If Child Protective Services (CPS) has taken your child or children, you must be frantic with worry. Know that you do have rights.
If you want to regain custody of your children, you will need to develop a plan, approved by CPS and the court, to solve the problems that led the CPS to petition for your children’s removal.
It’s best to get an attorney involved as soon as possible. You can’t assume that your rights will automatically be protected. A lawyer will not only protect your legal rights but also help you craft a reunification plan that everyone can live with.
You have a fundamental right to parent your children
The U.S. Supreme Court found in Washington v. Glucksberg that our Constitution protects certain fundamental rights. Among them is the parental right to “direct the care, upbringing, and education of their children.”
However, that right is not unlimited. If a court finds that you abused or neglected your children, that you did not take appropriate steps to show you would not do so again, and that doing so would be in your children’s best interest, it can terminate your parental rights.
That said, the official goal of CPS is to reunify families whenever possible. This generally involves making regular progress on a reunification plan. The reunification plan might call for an official evaluation of your parenting, completion of parenting classes, individual and/or family therapy, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and other requirements.
Your legal rights
- You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be provided for you.
- You have the right to due process before your parental rights can be terminated.
- You have the right to develop a reunification plan with your case worker.
- You have the right to access the services necessary to make the plan work.
- You have the right to regular updates about your case from CPS.
- You have the right to be informed of any changes or legal processes in your case.
- You have the right to be informed about your child’s continued health, development and schooling.
Can my parental rights be terminated for non-payment of foster care costs?
Yes, if the court finds that, for at least six months, you “willfully” failed to pay a reasonable portion of your children’s cost of care despite being physically and financially able to pay.
This is a high burden. The claim that you willfully refused to pay means that it was not a mistake or inability to pay. On top of that, the court must find that you were financially able to pay.
That said, North Carolina does file a surprising number of cases to terminate parents’ rights based on non-payment of foster care costs. It is essential to protect your rights if the agency alleges this.
If your children have been removed from your home, you have our sympathy. To begin the process of getting them back, be sure to work with a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile to help.