CPS Parent Resource Guide Cover

CPS Parent Resoure Guide Part 9: Family Group Decision-Making 1

Studies have shown that parents who work  with a support network made up of family, friends, neighbors, community members and teachers are more likely to have their cases successfully dismissed while the children in these cases are less likely to end up in foster care long term.  

Family Group Meetings are organized by CPS representatives and can take place either before or after the removal of your children.  You should invite anybody who you think can help you or your kids.  The gathering will also be attended by representatives for the children, the other parent and representatives for the other parent.  Be prepared for a long day as family group meetings can take four or more hours.  

The product of the meeting is a Family Plan of Service, or a Service Plan.  Your service plan is a structured plan that will summarize the ways you and your support network plan on addressing the safety concerns of CPS.  It is important that each party involved feels comfortable following through with promises they make.  Parties must hold themselves and each other accountable.  For example, if you are not supposed to visit your kids at school it is important that those in your network will report you to CPS if you do.  Knowing that those around you will keep you accountable helps you make better choices.  Better choices are the goal of group decision making and the hope is that your family will function in a safer manner without further CPS intervention in the future.  

In addition to accountability actions between you and your network, your Service Plan will also include a list of services that CPS needs you to complete to address the agency’s safety concerns.  Some common required services include drug and alcohol treatment, mental health evaluations, parenting education, counseling, random drug testing and domestic violence services.  Services assigned should address the specific needs in your case.  Completion of services assigned is mandatory so  before you leave make sure you understand and are able to complete everything.   This is the most control your family will have during the case.  Failure to follow your Service Plan can cause removal of your children.  Failure can also necessitate CPS going to court to get an order compelling you to comply.  

There are two sub-categories of CPS group meetings.  A Family Team Meeting (FTM) takes place before removal with a goal of correcting safety concerns and preventing removal.  These meetings are voluntary and can even be requested by a parent who believes it will be useful.  They may only include the family and CPS Investigators involved in the case, although you are allowed to invite anyone else who you think will be helpful.  You may also bring an attorney if you can afford to hire one but because no case has been filed against you a free court-appointed attorney will not be made available.

A Family Group Conference (FGC) takes place after the children are removed from the home with the hope of developing a long-term strategy to reunite your family.  A FGC will frequently be bigger than a FTM and attended by all parties legally involved with the case.  This includes the family, attorneys for family members, CPS investigators and caseworkers and child advocates in addition to your support network members.  You should have an attorney with you at this meeting.  You may qualify for a court-appointed attorney because there is now an official case.

Tips for Success:  

Be Open to the Process:  The meeting might require working with family members and in-laws that you don’t always get along with.  You will need to find a way to work together.

Remember Why:  The meeting will be long and difficult.  At times people will ask you to do things you don’t think are necessary.  Remember that you are doing this for your children.  It is worth it.  

Be Willing to Ask for Help:  Spend some time thinking about your strengths and weaknesses as a parent and as a person.  Ask for help tackling your weaknesses.  You are surrounded by people who want to help because they care about you.  

Child Protective Services Parent Resource Guide 2015

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at attorney@okohlaw.us

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