There is a children’s movie called “Bugs Life” that features a dysfunctional ant named “Flick” who is constantly causing problems for the colony, despite his best intentions. Early in the movie, one ant tells Flick, “Help…. Don’t help.” When I think of CPS, that statement constantly comes to mind: more families would probably be helped if CPS didn’t help. The organization that most people know as “CPS” is now actually the Department of Family and Protective Services. A few years ago, they changed the name which I suspect was to make it a bit more “family friendly” sounding. Despite the name change, they have still struggled with public perception issues as an organization that consistently fails in its general objectives to protect children and reunify families.
Historically, concerns raised by attorneys and litigants about the conduct of CPS workers or their policies were overshadowed or dismissed by the general attitude toward CPS in the judicial system that workers were honest, competent, or sufficiently staffed to respond appropriately to the needs of children affected by CPS investigations. Below this blog is a copy an opinion by Janis Graham Jack, Senior United States District Judge, published on December 17, 2015. Throughout her 255 page opinion, she documents the historical and current state of the Texas CPS system. Through this opinion, the judiciary formally recognized that the CPS system in Texas is broken. Her findings included:
“Texas’s foster care system is broken and it has been that way for decades.”
“….foster children often age of care more damaged than when they entered.”
That “the DFPS’s disregard of investigations, child-on-child abuse, enforcement, and appropriate staffing levels show that DFPS substantially departs from professional judgment toward RCCL operations.”
“It also appears that a corollary of inappropriate placement is overmedication.”
These are frightening findings for a system that the legislator initially intended to protect children. Despite concerns about the system, many parents in custody disputes attempt to use CPS as a tool to get a “leg up” in their custody dispute. Before calling CPS, any parent that cares about the safety and well-being of their children should consider whether or not their child is truly at risk of harm. We have met more than one parent that called CPS to report abuse by the other parent, only to find themselves being investigated by CPS as well and their children subject to removal into a tragically damaged foster care system. If you suspect that your child has been injured by the other parent, the first phone call should be to a doctor to determine if the injuries are serious. If the doctor determines that the injuries are concerning, the doctor has a mandatory duty to report the event to CPS and/or law enforcement. From there, you will have at least one professional, i.e. the doctor, that is willing and able to look at your situation professionally and objectively… even if CPS does enter the picture.
Maybe one day, CPS will be like Flick in the little “Bugs Life” movie and get it together. Justice Janis Jack has appointed a Special Master to make recommendations to improve the CPS system in Texas. But until then, help yourself by not asking CPS for help unless it is really required or needed. Calling CPS to simply inflame a custody fight is never a clever move considering the substantial risk to your children. This opinion by Justice Janis Jack punctuates the risk to your children. If you are concerned about your children, but it doesn’t rise to the level of a CPS investigation, you still have options to safely protect your children. These options could include protective orders, restraining orders, random drug testing through the divorce court, and court ordered family counseling. More and more jurisdictions are offering programs for families that are struggling through the process of finalizing custody disputes outside of the CPS system. Visit with an attorney in your jurisdiction to learn what options are available in your jurisdiction and within the Family Code to help your children without subjecting them to foster care abuse.