It can be quite a shock to have Child Protective Services (CPS) at your door and having your children removed from your home can be a traumatic experience. These experiences can leave you confused, fearful, angry, and sad. You are also probably wondering how this could happen. Trying to figure out what to do next can be overwhelming and exhausting. One important thing to keep in mind is that there are things you can do. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the goal of child welfare system in Michigan (which both CPS and the foster care system are a part of) is to strengthen and preserve families.
Just like when navigating other child and family service systems, one of the best things you can do to is try to build a strong working relationship with the people who serve your family and to try to fully understand and engage in the process. This is especially important when navigating the child welfare system. For a brief overview of the Child Welfare system, click here to visit the Child & Family Services section of our site.
One of the first steps you can take is to gather more information. Two great resources that can help you to better understand this process are:
A Parent’s Guide to Working with Child Protective Services
This handbook can help you better understand what CPS is and how their process works. It will also explain what the CPS worker’s role is, how they might help you and what steps they will follow to complete their investigation. It will also lay out your rights and responsibilities as a parent and answer many of your questions including what central registry is and if you have to go to court, etc…
Parent’s Guide to Working with Foster Care
This is a great resource to support you if your children have been removed from your home, it will give you detailed information about how the process works including explaining what a service plan is and detailing the steps you will need to follow in order for your children to return home. It will also explain the people who will be involved in your case, their roles, visitation, the court process and where you might find additional help.
One of the keys to successfully navigating the child welfare system is to follow the process and complete all the required steps that are asked of you. This is critical to keeping your children in your home or having them returned to you.
This section will seek to give you a little more information about the child welfare process beginning with a complaint to CPS and what you can do to successfully navigate the process and either keep your children in your home or have them returned to your home.
Child Protective Service Investigations follow these Basic Steps:
- A complaint is made.
- Within 24 hours the CPS worker has to begin to investigate (or try to find out if it is true) the complaint. Their investigation will include talking to your child, you and other people in your house. They may visit your child at school or daycare and may even talk to other people you know. They will basically ask a lot of questions about what happened and how things are going in your home.
- Next the worker will write a report with their conclusions (or what they decided) based on their investigation. Their report will include:
- If they feel there was abuse or neglect based on what they heard.
- If they feel there is a risk for further abuse or neglect, and,
- If they feel it is safe for your children to stay in your home.
- They will also make a recommendation on whether or not your family needs services.
- The investigation and the report should be completed within 30 days. After the report is completed CPS will either end or continue based on the findings.
- If the report determines that your child was not abused or neglected, your involvement with CPS will end.
- If the report determines that your child has been abused or neglected, your CPS worker will work to create a safety plan for your child.
Usually if it has been determined that your child was abused or neglected the CPS worker will still work with you to create a plan so your child can remain in your home. However if the foster care worker’s report determined that your child is unsafe in your home, CPS can ask the court to remove your child.
In addition if CPS determines that your child has been abused or neglected, your name may be listed on Michigan’s Central Registry. Central Registry is a listing of people who have abused or neglected children. To get more information about the Central Registry and the process for appealing your name being placed on it click here for more information.
Even though this process can be very scary and stressful, keep in mind is that the goal of CPS to strengthen families by providing supports and services. When your plan is created you will still work together with the worker to develop the goals for your family. Remember that you have valuable information to share about your family’s strengths and the things that will help you.
Your worker may recommend that you attend counseling or get help for substance abuse, domestic violence or anger issues. They may also require that you attend parenting classes. It is important that attend everything you are asked to participate in but be sure to let your worker know if the class you are attending are not specific to your needs. They may be able to help you find a job or housing to help you better care for your child. They can also help you access legal or mental health services, or help you to better meet your family’s basic needs by helping you learn about and connect to resources for food and clothing if needed.
While you are working toward meeting your goals and the requirements of your plan, the foster care worker can help you, as part of their role is to assist you.
If you follow the plan, reach the goals, and do everything you need to do you should be able to show the court that you can safely keep your child at home. In most cases the court and your worker will make every effort to return your child to your home.
