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5200 General Issues and Requirements Relevant to CPS Legal Proceedings

5200.1 Purpose and Scope: General Issues and Requirements

CPS December 2013

The items under Section 5200 and its companion section 5300 Additional General Issues and Requirements Relevant to CPS Legal Proceedings cover issues and requirements that generally pertain to any CPS legal proceeding or multiple types of proceedings.

5200.2 General Caseworker Duties and Restrictions

CPS December 2013

In addition to cooperating with the attorney representing DFPS and following the other requirements outlined in the items under 5200 General Issues and Requirements Relevant to CPS Legal Proceedings and 5300 Additional General Issues and Requirements Relevant to CPS Legal Proceedings, the caseworker must support CPS litigation in the following ways:

  •  Appear as a witness in any hearing where the caseworker’s presence is requested

  •  Prepare for the hearing, but do not bring the entire record to the hearing unless it has been subpoenaed

      If the record has been subpoenaed, the caseworker follows the DFPS Subpoena Policy.

      If the record has not been subpoenaed, the caseworker consults with the attorney representing CPS about using a brief summary document.

  •  Cooperate with discovery requests following the attorney’s advice

  •  Provide information to the attorney representing DFPS, so that the attorney can draft, review, and finalize legal documents

The caseworker:

  •  never provides legal advice to the clients involved in the CPS case; and

  •  never attempts to help clients draft or complete legal documents, such as documents giving powers of attorney and declarations of guardianship.

In some situations, a caseworker may provide clients with a form, such as Form 2638 Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative or Volunteer Caregiver, but the caseworker’s role is to explain basic content and not interpret the law for the person completing the form.

Interpreting or providing advice on the law, including drafting legal documents, by any person other than a licensed attorney is considered the unauthorized practice of law. An unauthorized practice of law can result in a lawsuit by either the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee of the Texas Supreme Court or the person aggrieved by the conduct.

5210 The Child’s Best Interest

CPS December 2013

Both the Texas Supreme Court and the Legislature list the factors appropriate for assessing a child’s best interest. These lists make clear that any fact relevant to an individual child’s safety and permanency must be considered.

The list provided by the Texas Supreme Court includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  •  The child’s desires

  •  The child’s emotional and physical needs, now and in the future

  •  The emotional and physical danger, now and in the future

  •  The parenting abilities of persons seeking custody

  •  The programs available to assist the persons who are seeking custody

  •  The plans for the child by the persons seeking custody or by DFPS

  •  The stability of the home or the proposed placement

  •  Any acts or omissions of the parent that show that the relationship is not proper

  •  Any reason for the parent’s acts and omissions

The list enacted by the Legislature, in the Texas Family Code, provides the specific factors to consider in regard to best interest, particularly when assessing whether the child can return to the parent.

Texas Family Code §263.307

The caseworker must identify the facts about an individual child that are important, such as:

  •  the child’s exposure to domestic violence, substance abuse, or criminal activities;

  •  the child’s abuse and neglect history;

  •  the child’s emotional, medical, educational, therapeutic, social, or cultural needs;

  •  the child’s special needs or developmental delays, if any; and

  •  any other important information about how a specific child’s needs for safety, stability, and permanency can best be met.

5220 Due Diligence and Service of a Citation

CPS December 2013

Who serves the parties to a lawsuit with a citation is determined according to regional protocols and the advice of the attorney representing DFPS.

Who is entitled to be served with a citation for an original suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR) is as follows:

  •  Each parent (including an alleged father), unless the parent’s rights are terminated or DFPS services are waived

  •  A managing or possessory conservator, guardian, or other person with court-ordered access to the child

  •  A prospective adoptive parent with standing or a conservator designated in an affidavit of relinquishment

  •  The Texas Attorney General’s Office or any other child-support agency (if child-support payments may be impacted).

Serving a citation for a lawsuit is not the same as providing notice of a hearing. For details, see 5224 Providing Notice of a Hearing.

5221 Purpose of Serving a Citation for a Lawsuit

CPS December 2013

A citation for a lawsuit is served to:

  •  notify a person that he or she is a party to a lawsuit; and

  •  explain the person’s involvement in the lawsuit.

A person has a constitutional right to be notified about a lawsuit that may impact his or her rights.

