Child Protective Services, or CPS, is a governmental organization that investigates reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. It works with police officers to remove children from homes where it appears kids are at imminent risk of being harmed. Getting kids back is often a challenging process that involves lots of red tape. Parents who want to get their children back must complete a legal process that includes demonstrating that their household is fit for the kids to live in.
Immediately get an attorney. CPS should call for a hearing within a few weeks of taking your children. If you can't afford an attorney, request that the juvenile or family court overseeing your case appoint one. The attorney acts as a parent's official representative before the court and explains any complex legal terminology and maneuvering that might be difficult to understand. Speak with your attorney before any hearings and explain the situation that led to your kids' removal. Work with him to devise the best strategy for representing you.
Be present at all hearings in the case, or as many as possible. Appearing at court hearings along with your lawyer lets the judge know that you care about what happens to your children and that you're taking the matter seriously. If you cannot make it to one or more hearings, write a statement to the court explaining why. Ask your attorney to read it in court.
Obey any orders issued by the juvenile or family court. Court orders generally contain a case plan and requirements for parents, such as seeking professional treatment for alcohol abuse or anger management counseling. Even if you don't think the requirements are necessary, follow the court's orders, or the court will be less likely to allow you to regain legal custody of your children.
Make the home environment safer for the child. Correct problems with the home's living conditions that may have led to the children being taken away. Report the correction of those problems to the court. Depending on the circumstances, corrective measures could mean any number of things, including ensuring that the home is clean and free of dangerous objects like guns and other lethal weapons.
Seek help with any other issues you and your attorney feel may hinder your custody quest, such as finding reliable child care, obtaining better clothing for the children, taking parenting classes or receiving counseling. This may require going above and beyond any orders issued by the court.
Mark Nero has been a professional journalist since 1995 and has written for numerous publications within and outside the U.S. His work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "San Diego Union-Tribune" and "Los Angeles Daily News" among others. Nero studied communications at San Diego State University.