Typically this is where the orders from the judge would kick in. If services were ordered then referrals would be made to get those started. If visitation is ordered then the services to get those set up would be started. Parents would begin to resolve the issues that brought them to CPS in the first place.
A dependency hearing is supposed to be set for 21 days after the dependency petition was filed.
“An Initial Dependency Hearing will be set within 21 days after the petition is filed. At this hearing the court can declare the child “dependent” or set other conferences or mediation. When a child is declared “dependent”, it basically means the court has ruled that child is in need of parental care and control and that the state of Arizona is legally responsible to provide that. At the same time, a CPS case is now filed in the courts (called a dependency) and CPS will work with the family providing services to address the issues of concern so that the family can reunify if possible.” from the AZDES website https://www.azdes.gov/landing.aspx?id=9670
Also during this time the evidence will be disclosed. BE PREPARED. What you read about your case will anger you. Sometimes you even question if they are talking about your family or children.
Is this what happened in your case?
No, in our case there was nothing. No services had been ordered. We had no direction or goals. The case plan was severance and adoption.
There were a number of hearings scheduled at the beginning of the case, including one filed for a change of judge. The one thing we heard over and over was “Will you wave time.” Of course all parties generally agreed so the time restrictions set forth by law can be ignored if the parties agree.
As we reported before, CPS and the AAG were using an “open police investigation” as the excuse to prohibit contact with the children by all family members, as well as placement with grandparents or family. At the first hearing the police investigator told the judge he had not yet spoken to some of the children and were granted an additional week in order to complete this investigation.
What we find disturbing is that the CPS case worker’s report of his initial interview with the mother did not actually get documented in the computer until 12 days later. This would have been AFTER he had spoken with everyone. When we read his summary, our daughter stated that she had never said many of the things he documented. So after 12 days did he report what was actually said in the interview, or did he create a summary of what he believed was true based on all the information he had? This is why it is so important to have EVERY interview videotaped and released to the parties, including the parent’s attorney.
Your case was severance and adoption from the start. Can you share with us the allegations they were making against the parents?
While we agree the father should have been prohibited contact with the children until the investigation was completed, we did not agree with CPS keeping the children from the mother, the family or each other. The initial allegations against the mother to justify removing the children were bogus. They claimed:
- Inadequate housing, even though the family lived in a 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom home.
- Afraid the mother was home schooling, even though they removed the 5 school aged children from public school.
- Inadequate food and clothing for the children, even though they had plenty of food and clothing in the home and none of the children were undernourished. In fact the foster family for the baby thought he weighed too much so they put him on a diet!
- Failure to vaccinate the children, which is not illegal in Arizona.
- Failure to protect, even though CPS was informed of the alleged abuse PRIOR TO the mother being told by the daughter and even then the daughter refused to disclose the information. CPS had far more knowledge of the allegations than the mother. To this date the daughter still refuses to tell the mother what happened.
- And all of this was due to an underlying issue of drug abuse. Yet the drug test taken the day the children were removed was negative.
As we read through the documents we felt we were reading fiction. These CPS workers must hold a degree in creative writing! They certainly weren’t reporting the truth or facts.
Can you give us some examples of the fiction they were reporting?
The AAG was trying to paint a picture of the family based on lies and twisted half-truths. Every disclosure brought a new set of allegations. For instance:
- They used prior unsubstantiated CPS calls to claim a history of abuse. You may not even be aware you have prior calls. You may have had one or more calls because of a ticked off neighbor or relative which was unsubstantiated. Keep in mind, unsubstantiated calls/reports are those calls or reports that have come in to CPS, where a case worker has investigated the case, which could include a home visit, and they could NOT prove the allegations against the parent. So the AAG and CPS are using these unproven calls against the parent in such a way to imply these allegations were true.
- They used one referral, which never materialized, to claim that CPS had previously provided the family with all the services they could and therefore they were under no obligation to provide any more. The AAG even listed numerous classes that supposedly CPS had provided to the family, yet this documentation was never in any of their previous reports nor had they provided them with any of these classes.
- They were using the mother’s learning disability as a reason to justify their claim that she could not parent. The AAG even had the nerve to state that the mother “after all these years failed to fix her disability.”
If learning disabilities are somehow “fixable” then you would think the child’s education and school district would somehow play an important role in fixing the disability. Ironically, the superintendent of schools at the time our daughter was in school was Tom Horne. And it is now Tom Horne’s office that is claiming our daughter didn’t “fix” her disability.
- They used the children’s learning disabilities against the parents and claimed it was the school that had to initiate services when in fact it was the parents that requested testing and services.
- They claimed snakes and rats/mice were living under the house and CPS was concerned about them getting in the home. The family at the time was living in the country in a mobile home, and I don’t think people can control nature. Maybe they expected the family to put up “No snakes, rats or mice” signs! However, apparently they have no understanding of nature because snakes, rats and mice won’t live together, not if you understand what snakes eat.
- They claimed the parents had “fled the county” during a previous CPS encounter. Yet it was in their own records that the parents informed the CPS case worker they were moving and where they were going. “Fleeing” implies you do so without informing anyone, not announcing it to everyone.
The oldest son had gotten on his father’s motorcycle even though he had been told not to. In the process he received a small burn from the hot exhaust pipe. Around this time the son also received a spanking with a belt intended for his clothed behind. But the son moved and the belt hit is leg, leaving a small red mark. The son decided to report the incident to the school nurse. This resulted in a CPS call and the referral for services that never took place.