If DFPS asks a court to give the department custody of a child (and possibly to terminate parental rights), a parent’s fundamental right to parent a child is at issue. For that reason, the caseworker must always use due diligence (that is, make a diligent effort) to find missing parents.

5222 Caseworker Requirements Related to Serving a Citation

CPS December 2013

The caseworker:

  •  helps the attorney representing DFPS serve a citation by completing Form 1744 Identifying Data for Service of Citation; and

  •  makes a diligent effort (uses due diligence) to locate missing parents and relatives, as described below.

5222.1 The Parties to Whom the Due Diligence Requirement to Locate Applies

CPS December 2013

When the whereabouts of one or more parents of a child in conservatorship is unknown, CPS must make a diligent search for:

  •  each missing parent; and

  •  a parent, a grandparent, or any adult sibling or child of each missing parent.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1105

5223 Exercising Due Diligence to Locate Missing Parents and Other Relatives

5223.1 Overview of Due Diligence: Making a Diligent Effort to Locate Missing Parents and Relatives

CPS December 2013

Due diligence is the effort that would be made by someone who really wants to find a missing person. It is measured not by quantity, but by quality. While caseworkers need not use all possible or conceivable means of discovery, they must make a reasonable search.

A reasonable search is an inquiry that a reasonable person would make, and it must extend to places where information is likely to be obtained and to persons who, in the ordinary course of events, would be likely to have information on the person or the entity sought; therefore, while the caseworker must follow the steps outlined in this policy to attempt to locate a missing parent, it is essential that all searches be guided by common sense when inquiring about the people most likely to have the information sought; for example, common sense would not support failing to personally serve a mother who shows up to the CPS office for visits but whose phone is no longer working and cannot be found at her address.

The requirement to exercise due diligence applies, regardless of whether it is likely that the parent wishes to remain involved in the child’s life. The caseworker does not rely on statements by the custodial parent regarding the missing parent’s level of interest, suitability, wishes, and so forth. The missing parent is located, whenever possible, for the court to resolve questions of paternity, maternity, and parental rights.

The due diligence requirement applies at the beginning of the case and throughout the life of the case. It applies if a parent disappears, or if new information becomes available that would lead to the location of a parent who has not yet been located.

5223.2 Court Monitoring of Due Diligence

CPS December 2013

A court examines at the following times whether a caseworker has used due diligence (that is, made a reasonable search) to locate missing parents and other relatives:

  •  At the 60-day status hearing

  •  At each permanency hearing

  •  Before entering a final order for termination of parental rights or awarding DFPS as a child’s permanent managing conservator, or both

5223.21 Requirements When a Parent Is Not Located Before the Status Hearing

CPS December 2013

At the 60-day status hearing, if a parent has not been served with a citation or has not been located, the caseworker must get written confirmation to show whether the missing parent is serving in the military. Confirming military service is required by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to protect members of the military from judgments taken while they are on active duty.

To obtain confirmation, the caseworker:

  •  completes Form 2277 Diligent Search for Missing Parent; and

  •  submits it to the FINDRS mailbox for the DFPS Family Inquiry Network/Database Research System (FINDRS). FINDRS:

  •  conducts a search; and

  •  provides the caseworker with a status report regarding military service.

The caseworker then:

  •  completes Form 2068 Affidavit Regarding Military Service; and

  •  submits Form 2068 to the court and attaches the status report.

5223.3 Steps in Making a Diligent Search for a Missing Parent

CPS December 2013

The caseworker begins a search for a missing parent by taking the steps explained in the table, below. In addition, the caseworker always uses common sense in attempting to locate a missing parent.

In addition, as appropriate, the caseworker takes the steps explained in:

5223.4 Additional Requirements When Locating an Alleged Father

5223.5 Additional Requirements and Procedures Related to Serving a Citation When a Parent Lives in a Foreign Country

5223.6 Additional Requirements When the Parent of a Native American Child Cannot Be Located

Finally, if the parent remains missing, the caseworker follows the steps under 5223.7 Additional Requirements When a Parent Cannot Be Located Despite the Exercise of Due Diligence.

Step

Process

Conduct a Preliminary Search

The caseworker:

  •  gathers information from active parties in the case; and

  •  reviews all of the case information that is available in the IMPACT system and in the case file.

Conduct a Detailed Search

If there are no positive results from preliminary inquiries, then the caseworker follows the steps set out in Appendix 5223.4: Making a Detailed Diligent Search for a Parent.

