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The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has published an online practice guide for attorneys representing CPS in Texas. This guide can also be a valuable resource for families battling through a CPS investigation.
Take a look at what the guide has to say about the frequently used Safety Plan:
A safety plan is a written agreement between CPS and the family which serves as a short term solution to address specific concerns about child safety in a home. A safety plan is a voluntary agreement and is not legally binding. Consequently, a safety plan is only appropriate for a limited time.
Safety plans commonly include voluntary agreements to:
- Place a child outside the home;
- Suspend or restrict visitation; and/or
- Submit to drug testing.
- A safety plan cannot contradict existing court orders, but can require a parent to voluntarily forgo or limit visitation rights for a specified time while the safety of the child is assessed.
A divorce decree grants a father the right to visitation with his minor daughter. CPS cannot compel the mother to interfere with those rights (by, for example, only allowing supervised visits), because the mother could be held in contempt for violating the terms of the decree. However, if an allegation of sexual abuse against the father is pending, a condition of the safety plan could be for the father to agree to forego his rights to unsupervised visits until the investigation is complete.
Violation of Safety Plan
Although terms of a safety plan are not legally enforceable, failure to comply with a safety plan can be valuable evidence at various stages of a case. Consider:
Violation of a safety plan is not a basis for removal, but it may contribute to show an immediate danger to the physical health or safety of a child to support a removal; and
Failure of a parent to follow a safety plan may relevant in a termination case.
The suggestion by the State of Texas that a Safety Plan is “voluntary” is shameful and false. CPS workers have been trained in the art of insulting, humiliating and threatening families during their investigations. More often than not, such a plan is signed by a parent based upon the false threat of a CPS worker to remove the child to a foster home.
Each year, our CPS attorneys help approximately 50 families in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area rescind these Plans that were signed under the worst form of duress. These battles require not only aggressive legal representation but tact and an understanding of the CPS system. We are a known quantity within the Texas CPS system and Texas family law courts.