So now 8 years later this incident is being reported by the AAG as “an on-going history of severe beating and burning” by the father against two of the children, while the mother was aware and did nothing to protect the children.
Their own reports didn’t justify these accusations by the AAG, but they still wrote them anyway. And for anyone interested, this incident was brought up in court during a hearing and the AAG and CPS had to admit in court that based on the legal definition of abuse in the state of Arizona, this incident was NOT abuse! Yet it continued to appear in the AAG’s court motions, even after it was determined in court not to be abuse.
So is there anything the family can do to dispute these false claims?
Yes, but you have to be willing to put in the effort.
Every time we read another report, motion or disclosure was another reminder of how out of control the agency really is. They kept stating the same lies over and over as if by putting them in documents it would somehow make it true. But NO ONE would listen to us! They all assumed that because CPS put it in writing it had to be true. We just wanted someone to listen and actually read the documents, someone who would be unbiased, and someone that might be able to see how the lies were being perpetuated to meet the agenda of CPS. But we could find no one. So we knew we had to prove it ourselves.
When the disclosure were made, the first motion/report CPS disclosed about the case had numerous falsehoods in it, and many of them could be proven with additional documentation or information within their own CPS files. We went to work to disprove the allegations against the mother.
- Taking each statement we knew was false, we found the supporting documents, research, or information in CPS reports to discredit their claims.
- We organized it and referenced each page and line on the CPS motion to make it clear what allegations we were disputing.
- We then submitted this research to the attorney.
- It took us about 9 hours to complete the 12 page report, but it helped save the attorney time and the majority of the report was submitted to the court in the attorney’s rebuttal.
We separated the mother’s allegations from the fathers. The abuse allegations were against the father only. They alleged “failure to protect” against the mother. This is why it is important to try each parent separately as they may not be equally at fault in the case, especially when the case plan is severance and adoption.
The father’s attorney wanted to do the same for his case but he never took the time or effort to get it done. The father and his resources also didn’t get it done. So it is important for you to put in the time and effort to get things done to help YOUR case.
This is also where your prior documentation of the case as you went along comes in handy. CPS may claim you failed to show for meetings, visits, testing…whatever suits their case. But your documentation will be important to disprove their allegations.
You have a right to see the motions and documents from CPS and the AAG. Many attorney’s are reluctant to share these with their clients, but we found by being able to actually read the motions and allegations (even though it may make you frustrated or angry) we were better equipped to assist our attorney in the defense. I would especially recommend getting these documents if you have a court appointed attorney.
What else can the family do?
If the extended family does not have custody of the children then file the appeals. If you cannot get your interview on the appeal, contact your legislators. Document everyone you speak with, when you talked to them and the results of those conversations.
Remember, there is no guarantee how the case is going to turn out. If you can get your children with family they will be more likely able to adopt them if severance is the final outcome. Depending on what the recommendations and court orders are in your case at this time will determine what you need to do.
- If visitation with your children is ordered make sure you show up for each and every visit and be prepared with appropriate snacks/food, supplies and activities for the children. Far too many parents lose custody because they don’t even show up for visitation!
- If therapy is ordered make sure you attend all the evaluations, intakes and therapy sessions and be engaged. You have to prove to the therapist that you want your children and can care for them.
- If there are other issues in the case that need to be addressed don’t wait for a court order. Seek community resources.
- If there are housing issues, take care of them.
- If there is a substance abuse issue, find treatment. The court will order treatment at some time during a reunification case, but if you can get started and show you are serious you increase your chances of getting your children back.
- Parenting classes are generally a given in most cases. We had an extremely difficult time finding classes that were free to the public without a court order. However, we did find two resources that offered classes and other services – Family Resource Center and Family Involvement Center. Both of these are listed on our website under “Listings”.
- If you have a no contact order take it seriously. They can and will at some point subpoena phone records, emails, or other records to attempt to show you have violated this order.
- Keep contact with your attorney and do not miss any hearings! Dress appropriately for court, be on time, sign in when you get there, and listen to your attorney. Court is not the time to argue with your attorney about the case.
Can you share with us one thing you did that you think made a difference in your case?
Get yourself organized! Far too many of us are dealing with every day issues that we don’t have time to get ourselves organized. Organization will help your case.
I’m putting together an article “Organizing for CPS Success” which will be posted under “Parental Resources” on our website. These are suggestions and if you have organizational skills put them to use. Other families we met who were involved in a CPS case shared their organizational ideas with us. They are included in the article.
Remember, you will be required to attend meetings, therapy sessions, educational classes, court hearings and other appointments. Anything you miss will be used against you in the case. You are also required to understand and be engaged in these activities. Your attorney will need information from you in order to prove your case. CPS will be asking you for information about your children and their education, especially if they have been identified as special education. By having this information organized you will be able to provide it quickly.
Our CPS case manager got a little ticked off when we could actually produce the information requested at different meetings. At first I think they believed they could trip the mother up, but after a short period of time when they saw the notebook they knew we would be ready to answer questions or provide documentation. In fact we were able to provide the document needed when CPS couldn’t. Eventually they had to admit the mother was organized and we believe this also helped the case.
We may be able to cover this in a future radio show, but we wanted to make sure the listeners had this information to help them immediately, especially if they are involved in a current case. It is never too late to get organized!
Next week we will discuss placement options for the children and the children’s rights while in foster care.