Request a Diligent Search

If there are no positive results from preliminary and more detailed inquires, and if some identifying information is known, the caseworker refers the case to the DFPS Family Inquiry Network/Database Research System (FINDRS), which has access to several data search programs.

To request a diligent search, the caseworker:

  •  completes Form 2277 Request for Diligent Search; and

  •  sends it to FINDRS staff by email at: FINDRS mailbox.

See also steps 2 and 5 in:

Appendix 5223.4: Making a Detailed Diligent Search for a Parent

Appendix 5223.8: Making a Detailed Diligent Search for Relatives

Contact the Parent or Continue Searching

Using the information returned from FINDRS, the caseworker:

  •  attempts to contact the parent; or

  •  continues looking for the parent through other free public search websites.

If attempting to contact the missing parent through the postal system, the caseworker uses one of the letters approved for diligent searches.

The caseworker also uses approved form letters to contact various entities, such as the electric company, that might have information.

The caseworker may also request a state and federal search through the Parent Locator Service offered by the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG). FINDRS is the official liaison between caseworkers and the OAG, and handles all coordination with the OAG for this service.

To request a parent locator search, the caseworker completes:

  •  DFPS Form 2277 Request for Diligent Search; and

  •  the OAG’s Application for Locate-Only Services.

The caseworker then attaches both forms to an email and sends them to the FINDRS mailbox.

According to the OAG, results from the Parent Locater Service may take up to 180 days.

Documenting the Search

The caseworker documents the efforts to locate missing parents and relatives in the child’s case record.

The documentation includes:

  •  all correspondence related to the search;

  •  any report from FINDRS that may include information from the Parent Locator Service;

  •  any official results obtained by the DSHS Paternity Registry (see 5223.4 Additional Requirements When Locating an Alleged Father); and

  •  details on any other efforts related to the search.

The caseworker provides the county or district attorney with a complete copy of the documentation, including the certificate provided by the Paternity Registry, if applicable, to file in the court record.

5223.4 Additional Requirements When Locating an Alleged Father

CPS December 2013

The caseworker conducts diligent searches to identify and locate any alleged biological father of a child, if a child has one or more alleged biological fathers:

  •  whose identity is unknown (in this instance, the caseworker makes efforts to determine the identity of each alleged biological father by asking persons who have principal or collateral roles in the case if they have information on the father’s identity); or

  •  whose identity is known, but whose whereabouts is unknown.

The search entails:

  •  a search of the DSHS Paternity Registry (see below); and

  •  other diligent efforts.

Paternity Registry Search

The diligent effort must include a request to search the Paternity Registry of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), a division of the Bureau of Vital Statistics. A paternity registry search is part of a diligent search, but is not sufficient by itself.

DFPS Rules 40 TAC §700.1105.

To request a paternity registry search, the caseworker either:

  •  completes Form VS-134 Paternity Registry Inquiry Request and submits it to the Paternity Registry at the DSHS Bureau of Vital Statistics; or

  •  completes Form 2277 Request for Diligent Search to request a Paternity Registry check and submits it through the Family Inquiry Network/Database Research System (FINDRS) using the FINDRS mailbox.

Upon completing the search, the Paternity Registry provides:

  •  a certificate of paternity; or

  •  a notice stating that there is no finding for the man in question on the paternity registry.

The certificate or notice is admissible in a proceeding in a court for any purpose, including for the establishment of paternity or an action to terminate parental rights.

Other Diligent Efforts

In addition to the search of the paternity registry, the caseworker uses the caseworker’s investigative skills and works with the mother, with both maternal and paternal relatives, and with other persons who may have identifying or locating information regarding an alleged father.

5223.5 Additional Requirements and Procedures Related to Serving a Citation When a Parent Lives in a Foreign Country

CPS December 2013

The caseworker always consults with the regional attorney before attempting to serve a citation on a parent who lives in a foreign country. The legal requirements for serving a citation depend on the country involved.

Address Is Not Known

If a parent’s address in a foreign country is not known, the caseworker attempts to obtain the person’s last known address, telephone number, or email address.

A diligent search for a resident of a foreign country requires:

  •  interviewing available family members and friends; and

  •  contacting the foreign consulate, child welfare resources, or other government resources in that country.

For specific recommendations for making a diligent search for a person in Mexico, see Appendix 5223.6: Due Diligence Search for a Person Believed to Be in Mexico.

