There is a consistent consequence of disrupting the parent-child relationship.
The consequence is that it makes it increasingly difficult for children to form stable, strong relationships that would normally nurture healthy social and emotional development.
For this reason, any disruption of family unity should be done with extreme care.
Unfortunately, the current environment at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) leaves much room for improvement.
Currently, for the children caught up in the system, we have two options: the well-known yet broken Foster Care System, or an alternative option, a Parent Child Safety Placement (PCSP). According to DFPS:
A Parental Child Safety Placement is an agreement between the parents and a voluntary caregiver who has been approved by DFPS. DFPS calls the family or close friends ‘voluntary caregivers.’ In these placements, parents agree to temporarily place their children with family or close friends because DFPS has determined the children are not safe with their parents.
While this may sound like a less aggressive approach to forcibly removing the child from home and placing them in traditional foster care, make no mistake, this is also foster care.
When the agency determines, sometimes with little to no credible evidence, that a child is unsafe, drastic steps are taken to place the child in a safe environment.
“Safe” is defined by the DFPS caseworker and supervisor.
Caseworkers, who have zero ability to make unilateral decisions, per DFPS policy, report their concerns to their supervisor, who will make final determinations many times without ever meeting the family. Once the supervisor has decided this intervention option is best, parents will quickly be handed forms to sign agreeing to “voluntarily” place their child in the care of someone else. These agreements are most often made without legal counsel.
The implementation of said agreement is signed under coercion and duress. Parents are told they do not have to agree to this – that it is voluntary. However, it is made all too clear that if they choose not to, the department will take the family to court.
In other words, the parent is often told that they can either give up the child of their own free will or the state will take their child by force.
These “voluntary” agreements are known as Parent-Child Safety Placements (PCSP). Clearly, describing such an agreement as “voluntary” stretches the meaning of the word beyond recognition.
If the parents refuse, caseworkers will usually then write an affidavit to the court alleging child abuse or neglect while claiming that they have made reasonable efforts to keep the child safe, but those efforts were denied by the parents. “Reasonable efforts” are efforts made to preserve and reunify families and avoid the need for a removal.
A hearing will then be held without the parents’ presence or knowledge.
The judge will only hear the side of the department and rule whether the order shall be signed or denied. But while the original request to the family was for a “voluntary” placement of the child outside of the home, the affidavit submitted to the court will now request the complete removal of the child. Judges are faced with a very difficult decision and will typically err on the side of caution and remove the child.
Should the family agree to a PCSP to avoid being taken to court, a family service plan will be required next.
Service plans are intended to help families solve their problems and learn how to care for and discipline their children in ways that do not harm them or put them at risk of abuse or neglect. These services may include counseling, daycare, homemaker services, evaluation, treatment, and parenting classes. A common criticism of service plans is that they require parents to complete boilerplate services that have little or no relevance to the specific needs of the family, thereby adding an unnecessary and unhelpful burden.
PCSPs are not lifted until the services are completed successfully.
The service provider who has a contract with DFPS, in part, makes the determination of “success.” These service plans are not only statistically a failure but are the stepping stones to the removal of a family’s children. Many times, service providers tell parents that they cannot complete this program unless they admit guilt. Admission of guilt is often seen as a sign of “progress” by the family.
Once a desperate parent surrenders to the notion of admitting guilt, then they may end up getting themselves arrested. Services are required whether the children are placed in foster care or opt for a PSCP.
Children can not return unless the parents have completed their service plan or, if removal occurs, their court-ordered service plan.
Proponents of the PCSP system often argue that it is a less severe alternative to foster care. However, whether through a “voluntary” PCSP or the foster care system, a parent’s child is still removed from the home, and a parent is required to participate in extensive, often irrelevant services.
The main difference between the two systems is that, at present, a parent caught in the PCSP has zero due process protections. There is no judicial oversight. No court-appointed legal representation. No incentive for CPS to reunify the family in any reasonable timeframe, if ever.
Without court oversight pressing CPS to move the case along, the solution of a PCSP is often used by the department to accomplish the goal of foster care (removing the child from their home) without having to answer to any system of accountability that would encourage the reunification of the family. Thus, families can languish in these agreements for the “voluntary” removal of their children forever.
DFPS lacks much-needed guardrails in their administration of PCSP agreements.
The agreements currently amount to a “hidden foster care” system where extensive reforms for basic due process rights are greatly needed. Families are currently unable to keep themselves safe from government overreach with the current system design. While failures are common in large governmental systems, those systems are generally created to help, and we can rest easy knowing the agency in question has an accountability system. DFPS has little to no oversight leaving families and their children at risk for severe harm.
I once heard a mother explain the removal of her children was much like a kidnapping by a criminal off the street. Where are my children? Are they being hurt? Do they know I’m looking for them? Do they feel like I’m not coming to save them?
The depth of tragedy these children must endure is unexplainable. CPS protects thousands of children every day from unimaginable harm. But when the system lacks critical accountability, CPS can become the source of harm to a child instead.
While we have a team of people who work tirelessly to reform the system, there is one area that needs immediate attention; the use of a PCSP to have children “voluntarily” removed from their homes.
Basic due process rights and limited government will always be the overarching goals to achieve the preservation of Texas families. Please sign up below for updates and donate to help us protect families across the state from government overreach.
Krista McIntire began advocating for families in 2015. Since then she has personally helped hundreds of families in their difficult, sometimes terrifying journeys through the CPS investigation process. Now, as an independent CPS Consultant, she continues to be passionate about helping families through the difficult journey that comes from being under CPS investigation.