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Family Plan of Action
by: Annette M. Hall
Emergencies happen all the time, as parents we do our best to prepare for them. While we may be prepared for the next hurricane, blizzard or flood many of us have not made preparations to protect the most precious people in our lives... our children!
My second granddaughter was born December 2, bringing the total number of grandchild to six now, boy does that make a person feel old.
The same day little Lilah Jade was born, I received a phone call from a lady in Texas whose daughter had lost both of her young children due to false abuse allegations. To make matters worse, even though Texas has grandparents rights laws on the books, because the grandmother in question had a previous, unsubstantiated case with CPS, the caseworker has informed her that she is not eligible for visitation rights.
My heart went out to the woman who called because even though she owns her own business and is financially stable, unlike most of the mothers who phone me, she still felt helpless and at a loss to know what to do. Her attorney has been ineffective in procuring the release of the eldest child from foster care and the child has been in care for over a year. If something isn't done soon, the parents, and in turn, the grandparents, rights will be terminated by the court system.
I was able to put her in contact with a Texas organization that helped her connect with an experienced attorney in her area, one who is heavily involved in the fight against child protection agencies. It felt good to know that she was in capable hands and that I had played a small part in assisting her.
Just last night I received yet another phone call, only this time it was from my own sweet daughter, little Lilah Jade's mommy. She gave birth just a week ago but her life is about to be turned upside down. Her daughter is currently in the hospital, suffering from clinical seizures. The doctors have been running tests to determine what the problem could be and she has been spreading her time between her active two-year-old son and her newborn child.
Some good, well-intentioned citizen has seen fit to turn my daughter in to child protective services. Her plan to bring the kids for a Christmas visit to California may have to be postponed because her "caseworker" informed her that her home must be inspected, before she can "allow" the newborn to come home and that she will have to present her son for interrogation (my words, not hers) before she can be "cleared" of wrong-doing.
I have never felt so helpless in my entire life. My daughter lives 2,500 miles away. She is so overwrought by concern for the hospitalized infant, she isn't thinking clearly. Try as I may, I couldn't get her to see that cooperation with her so-called "caseworker" is not in her best interest, nor is it in the best interest of either of the children.
I gave her my best advice.
I told her that the CPS worker is just trying to build a case against her and that any information she gathers will be used against her and the kids in court. I may as well have been talking to the wind. My daughter just wants to cooperate, so that the whole thing will go away, after all, as she told me many times, she has nothing to hide. Why shouldn't she cooperate, she's a good mother and hasn't abused her children in anyway.
One piece of advice I gave her, I hope she follows up with and that is to hire an attorney, now. Find one who has tried and won CPS cases. Any parent who uses a court appointed attorney, as representation in a CPS case is better off representing themselves. And we all know what they say about people who choose to represent themselves... He or she has a fool for a client.
The problem is attorneys that are paid for by the state, work for the state, not their clients. They are agents of the court, yes men and woman, with no real incentive to put forth their best effort on your behalf. Their job is to push your case through the family court as quickly as possible, with a little resistance from you, as possible.
We talked for a long time on the phone. She couldn't seem to understand why, if, as the CPS worker had explained, there had been several complaints made against her, why she had never been contacted by the agency prior to this call.
I explained that complaints often come in through the CPS hot line numbers and to CPS switchboards, if the caseworker assigned to the case can't make contact after several tries, they move on to the next case with nothing more than a notation in the file that the accused could not be located for comment.
My point of sharing all this... If you think it can't happen to you, think again. Please share this story with friends and family. Many people will reject my advice and refuse to take heed, thinking that they are good parents and they have nothing to hide, just like my daughter, but they are wrong. I always say, "To be forewarned, is to be forearmed."
Every family needs to have a plan to deal with the unexpected events in life. If you live near a flood prone area, you plan ahead in preparation for a flood. If you live in tornado alley, you have a plan of action ready, just in case a tornado should strike. We plan for all types of disasters; if you have children you need a CPS plan of action.
Do you have a hand-held tape recorder? Do you have a video camera with charged batteries? Do you have a friend or family who would be willing to care for your children in an emergency? Have you explained to your children that they should not answer the door to strangers and that they should not allow any stranger access to your home, even if the police accompany them?
Having a warrant in hand is not enough. Check the warrant, if one is presented (one seldom is). Does it have a valid signature from a judge in your area? You can check online or in the phone book in most localities for judges names. Preparation is essential.
I'd like to share an old adage I used to hear a great deal when I was a child that still holds true today. "Possession is nine-tenths of the law." It's much easier for you to protect your children, if they are still in your care. Getting them back from CPS vultures after they have been placed in foster care is a much harder task.
When you tuck your children in tonight, thank God for them and give them a kiss and hug from me, then swear to do everything you can to protect them. They are counting on you and so am I.