Address Is Known

If the caseworker has an address for a parent, the procedure for serving a lawsuit depends on which country is involved. In Mexico (and some other countries), serving a lawsuit by international mail is no longer acceptable.

Options include:

  •  obtaining a waiver of service from the parent; or

  •  serving the parent through the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (The Hague Service Convention).

The caseworker consults with the regional attorney or other attorney representing DFPS to determine whether such a waiver of service is possible or whether the citation must be served through the Hague Service Convention.

Parent Cannot Be Located

If a parent living in a foreign country cannot be located, the caseworker documents in an affidavit the efforts made to find the parent. The affidavit can be used to support a request for an order permitting service by publication. If the court finds that due diligence was used to locate the missing parent, service can be made by publication in a Texas newspaper. Consultation with the regional attorney is recommended.

5223.6 Additional Requirements When the Parent of a Native American Child Cannot Be Located

CPS December 2013

When a case involves a Native American child (see 5842 Identifying a Native American Child) and the parent’s identity or location is unknown, or the tribe is unknown, the caseworker must send a specific notice to:

  •  the Bureau of Indian Affairs;

  •  the Secretary of Interior; and

  •  any identified tribe.

For assistance, the caseworker contacts:

  •  the DFPS regional attorney; or

  •  the DFPS Program Litigation Division in the Office of the General Counsel.

25 U.S. Code §1912(a) (Indian Child Welfare Act)

See also:

Appendix 1226-A: Child-Placing Requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act and Related Guidelines and Regulations

Appendix 1226-B: Checklist for Compliance With the Indian Child Welfare Act

5223.7 Additional Requirements When a Parent Cannot Be Located Despite the Exercise of Due Diligence

CPS December 2013

When a parent cannot be located despite a caseworker’s diligent efforts, the caseworker must make a diligent effort to locate a relative, such as a parent, grandparent, adult sibling, or adult child of the missing parent.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1105

Specifically, the caseworker follows the steps listed in Appendix 5223.8: Making a Detailed Diligent Search for Relatives.

In addition, the caseworker meets any other obligations and policy requirements related to searching for relatives.

See:

6121.2 Initial Removal: Providing Notice of CPS Conservatorship

5224 Providing Notice of a Hearing

CPS December 2013

A notice about a hearing provides the date, time, and location of a hearing to a person who is involved in a lawsuit but is not a named party to the lawsuit. A person may receive notice about a hearing when he or she is served with a citation for a lawsuit.

A citation for a lawsuit is not the same as a notice about a hearing.

A citation:

  •  notifies a person that he or she is a party to a lawsuit; and

  •  explains the person’s involvement in the lawsuit.

5225 General Notice Requirements for CPS Hearings

CPS December 2013

In general, all parties to a lawsuit must receive advance notice of a hearing, unless the hearing is ex parte (that is, attended by only one party, such as CPS).

In addition, CPS rules require that children generally receive advance notice of every planned court action. See 5226 Notice Requirements Specific to Parents and Children.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1102

For information on notice requirements specific to the various types of CPS hearings, see:

5512 Notice Requirements for the Status Hearing

5534 Notice Requirements for Permanency Hearings

5584 Notice Requirements for Placement Review Hearings

5226 Notice Requirements Specific to Parents and Children

5226.1 Notify Parents and Children About Planned Court Actions

CPS December 2013

When possible, the caseworker informs parents and children about planned court actions 10 days before the action, unless an exception applies.

If DFPS has reason to believe that the parents might avoid a court action or impede an investigation, DFPS may take one of the following actions before giving notice of the planned court action:

  •  Request a temporary restraining order to prohibit the parents from removing the child from the state before DFPS completes an investigation of child abuse or neglect (see 5115 Temporary Restraining Orders)

  •  Take possession of the child pursuant to a court order appointing DFPS as temporary managing conservator

  •  Take possession of the child before obtaining a court order, if there are exigent circumstances.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1102

5226.2 Notify Parents of Their Rights to an Attorney and to Attend Hearings

CPS December 2013

The caseworker makes parents aware that they have:

  •  the right to ask to be represented by an attorney at every court hearing; and

  •  the right to attend every court hearing.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1102

5227 Form of Notice

CPS December 2013

The caseworker or other person providing notice of a hearing may give the notice:

  •  in-person;

  •  by certified mail;

  •  by facsimile; or

  •  by another method directed by the court.

Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 21a

5230 Working With the Child’s Attorney Ad Litem, Guardian Ad Litem, and CASA

5231 Court Appoints Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem

CPS December 2013

When DFPS files a suit with the court to obtain custody of a child or to terminate parental rights, the court must appoint an attorney ad litem (AAL) and a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the interests of the child.

The court may appoint the attorney ad litem to serve as the child’s guardian ad litem, as well. This is referred to as a dual appointment or dual role.

If the court does not appoint a separate individual to be the guardian ad litem, the attorney ad litem is expected to perform the dual function.

Texas Family Code §§107.011, 107.012, and 107.0125

In many jurisdictions, the court appoints a court appointed special advocate (CASA) to be the guardian ad litem. When the CASA is appointed as the guardian ad litem, all laws and policies described in this item apply to the CASA acting as a guardian ad litem.

When the CASA is not appointed as the guardian ad litem, but is appointed to perform only as a CASA, see 5232.2 Working With a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Who Is Not Appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem.

In a case of extended jurisdiction (that is, when a court’s jurisdiction continues beyond the youth’s 18th birthday), the court may continue the appointment of the guardian ad litem, attorney ad litem, or CASA.

Texas Family Code §263.605

5231.1 Roles of the Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem

CPS December 2013

Attorneys ad litem (AAL) and guardians ad litem (GAL) have very similar responsibilities and duties in a CPS case.

Texas Family Code §§107.002, 107.003, and 107.004

The primary difference between the two roles is as follows:

  •  The attorney ad litem must be an attorney and has a duty to advocate for what the child wants (with some limitations).

  •  The guardian ad litem is not required to be an attorney, and is charged with representing the best interests of the child.

If an attorney ad litem who is also appointed as the guardian ad litem feels that he or she cannot adequately represent both perspectives in a case, the attorney ad litem may ask the court to appoint a different individual as the guardian ad litem.

At times, the caseworker may disagree with the attorney ad litem’s or guardian ad litem’s position or recommendations on an issue. In such circumstances, the caseworker must be prepared to explain why his or her position or recommendation is more appropriate or would better meet the needs of the child.

5231.2 Cooperating With the Attorney Ad Litem and the Guardian Ad Litem

CPS December 2013

The law requires the court to issue an order authorizing the attorney ad litem (AAL) or guardian ad litem (GAL) for the child to have immediate access to the child and any information relating to the child.

Texas Family Code §107.006

Once the caseworker confirms that the individual has a valid court order appointing the individual as the attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, or both, the caseworker must cooperate with that individual at all times.

The caseworker:

  •  consults with and shares information with the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem on a regular basis;

  •  keeps the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem informed about case developments and hearings;

  •  reports progress or changes related to the child’s service plan;

  •  considers any concerns or objections that the attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem may have before making a recommendation for the child’s case plan; and

  •  responds to the attorney ad litem’s and guardian ad litem’s requests to meet with the child.

5231.5 Providing Access to the Child

CPS December 2013

Both the attorney ad litem (AAL) and the guardian ad litem (GAL) are required to meet with and interview the following persons within a reasonable time after their appointment:

  •  The child (if the child is four years old or older)

  •  Any person with significant knowledge of the child’s history and condition, including any foster parent of the child

  •  The parties to the suit

The attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem are expected to conduct their own investigations as they deem necessary for them to:

  •  represent or make recommendations regarding the child;

  •  attend all legal proceedings in the case; and

  •  perform numerous other duties, either outlined in statute or directed by the court.

Texas Family Code §§107.002, 107.003, and 107.004

In addition, the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem are entitled to attend DFPS staffings to which external participants are invited, such as a family group conference or any other staffing that DFPS determines would be appropriate for the attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem to attend.

The caseworker must work with the guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem, placement resources, and others to help ensure that the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem have proper access to the child.

If an attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem asks to meet with the child or caregiver, the caseworker must facilitate a meeting or telephone conference. If the parties agree, the caseworker may also facilitate age-appropriate contact and communication through other means, such as video conferences or letters, as applicable for the child’s age and interests.

5231.4 Communicating With the Child’s Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem

CPS November 2015

The caseworker must keep the attorney and guardian ad litem and the child’s CASA informed of events in the child’s case and provide notice of significant events involving the child as required in 6151.3 Notification Requirements and Schedule.

