CPS must nofity parents in person when attempting to take children
AUSTIN – Child Protective Services must personally notify parents when suing to deprive them of custody of their children, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday.
Failure to do so allows parents the right to appeal verdicts, even beyond the six-month deadline for appealing child custody cases, the ruling states.
The decision could have significant consequences in Texas, where about 66,000 children faced abuse or neglect in 2011, and more than 17,000 children were removed from their homes, according to the Department of Family Protective Services website.
It is not yet clear if the ruling will affect how CPS handles potential child abuse cases, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins told The Texas Tribune.
The Court ruled in a case where CPS notified a mother in a newspaper advertisement that the state wanted to take custody of her four children. The state argued that the agency did not know how to personally contact the woman because she had told a CPS social worker that she was moving.
According to the court opinion, serving the woman through an advertisement was an insufficient means of notifying her, especially since the state had already communicated with her by telephone.
Aaron Robb, a former Child Protective Services employee who now works in the private sector, praised the ruling for “reminding the department it has to do things upfront.”
From his own experience at CPS, Robb said citation through a newspaper advertisement was a generally ineffective last resort.
“We’ve always known it’s a legal fiction,” he said. “No one reads the publications that the citations are posted in.”
In the past, when parents were deemed unfit to maintain custody of their children, they could appeal that decision at any point over the next six months. But if the parent is not properly warned, that deadline is no longer valid, the court ruled Friday. The woman in the case had appealed two years after the original court decision.
By J.J. Smith, Publisher