Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Possible Outcomes of the November 29 CPS Hearing Regarding the Sister of Sherin Mathews

By Claire James

A Child Protective Services (“CPS”) hearing regarding the custody of Sini and Wesley Mathews’ 3-year-old biological daughter is set for November 29 before Judge Cheryl Shannon of the 305th Juvenile District Court in Dallas. The Mathews are the adoptive parents of Sherin Mathews, a Richardson child who died under suspicious circumstances this October.
 

Sini Mathews was arrested before Thanksgiving for child endangerment/ abandonment. On Monday, November 27, her bond was reduced from $250,000 to $100,000. Wesley Mathews remains jailed on a felony charge of injury to a child.  His bond is set at $1 million.

 

Many people are wondering what will happen to the Mathews’ surviving daughter now. CPS (also referred to as the “Department”) reports she has been placed with relatives in the Houston area. When CPS places a child with family members, it first conducts and approves a “home study” on the family members. A home study generally consists of:
 

a) interviews with the prospective caregivers and all household members,

b) criminal and CPS background checks, and

c) a home visit. 

 

Now that the little girl is living with family members, Sini and Wesley Mathews may agree to a temporary order wherein the Department has temporary conservatorship (or legal custody) of the child and she continues to reside with family. If the Mathews agree to such an arrangement, the November 29 hearing may consist of the parties presenting that agreement to the Court and setting a new hearing date. If Sini and Wesley Mathews do not agree to allow CPS to have temporary conservatorship, then the November 29 hearing could be a full adversary proceeding after which Judge Shannon will be asked to determine whether the child should be returned to Sini and/or Wesley Mathews. 

 

Going forward, one or both of the parents may be asked to complete a service plan recommended by the Department, which would likely include services such as parenting classes and counseling. However, CPS can ask the Court to waive the requirement of a service plan and expedite the case to trial if the Court finds that a parent subjected the little girl to “aggravated circumstances” under Texas Family Code Section 262.2015. CPS generally attempts to work with parents toward reunification of the family, but that can vary in extreme circumstances. It is unclear whether CPS considers the circumstances of the Mathews family extreme enough to take reunification off the table at this stage.

 

CPS’s long-term plan for the child will certainly consider the outcome of the criminal investigation and prosecution. Pursuant to Texas Family Code Section 263.401, with limited exceptions, a CPS custody matter should be resolved within one year from the date the child was removed.

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Claire James is a family law and commercial litigation attorney with Cowles & Thompson.  Her background includes working as a caseworker for Dallas County CPS and interning with the Juvenile Division of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office on CPS cases.

 

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