Safety Plans in CPS Cases in Arizona
Often when CPS is called, they want to protect the children right away, but they don't always have the evidence to seek a dependency petition. When CPS takes the children from the home, they have 72 hours to file a "Temporary Custody Notice." This allows them to retain the children for at least 90 more days. If they file the notice, then a dependency hearing must be heard within 90 days. That is not a lot of time to gather evidence to demonstrate a dependency occurred.
As such, CPS likes to do what is called safety plans. With a safety plan, they don't have to seek a dependency yet, and the children are effectively removed from the home. As no dependency petition is filed, this may appeal to a lot of helpless parents, who feel that they will get their children back soon. There may be some good reasons why a parent would agree to a safety plan. The first, being, that if they are quite certain a dependency would be reached, then a safety plan may not be the worst idea, becuase, a finding of dependency is not preferable.
However, there are issues with safety plans. First, most parents feel that they have to do it, if CPS suggests it. This is not true. A parent does not have to sign a safety plan. In fact, a parent should NOT sign one without first consulting an attorney. Second, safety plans don't have a timeline. It could go on for a month. It could go on for a year.
What CPS might not be forward about is that you DON'T have to sign the safety plan. But, even more so, if you sign it, YOU CAN RESCIND IT.
Let me offer a fact pattern that happened recently: Mother's three children were removed under the belief Mother suffered from Munchausen by Proxy. A safety plan was entered. The children were away for a month, and Mother had no clue what to do, and was completely denied she had Munchausen. Finally, Mother was told by her attorney that she could actually rescind the safety plan. What that does, is CPS now has the 72 hours to file the Temporary Custody Notice, and go for a dependency or they have to return the children. However, the longer a safety plan goes, the longer CPS may be trying to build a case. In the above situation, it is likely imperative that Mother rescind. The longer her children are away, the greater case CPS has to keep them longer. Once she rescinds, it forces CPS's hand. They have to return the children, or give the temporary custody notice.
Safety plans aren't always a bad thing, but you have to know what you are getting yourself into, and it is important to know there may be a way out. In the case above, a real case of mine, Mother rescinded the plan, CPS did NOT FILE the notice, and the children were returned. They continued to investigate, but after some time, concluded the case to unsubstantiated (not enough evidence to prove the case). How much longer was Mother going to have to wait? Good question. No one knows for sure, but it could have been much, much longer than 1 month, for a case that got dismissed anyway....
In sum, it is important to seek an attorney who has experience with CPS who guide you appropriately.