EDUCATION ON OUR LEGAL SYSTEM
If you don’t agree with how a CPS caseworker handles your case and can’t get a helpful response from that person’s supervisor, you might get results by filing for a state administrative hearing.
Why file for an administrative hearing?
Is your CPS caseworker following the state regulations for child protective services caseworkers? Have YOU read those regulations?
If you haven’t read the CPS regulations for your state, start there. See your local county law librarian if you need help finding the regulations. Make a note of every regulation that is being violated in your case. Start a list of issues that could be brought up during an administrative hearing that will decide whether your CPS case is being handled right.
2. Court Orders
Have you been to court? If so, you probably have a court order signed by a judge. Do you know what it says? Everything on that list of things you must do to regain custody of your child NEEDS to be done. That’s the service plan and in order to get your kids back, you MUST do everything in your power to complete the plan before the next court hearing.
There are two things CPS caseworkers might do to mess that up for you.
(a) They may take their time about making referrals for you to get their “services”. For example, your court order may say you must complete counseling. But your CPS caseworker won’t even tell you the name of a counselor you must see. Sometimes caseworkers delay service referrals then go back to court saying you haven’t had enough of their services. Even though they are to blame for you not getting the referrals, the judge will probably agree with them.
(b) Another thing they might do is to refer you to services that aren’t court ordered. For example, you might have a CPS caseworker forcing drug tests on you when they are not a part of the court-ordered service plan.
3. The Children
Do you have a court order that allows freer visitation than your CPS caseworker will permit? Review your court order to see exactly what it says. For example, a court order might not require visitation to be supervised, but the CPS caseworker insists that it should be. In this scenario the CPS caseworker is violating the court order.
Are you worried about injuries on your children in foster care, but find that the CPS caseworkers aren’t willing to move them to a safer environment?
If you feel your CPS caseworker is violating regulations, or trying to delay court ordered services, or referring you to services that are not court ordered, or in any way violating the court order in regards to visitation or any other issue, you may have just cause for filing for an administrative hearing.
How to file
EVERY UNITED STATES AGENCY HAS AN ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING PROCESS FOR AGGRIEVED CLIENTS. THIS INCLUDES CPS AGENCIES. If you run into bureaucrats that say there’s no internal review process like this, they’re wrong, and you’re talking to the wrong person.
Don’t bother asking your CPS caseworker about whether or not you can file for a hearing. Many CPS caseworkers may not know about administrative hearings. Maybe they’ve never had a client file for one. In any case, you don’t need to consult your adversary to file for an administrative hearing. (Also called a state hearing.)
You can use the telephone to contact the hearings department of your state department of human services to file a request for a hearing.
Another thing you can do is go to the front desk of the welfare office. Ask them for a hearing request form, and use it to file for a CPS administrative hearing. Welfare departments are part of social services, and they are used to getting hearing requests.
Be sure to keep a photocopy of your hearing request form.
What this does for you
When you request an administrative hearing, an employee of the state department of human services known as an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will review your case. This means that injustices being done to you and your children on the county level will become known to the state department of human services, and all employee decisions will have to be reviewed.
This is likely to frighten and upset your social services caseworker and the caseworker’s supervisor. Is that what you want? Think that over; maybe you do and maybe you don’t.
The CPS caseworker will be called into a hearings room to meet with you and the ALJ. Most likely social services legal staff will have a position paper ready to give to you and the ALJ representing their side of the controversy. They might even have their lawyer there.
BE PREPARED with your own set of legal documents representing and proving your side of the case.
When you go to an administrative hearing you can appoint someone else to represent you. That other person could be an activist, an advocate, a lawyer, or anyone you feel is most competent. Or you can represent yourself.
Look through your state’s social services administrative hearing laws or regulations. You have a right to request that these laws or regulations be sent to you in preparation for your hearing. Or, go to your local county law library for help finding them.
Will your hearing help you?
Most hearings I’ve attended either to represent myself or another person involved with CPS did not have what I would consider a most positive outcome. Many of our requests were denied, but some were granted. Whether denied or granted, these issues were brought to the attention of the state and the CPS caseworkers had to have their actions reviewed.
I believe that many requests weren’t granted because the ALJ didn’t want to agree in a way that would give us grounds to sue the state. This is an INTERNAL agency hearing and you can expect some CYA (cover your a$$) type decisions.
Usually after the hearings, circumstances in the cases changed. This may have been because our hearing requests notified the CPS caseworkers that we were going to fight for our rights, not lay down and get walked on.
Before you file for an administrative hearing, think about whether or not this could have an adverse effect on your case. You don’t want to file just because you’re angry with the system. If you have a genuine issue with the way your CPS case is handled, and the local social services personnel won’t change their erroneous course of action, then the state administrative hearing might be a way to force action and state oversight of a CPS case.
One thing your hearing isn’t likely to do is to force your CPS caseworker to give your child back to you right away. This is not the same as going to a juvenile courtroom and getting a judge there to agree to have your child sent home. The state administrative hearing is only a review to see if a CPS caseworker is going by social services rules to handle your case fairly. Administrative Law Judges can and do force CPS caseworkers to handle cases differently.
If for any reason your requests are not granted, do not be disappointed, but forge ahead by doing everything on your court-ordered service plan and by preparing a home to bring your children back to.
The state administrative hearing does not affect your juvenile court hearing, which is where a judge can decide to send your children home. The state administrative hearing is an internal state review of an agency’s work whereas the juvenile courtroom is an external review hearing presided over by county judges.