My child has mental health challenges how can I make sure their needs are met while they are in foster care?
Having your children removed can be an incredibly stressful experience and having your child with mental health challenges removed can add to your worries. Will the stress of being removed aggravate their mental issues? Will the people whose home they are in know how to help them? Will they continue to give them their medication and monitor any possible side effects? Will they be able to continue with therapy and other needed services and supports and can you be involved?
Even if your children are removed from your home, you have a right to continue to be involved in the regular care of your children. So, if your child who has been removed from home has mental health challenges or other health care needs you would still be able to participate in decisions about their care and most often in their care.
You also have the right to continue to be involved in meetings regarding your child
Including school conferences and other meetings that concern your child whenever possible.
If your child has mental health challenges it can also be really helpful if you can to provide any information about your child that will help the people caring for them know how to best make them comfortable and meet their needs until they are returned to you. You should also share information about your child’s medical history including mental health disorders and any medications they are currently taking including information about possible side effects. You can also include information about your child preferences like what they like to do, their bedtime and morning routines, what to do to calm them if they are upset, information about what they like to eat and when and what types of toys, games or music they like. You could also try to make arrangements to get your child some of their own things that might help them to feel more secure.
Tips for Success in Getting Through the Process:
- Show up for all meetings and appointments and be on time!
- Prepare for any meetings by being ready to clearly explain how your home is a safe home for your children.
- Try to stay actively involved in meetings about your child.
- Even though this is an incredibly stressful time try not to lose your temper in meetings.
- Complete every step of the process and be mindful or timelines.
What about Visitation With My Kids?
The foster care system is required to allow you at least a minimum number of visits each week. The minimum number is determined by the age of your child or children.
The minimum number of visits per week for children aged birth to age two is a three times per week; Ages three to five twice a week and ages six and older a minimum of once a week. If you have more than one child the number of visits are based on your youngest child’s age.
There are additional rules about visitation including that Parenting Time should take place in a family friendly, comfortable place and last long enough for you and children to continue your bond. You can also communicate with your child between visits by calling, e-mailing or writing them.
All guidelines about parenting time can be found by reviewing the MDDHS, Children’s Foster Care Manual section on Maintaining Connections through Visitation and Contact by clicking here:
Frequent visitation should be encouraged as research has shown that one of the best predictors of successful reunification is the frequency and quality of visits between a child and their parents.
What Should I Do if I Have an Issue with the Foster Care Worker?
If you have a problem with the foster care worker you should try to work it out by talking openly and honestly and trying to work through your differences.
If you cannot work out your concerns one on one you may want to consider requesting that your worker’s supervisor get involved.
If you are still unable to work out the problem, you can file a formal complaint or ‘grievance’. You can get information about how to file a complaint from the foster care agency or additional information can be found the Michigan Department of Human Services Parent’s Guide to Working with Foster Care.
Who Else Can Help?
Different areas offer different programs but it is worth a try to ask your caseworker if there are any additional supports available to you.
If you are eligible and if you child receives service from public mental health system you may be able to access a Parent Support Partner whose role it is to help other families access the knowledge, skills and supports they need to effectively navigate systems and reach the goals in their family service plan. You can also find additional support through the Wraparound process if you family is eligible.
Other Resources You May Find Helpful:
Office of the Family Advocate (OFA)
If you have a concern with the way in which the Department of Health and Human Services and/or a private agency has handled your case and you have been unable to resolve it by working with your foster care worker, supervisor or attorney, you can contact the OFA at: (517) 373-2101.
Office of Children’s Ombudsman (OCO)
If you have a concern about your child’s case and you have not been able to resolve it by working with your foster care worker, supervisor or attorney, call the Office of Children’s Ombudsman at (800) 642-4326 or visit their website for more information at www.michigan.gov/oco or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you still have questions or need help to navigate the child welfare system, please feel free to call a Family Resource Specialist at ACMH today.