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Thursday, September 14, 2017

New Website ~ Win A Prize!

So excited to announce the launch of the Law Offices of A. G. Fortson's new website! Check it out at #FamilyLaw - #EstatePlanning - #ChildWelfare
For those who like prizes, during the promotion period WIN a Visa Gift Card by posting the correct number of times the letters "AG" are seen together on the website's Home Page. #AGFortsonLaw
Special thanks to Atc, Int'l, the best creative team ever. Attorneys, this company has experience working within our professional rules to pass the State Bar's advertising review process.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fighting Attorneys: Response to "Tips for Avoiding the Abuses of CPS”

Below is an email sent to the Women's Justice Center as the author of the "Tips for Avoiding the Abuses of CPS”.  The article in full can be found at the link provided in the below posting.  The article and the website provide parents and advocates with information concerning CPS. Although the Center is based in California, the information is applicable to Texas as well.  Let me know your thoughts.

I BRIEFLY read your “Tips for Avoiding the Abuses of CPS” article,   As an attorney, I was particularly drawn to the section about how to get the best possible representation from your court appointed attorney.  I have seen attorneys who fit the profile you describe.  However, as an attorney who accepts appointments, I must take exception to your rule to parents that “attorneys assigned to represent you in a CPS case are attorneys at their worst.”  There are a few of us out here in the fight for families.  I hope I am not being presumptuous in assuming that you really did not mean to condemn all court appointed attorneys. Consequently, I would like to join you in your efforts to equip your audience in the event that your readers happen to have one of us fighters for an attorney.  Feel free to distribute as long as the credit and text are kept intact.

You will know that you have a fighting attorney if the attorney seeks to communicate with you frequently.  In my practice I take my clients’ lead, but I like to touch in with my clients bi-weekly.  Even if the week was uneventful, it is important to check in on my clients’ spirits. From the beginning it is key for me to know what is important for my client, what is the parent’s story, etc.  Please remember that the only attorney assigned to work for the parent is the parent’s attorney.  Providing inaccurate or incomplete information only limits what the fighting attorney has to work with from you.  Also, sometimes your attorney is the last to the litigation battle, meaning everyone else has a ton of information, reports, etc.  Do not assume that your attorney will somehow get that information.  Bring the attorney up to speed by providing copies, not originals, or telling the attorney who may have the information if you do not.  And always inform the attorney of any changes in your address or phone numbers.

You will know that you have a fighting attorney if the attorney seeks to be present with you when you are communicating with CPS, GALs (Child Advocates or CASA), or others seeking information.  My practice informs all parties and guardians that all parent communication should be coordinated through my office if they want to discuss the case with my client.  We will try to attend all conferences, evaluations, and even “pop up” on a “pop up” visit from opposing parties. I get tons of push back, but as long as my client stands with me, eventually CPS will concede.  Unfortunately, for various reasons, some parents will talk to opposing sides without me.  Despite my requests to the contrary, some parents sign documents without me.  Even worse, I learn of the communication only once we are in front of the bench – far too late for me to do any investigation or even to get qualification from my client.  Please don’t fall for the “I’m your friend” tactics of CPS and even guardian ad litems.  They are not a part of the case to be parent advocates and are not always soliciting information to help you out.  That is the job of the parent attorney.  I am not suggesting that every encounter is hostile.  Here is a test.  If the person seeking to talk to you refuses talk to you in front of your attorney, take note.  Then direct your attorney to find out why. 

You will know that you have a fighting attorney if the attorney anticipates the other sides’ moves and solicits your help in creative countermoves.  For example, if I see that CPS is positioning to remove the kids, I will fight against that removal, but I am armed with plan B in the event the judge rules against me.  Plan B often is to have other family or friends pre-qualified as placements instead of traditional foster care.  However, I need the parents to tell me who those family and friends are.  Sometimes parents will say that they are too embarrassed to tell people they know what is happening or they just refuse to believe that CPS really would take the kids after CPS failed to do so for so long.  Whether the kids are removed or not, help your attorney prepare for that worst case scenario.  Bear under the embarrassment and see this as an opportunity to be an advocate or guide for others.  You may be surprised to learn that you are not alone.

You will know that you have a fighting attorney if the attorney encourages you to keep him or her accountable.  Everyone in the process is accountable to someone.  The attorney is no exception.  In fact, fighting attorneys realize the fight is not theirs but the parents.  The case is about the parents’ lives, not the attorney’s. In most situations, the attorney’s opinions must yield to the client’s decisions.  No one wants to be threatened, but there is nothing wrong with reminding the attorney whom he or she serves.  A fighting attorney will preempt your “reminder” by soliciting your evaluation of his or her services to ensure that your needs are being met.  A fighting attorney will know that despite the appointment, he or she is accountable to you.

While I could go on with other tips, I will end with this thought:  Together we may not always win the case, but we will work hard to end. Then if unsuccessful, we will appeal. A fighting attorney will not be afraid to appeal when necessary!

May God bless your efforts.


Alicia Fortson, Esq.
Law Offices of A. G. Fortson, P. C.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ten Things You Should Know If CPS Knocks on Your Door

1.      CPS caseworkers need a warrant or court order to get into your home.  Police escorts are there for CPS protection. Don’t be intimidated. If they don’t have a court order, politely ask them to return with one.
2.       If you still let CPS in, you can ask them to leave whenever you want if they did not have an order or warrant.
3.       EVERYTHING you say will be used against you. So say as little as possible.  Record everything, preferably with a video camera.
4.       You have the right to know what the charges are against you. In the very first contact with CPS, CPS must explain the complaint with more than just stating you are accused of “allegations of abuse or neglect.”
5.       You have the right to an attorney. Please use that right even if you are innocent!