Regional practice and local communication plans determine whether communication other than statutorily required notices is made in writing, in person, by mail, by email, by fax, or by phone call. See 5231.5 Documenting the Communication Plan With the Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem.

Placement Changes

Caseworkers must consult with the attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, and CASA before making any placement change, except in an emergency.

An emergency is when:

  •  the change must be made within 24 hours or less; and

  •  the placement would no longer be available if CPS waited to consult with the attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, or CASA.

If a change is made on an emergency basis, the caseworker notifies the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem as soon as possible afterward, but no more than three days afterward.

Texas Family Code §264.107

See also 4113.5 Consult the Child’s Attorney Ad Litem, Guardian Ad Litem, and CASA Representative.

Notices and Documents

Notice about hearings or court reports such as permanency progress reports and other documents must be shared 10 days (or more, when possible) before any hearing.

Texas Family Code §§263.301(b), 263.3025(a), 263.303, 263.501(c) and (d), 263.502(a) and 263.602(d)

5231.5 Documenting the Communication Plan With the Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem

CPS December 2013

The caseworker, attorney ad litem (AAL), and guardian ad litem (GAL) work together to complete Form 2071 Communication Plan With AAL and GAL. The form documents the agreement between them on the method and frequency of communication.

When Form 2071 is complete, the caseworker:

  •  provides a copy to the attorney ad litem;

  •  provides a copy to the guardian ad litem; and

  •  places the original in the child’s record.

5231.6 Providing Records to the Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem

CPS December 2013

The attorney ad litem (AAL) and guardian ad litem (GAL) are entitled to copies of most documents and records pertaining to the child. Any entity with records about the child, including records about social services, such as those provided by CPS, must give the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem access to the records.

There are very limited exceptions to this general rule, including:

  •  the exception for records on treatment for substance abuse (see 5231.61 Providing Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records); and

  •  any limits that a court orders on the types of records that the attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem can access.

Generally, the caseworker cooperates with the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem and helps them obtain or view records when requested.

The records remain confidential after being shared with the attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem.

Texas Family Code §107.006

5231.61 Providing Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records

CPS December 2013

DFPS may release a child’s drug or alcohol treatment records only if the child has specifically consented to that disclosure by signing and authorizing the disclosure on the required consent.

DFPS does not need the child’s consent to release information about the department’s own assessment of the child, including whether the child is believed to have a substance abuse problem or a need for treatment.

Before disclosing a child’s drug or alcohol treatment records to the attorney ad litem (AAL) or guardian ad litem (GAL), the caseworker must verify that the child has signed Form 2060 Consent for the Release of Confidential Alcohol or Drug Treatment Information and has specifically authorized the disclosure.

The caseworker then:

  •  provides the child with a copy of the consent form; and

  •  retains the original in the child’s case file.

Before receiving the substance abuse records, the attorney ad litem or guardian ad litem signs Form 2061 Acknowledgement of Receipt of Confidential Information Regarding a Child.

5232 Working With a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

5232.1 Working With a CASA Who Is Appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem

CPS December 2013

In many jurisdictions, the court appoints a CASA to be the guardian ad litem.

When the CASA is appointed as the guardian ad litem (GAL), all laws and policies described in 5231 Court Appoints Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem that apply to the guardian ad litem apply to the CASA.

5232.2 Working With a CASA Who Is Not Appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem
5232.21 Court Orders for CASAs Seeking Access to a Child or a Child’s Records

CPS December 2013

In some cases, a court appoints a court appointed special advocate (CASA) to a case, but does not appoint the CASA as the guardian ad litem. In those instances, another individual may have been appointed to fulfill the role of guardian ad litem, or the attorney ad litem may be filling a dual role as both required attorney ad litem (AAL) and guardian ad litem (GAL).

The caseworker ensures that any individual requesting access to a child or the child’s records has a valid court order or a notification letter of volunteer assignment and acceptance that confirms the individual’s appointment as CASA or ad litem.

The order that is issued when the court appoints the CASA:

  •  may authorize the CASA to access any and all records relating to the child and the DFPS case (including records of family members, such as medical or mental health records of a biological parent); or

  •  may specify only the particular records that the CASA may view or copy, such as only those records filed in court.

If the CASA requests records that the court order does not appear to explicitly include, or the caseworker is not sure whether to allow the CASA access to a particular record, the caseworker confers with the regional attorney who may ask the CASA to request clarification from the court.

