Child Welfare Services (CWS) – formerly known as Child Protective Services (CPS) – intervenes in the lives of children when the agency suspects that abuse or neglect is occurring and that neither parent can provide a safe and appropriate home for the subject child(ren). If CWS has become involved in your life, our strong advice is to seek legal advice and hire a qualified attorney.
If CWS is accusing you of abusing your child, you have the right to contest the court’s right (and by extension CWS’s right) to exercise jurisdiction over you and your child. You are entitled to this hearing within fifteen (15) days of CWS filing its petition. We frequently advise our clients to contest the Court’s jurisdiction because CWS is frequently over zealous in accusing parents of abuse. CWS has the burden of proving that your child has been abused and that you cannot provide a safe and appropriate home. When challenged in court, CWS may not be able to meet that burden, in which case you will be automatically reunited with your child(ren).
If the court decides to exercise jurisdiction over your family, then your child will be placed in foster custody and CWS will create a “service plan” for you and your family. Usually, the stated goal of the service plan is the reunification of the child with her/his parents. Again, you should continue to have competent legal counsel while working through the service plan to ensure that the service plan is appropriate and that you are given a fair opportunity to comply with the service plan and reunite with your child.
Frequently, CWS will file a Motion to Terminate Parental Rights even though you have complied with all the terms in the service plan. Generally, this is your last chance to reunite with your child and prove to the court that you can provide a safe and appropriate home for your child. If you fail to prove this, then your child will be adopted by a foster family. Once again, competent counsel can mean the difference between reunification and termination of parental rights.
Farrell & Associates attorneys have many years of experiencing litigating Child Welfare Services cases to successful results for our clients. Please contact us immediately if you find yourself embroiled in a CWS matter.