6.       CPS may try to see your kids at school.  Teach your kids to ask for their parents and their attorney.  Yes, kids can ask for an attorney. What starts out as an investigation with CPS and police to protect the kids could lead to a kid confession of a crime. If kids are at least 10 years old, they can be investigated as a possible perpetrator of child abuse or neglect.

7.       If you speak with CPS, prepare for questions beyond the allegations.  CPS may ask you questions about drugs, alcohol, pornography, and your childhood regardless of the allegations. CPS may ask your children if they have ever been touched inappropriately or if they have ever been spanked.  CPS may ask to view and to photo your child’s body.

8.      If CPS takes your children without a court order, CPS must appear in court no later than the next business day. This emergency hearing typically takes place without notifying the parents.

9.      After CPS rules out allegations of abuse and neglect, families have the right to have their record expunged. Many people think that having a record “proving” they did nothing is a good thing.  Instead, having a record shows that you have prior CPS history. 

10.  Child abuse and neglect are real. Some parents should not be parents.  When you believe a child is a victim of child abuse and neglect, you are obligated to make a report to the Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or

An ex-caseworker: “I wish I could shout from the highest mountain to parents to vigilantly learn their rights! If they knew what their legal rights were there would be significantly lower numbers of child removals.  Social workers, unlike policemen making an arrest, are not required to inform the parents of their legal rights.  All we had to do to remove a child was to show up at the home and tell the parents we came to remove the kids.  Often times we would.…”

Presented by the Law Offices of A. G. Fortson, P.C. 713-487-5297

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Will Your CPS Service Plan Efforts Count?

Parents, if you are working a CPS service plan to have your kids returned to you, please make sure that what you are doing will actually count.  A Court of Appeals in Texas recently upheld a termination of a mother's rights despite the fact that her life had improved after the case began. The mother had:
  • completed parenting classes and substance abuse courses,
  • received her GED,
  • had a psychological evaluation,
  • maintained contact with CPS, the caseworker, and her children,
  • held down a job,
  • secured housing, and
  • continued counseling sessions on substance abuse, parenting skills, and anger management.

While there were many other detrimental factors to the mother's case, the court took note that a "CPS employee testified that the course materials used did not have the scope or depth that CPS finds necessary for the children's return to the parent." This mother lost her twins to CPS care.  In the Interest of N.K., N.K. and C.K., No. 09-10-00277-CV (TXCA9).

Lesson Learned: Even if CPS signs you up for the class, verify that class completion will actually count towards your service plan.  This is your responsibility, not CPS.  Even better, have your attorney examine CPS about the service plan on the court's record. Time is of the essence.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Too Many Children in U.S. Foster Care Systems

The US Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families reports that 700,000 children across the US are in the foster care system.  Texas reports over 27,000 in the Department of Family and Protective Services foster system. 

While 2009 saw a decrease in the number of American children in foster care from the previous seven years, Texas actually reported an increase in the number affected.  Regardless of the national decrease or Texas increase, there are still too many children being affected. 

To view the reports, visit for the national figures and for the Texas results.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Recognition of Our Veterans, November 11, 2010

The joys and liberties we may take for granted in our free country are today recognized. Further, we find it a privilege to say thank you to the service men and women for ensuring our freedoms. May God bless your families and each of you individually.

Consider supporting these area museums in honor of our veterans.

The Buffalo Solider Museum  

The Veterans Museum in Texas

Taken from

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Monday, November 1, 2010

DFPS's Policies to Abide by the Fourth Amendment

The below is from Section 1230 of the DFPS Child Protective Services Handbook.  This section explains how DFPS is to abide by the US Constitution in making searches and seizures.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution regulates DFPS investigations. Though DFPS investigations entail some unavoidable infringement on the privacy of the persons involved, the Fourth Amendment provides families and children protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

Definitions of Search and Seizure

A search is the act of entering a home or inspecting another place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

A seizure is an act that would make a reasonable person feel that he, she, or other persons (such as family members) are not free to leave.

An individual is protected by the Fourth Amendment any time that DFPS performs a search or seizure.

Definition of Imminent and Exigent

Imminent means immediate. For example, unless CPS staff believe that the child is in immediate jeopardy or sexual abuse is about to occur, an emergency removal without a court order is not warranted.

Exigent circumstance is a situation that requires immediate action, such as the example described above.

Examples of DFPS Activities That Invoke Fourth Amendment Protection

There are four primary examples of DFPS activities that invoke Fourth Amendment protection. The proper legal steps for performing any of these actions while protecting Fourth Amendment rights are as follows. Consult the relevant policy for additional guidance:

1. Entry of a home:

• Obtain positive and unequivocal voluntary consent from a person legally authorized to give permission to enter. Whether a person is authorized to give consent varies with the person’s age, role, and location


• Obtain a court order authorizing entry of the home


• Establish that there are exigent circumstances. This means that based on the totality of the circumstances:

• there is reasonable cause to believe a child in the home is in imminent danger;


• the purpose of the entry is to prevent the danger

2. Visual examination of a child:

• Obtain consent from the child, a parent, or a person with legal responsibility for the child


• Obtain a court order authorizing physical inspection of a child

3. Transporting a child from school:

• Obtain consent from a parent or person with legal responsibility for the child


• Obtain a court order authorizing transporting a child from school


• Hold a reasonable belief that the child has been abused and probably will suffer further abuse upon the child's return home at the end of the school day

4. Removal of a child:

• Obtain consent for a parental child safety placement


• Obtain a court order for removal and conservatorship before the removal of the child


• Establish that there are exigent circumstances that require an emergency removal without a prior court order. This means that based on the totality of the circumstances there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is in imminent danger of physical or sexual abuse if he or she remains in the home.