5232.22 Statewide Memorandum of Understanding and Local Agreements

CPS December 2013

In addition to following the directives of the court order regarding sharing information with a court appointed special advocate (CASA), the caseworker follows the guidance provided by the memorandum of understanding (MOU) established between DFPS and CASA’s state office in Austin.

The MOU establishes how DFPS and the CASA representatives communicate and share information and records. Generally, a CASA is notified about any hearing or meeting regarding the child and the family’s case in the same manner as the attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem. See 5231 Court Appoints Attorney Ad Litem and Guardian Ad Litem.

The MOU also allows the CASA to:

  •  receive a copy of the family service plan;

  •  receive copies of any other case records that CPS has filed with the court; and

  •  view a copy of the child’s entire case file in a local CPS office.

The records do not need to be redacted. The caseworker does not provide information that is not covered by the MOU, unless the information is explicitly included in the court’s order or the parent gives consent. The caseworker consults with the attorney representing DFPS if the scope of the court’s order is unclear.

Regional DFPS offices that have a CASA program can supplement the MOU with an addendum that outlines individualized agreements on how to work together, such as agreements on conducting joint training or setting up specific methods of communicating with each other.

The caseworker asks to see a copy of the local MOU to comply with the expectations for notifying and making information available to the CASA.

If a CASA is appointed to a case for which there are no records yet available, the caseworker may provide the CASA with information verbally until records are available.

See also 6939.4 Meeting to Discuss the Potential Adoptive Families.

5240 Documentation of Legal Status and Legal Action

5241 Definition of Legal Status

CPS December 2013

Legal status refers to the legal position of DFPS in relation to a child. It includes temporary or permanent managing conservatorship, as well as the consummation of an adoption, the transition of a child or youth from DFPS conservatorship, and the termination of DFPS legal responsibility for the child or youth.

See Appendix 5241: List of Legal Statuses.

5242 Definition of Legal Action

CPS December 2013

Legal action refers to the broad array of legal events and court orders that relate to a child or family.

In particular, it refers to types of:

  •  affidavits;

  •  court orders for DFPS services;

  •  court orders for DFPS conservatorship; and

  •  special court orders.

See Appendix 5242: List of Legal Actions in IMPACT.

5243 Entering a Change in Legal Status or Legal Action Into IMPACT

CPS June 2014

If changes are made to the legal status of a case or to a legal action being taken, the caseworker documents the changes in the IMPACT case management system as soon as possible; ideally:

  •  on the same day that the order for the change is issued; or

  •  by 7 p.m. on the following calendar day.

When that is not possible, the caseworker must document the changes within seven calendar days following the date that the change is ordered by the court.

The caseworker must not wait for a written court order to be issued, even when documenting changes to final court orders, such as a court’s dismissal of a CPS case, a court order for permanent managing conservatorship (PMC), or consummation of a court-ordered adoption.

If a caseworker is uncertain about what the judge has ordered or when to enter the change (for example, if the judge orders that a change in a child’s placement take place on a specific date in the future), the caseworker consults with:

  •  the attorney representing DFPS (in all cases); and

  •  the program director in the appropriate DFPS region (if needed).

The caseworker enters a change in a child’s legal status on the Legal Status page in IMPACT in either:

  •  the open Family stage, either under the FSU (family substitute care) stage or under the FRE (family reunification) stage, as appropriate, if the child is not removed from the home; or

  •  in the open SUB (substitute care) or ADO (adoption) stage, as appropriate, if the child has been removed.

For the Legal Status Effective Date, use the date of the court hearing at which the change in legal status was ordered. The only exceptions to using this date are when the legal status is one of the following:

  •  Care Custody and Control: use the date that DFPS became responsible for the child prior to the date of a court hearing. For example, if the child is removed from the home via an emergency removal, but CPS does not go to court until the following day, the worker enters a Legal Status of Care Custody and Control and a Legal Status Effective Date as the date of the removal from the home.

  •  FPS Responsibility Terminated for those turning 18 in conservatorship: use the date of birth.

  •  Other Legal Basis: use the date that the particular situation requiring agency involvement started that warranted the Case Related Special Request situation.

The caseworker:

  •  enters information about specific legal events on the Legal Actions page in IMPACT; and

  •  describes the events, as needed, under the Comments section.

See:

6133.3 Documenting Legal Activity

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