unsafe, it can easily reflect on your protective capacity. Additionally, make sure that the relatives that you suggest are actually willing to be a placement in the event that it comes to that. You may simply assume that your aunt/uncle/grandparent is more than happy to provide a temporary home for your child, but often they are not willing to take on that burden.
This stage of a CPS case often happens extremely quickly in emergency situations, and it is very easy to make hasty and poor decisions, but do your best to think through your options, as decisions made here have extremely long lasting consequences and can determine the direction the CPS “train” starts heading, which is often difficult to divert. Having practical, reasonable advice at this stage is more vital than any of the previous ones, as it is the first stage where your parental rights are in jeopardy.
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