By: Leslie Barrows
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Tarrant County child abuse cases take all forms
The recent newspaper headline was alarming: “Tarrant County leads Texas in Child Abuse Cases.” The Fort Worth Star-Telegram went on to report that the number of child abuse victims in the county jumped from 5,689 in 2013 to 6,097 in 2014.
That’s a lot of kids and families in crisis. Experts told the newspaper that some of that increase came from growth in population; I think it’s also a result of increases in reporting.
But there’s more to the story. In all, Texas’ Family and Protective Services, or CPS, completed more than 13,000 investigations in Tarrant County in 2014, with only about 29 percent resulting in a confirmed case.
The child protection process – from the first allegation to conclusion – involves a lot of players. Barrows Firm attorneys are right there for biological parents, children and foster parents, making sure that their rights are protected.
There are three basic areas where we work: helping guide parents accused of wrongdoing; acting as a court-appointed ad litem attorney for children; and completing adoptions where parental rights have been severed.
Many of the calls we get in this area are from parents who have had a knock on the door or a call from a CPS investigator. They’re panicked. What do they do? Who can help them?
This process isn’t something families should face alone.
We have a working relationship with a lot of CPS investigators and supervisors. They are dedicated individuals, but they’ve also seen a lot of people lie over the years. CPS investigators are often looking for inconsistencies- even something as small as tripping up on recalling a date or time of day can spell trouble.
An attorney by your side can help you feel more confident. It also helps you know that what you’re being told about state laws and how they apply to your case is the whole picture.
Most of the cases we see end up with a correction plan and don’t go to court. For those that do end up before a judge, our attorneys often take on the role of the eyes and ears of the court as the attorney ad litem for a child. After being appointed as the attorney ad litem, we connect with the children wherever we can, monitoring parental visits, and reporting back to the court on what should happen.
If all of the corrective plans haven’t worked, CPS terminates parental rights and we can also become involved then. That sad conclusion to the CPS case can still lead to a happy ending for the child with an adoption to a loving “forever family.”
Adoptions are my favorite kind of family case and they’re why I’ve been on the Tarrant County committee for National Adoption Day since 2007. It’s a day when families come together dressed in their Sunday finest to have their adoptions of foster children finalized at the Family Law Center in downtown Fort Worth. Last year, 65 children were adopted during the celebration and this year’s event, planned for Nov. 20, promises to be just as big.
I’ll be there – happily watching as these children move past the unfortunate statistics and start a new life.