The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS) defines family based services as those “designed to maintain children safely in their homes – or make it possible for children to return home – by strengthening the ability of families to protect their children and reducing threats to their safety”.
I frequently receive calls from people telling me that their caseworker has referred their case to FBSS and then asking me whether they need to hire an attorney. As an attorney with a good deal of experience dealing with FBSS, my answer is a resounding “Yes.” Why? Because once you agree to work services, everything in your life will be subjected to intense scrutiny…for a prolonged period. If you thought that the investigation leading up to the referral was intrusive, actually dealing with FBSS is MUCH worse. Not only that, but your failure to successfully complete services very likely will show up in the future as grounds to support the possible “removal” of your children.
Sounds scarey, doesn’t it? It is, and it is the reason you need an attorney to assist you.
Most people don’t realize how much power TDFPS has until they are caught in its web.
Now that you have made the determination that hiring a lawyer is a wise investment to help ensure that your family will stay together, what should you look for? Here are just a couple of the questions that you should ask when considering a lawyer:
1) Does the lawyer handle only court cases, or does she also have significant experience with investigations and FBSS? This is crucial as many lawyers only have court related experience and therefore have no, or only limited, experience with FBSS.
2) Does the lawyer have a generalized knowledge of Family Law in the event that your case doesn’t proceed as planned? This is also important as there are many things that an attorney can do to derail a caseworker’s strategy to try and remove your children.
I realize that initially you may have “sticker shock” when you are informed about a lawyers rates – my rates, by the way, are very favorably competitive with the rates most lawyers quote to potential clients – especially when you find yourself in a situation that you are convinced is not of your making.
However, when you are staring down the barrel of the caseworker’s loaded gun, and after making the right decision to call a lawyer, the question you then should be asking is not whether you can afford to hire a lawyer, but whether you can afford not to!