The Origins of Your Child Protective Services Case

Navigating a Child Protective Services (CPS) case can often feel uncertain and overwhelming. This is partly due to the complex role CPS plays in child safety and its intricate history. To clarify the process, it’s helpful to break down how a CPS case starts, progresses, and eventually concludes. By understanding the typical stages of a CPS case—from initiation through to resolution—those involved can better anticipate what to expect and how to prepare for the outcomes.

Child Protective Services in Texas is part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). This agency’s objective is to protect the children that live in our state upon reports of child abuse or neglect. This sounds straightforward enough. However, it doesn’t convey the extent of CPS involvement in your life or the investigation process. You face a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to a CPS case. Therefore, I’d like to ensure you understand how a CPS case works in today’s blog.

Defining abuse and neglect

CPS receives anonymous reports from community members regarding potential child abuse or neglect incidents. They document these incidents as “incident reports”. Then, they assign these incident reports to caseworkers based in the geographic area nearest to the children involved. These caseworkers proceed to conduct investigations into the allegations of abuse or neglect. Subsequently, they assess whether there is enough evidence to warrant initiating a full investigation.


Abuse implies that a child has experienced physical, emotional, sexual, or mental injury due to an adult’s actions or inaction, who has a duty of care towards that child. If you are a parent who allowed your child to be abused, authorities can also determine that you committed an act of abuse.

If you are a drug addict, abuse alcohol, or have engaged in sexual conduct with your child, authorities could find you to have engaged in child abuse. Most CPS cases do not involve abuse but instead neglect. However, if there is enough evidence to substantiate an allegation of child abuse, CPS will conduct a thorough investigation.


Neglect implies that you placed your child at risk of foreseeable harm (physical, mental, emotional, or sexual) and took either no or insufficient action to prevent it. A CPS caseworker will have received many neglect allegations against parents. These range from keeping a dirty home that smells from the outside to leaving a child home alone while you go to work. Failing to take your sick child to the doctor can also be construed as neglect.

Parents can face accusations of neglect if they leave their child with someone unfit to care for them. Similarly, they should not place a child in, or fail to remove them from, situations where their age prevents them from staying safe from harm. Furthermore, as previously discussed in this blog post, authorities can determine neglect if parents fail to maintain a clean home, and the condition of the house poses a health risk to the child.

CPS reporting – how exactly does this happen?

When CPS initially contacts you, they will likely inform you that they have received a report involving child abuse or neglect. As previously mentioned, this report usually originates from an anonymous phone call made to their hotline, where individuals can report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. No matter the source or the level of detail in the allegation, CPS must investigate all allegations of abuse or neglect made against a child.

Considering the history of CPS involvement in child protection, if CPS identifies an immediate risk of harm to your child based on the report they receive, they will initiate an investigation within 24 hours of receiving the phone call. In contrast, authorities will investigate claims of abuse or neglect that do not present an immediate threat to a child within 72 hours of receiving the phone call.

CPS keeps the people that report instances of abuse or neglect anonymous. You will likely never know the personal identity whose phone call initiated your investigation. The state wants to encourage people to feel comfortable to make a report of alleged abuse or neglect.

CPS will attempt to figure out whether your child is safe in their initial investigation

When an allegation of abuse or neglect is made against you, CPS will first assess whether the child would be safe if allowed to remain in the house, focusing on you, your spouse, and your home environment. This either means that there are no threats to your child in the home or that you can take steps to ensure that any danger will not harm your child.

Given the history of CPS engagement in child protection, it’s crucial to understand that the determination of your child’s safety is subjective and relies on your CPS caseworker’s interpretation. Many parents may wonder: what criteria determine how safe is safe enough?

If any, what condition in your home offers an immediate risk of harm to your child?

Types of harm to children

If the condition that harmed your child is no longer available for future risk of harm, then your child is not facing an immediate threat of damage. The type of harm is also relevant. If the harm that could befall your child is a severe or life-threatening injury, then it is likely to find that neglect has occurred. If not, then a neglect finding will be much more unlikely.

Injuries that were not caused by accident, like the discipline that went too far and became physical, would be an example of a risk of severe and immediate harm to a child that CPS would evaluate. Commonly cases that involve drug use in the home lead to CPS determining that neglect or abuse has occurred.

Protecting and providing for your child

In light of the history of CPS involvement in child protection, CPS will assess whether you have demonstrated the capacity and willingness to safeguard your child from potential serious harm. It’s essential to understand that this doesn’t imply eliminating all risk from your child’s life, as no parent can achieve this. Instead, it varies among parents how effectively they can establish measures to protect their children from foreseeable harm.

It is a fundamental part of parenting that you should know your child and their particular needs. This can mean something as basic as providing clothing, food, and shelter according to your abilities. Taken a bit further, you are expected to keep people that can potentially bring harm to your child out of their life. If you have friends involved in illegal activities, for example, getting this person into your home is probably not a great idea.

Finally, if you are not in a position to provide for your child’s basic needs on your own, you must show the willingness to seek help from people in your community. Expressing that you take threats to your child’s safety seriously and are actively taking the necessary steps and precautions to ensure their safety is crucial.

Removing a child from your home

Considering the history of CPS involvement in child protection, CPS typically refrains from permanently removing your child if they discover an unsafe condition in your home. Instead, if you can collaborate on an agreed family safety plan or temporarily place your child in the care of a relative outside your home, these alternatives can often satisfy CPS. However, if none of these options prove viable, authorities may find it necessary to remove your child from your home.

In conclusion, understanding the process of a Child Protective Services (CPS) case can significantly reduce the uncertainty and stress experienced by those involved. By familiarizing oneself with the key phases of initiation, progression, and conclusion of a CPS case, individuals can navigate the system more effectively. Awareness of how these cases are handled helps prepare families and guardians for the potential challenges and decisions they may face. Ultimately, the primary goal of CPS is to ensure the safety and well-being of children, and being informed about the process is crucial for all parties involved to contribute positively towards that outcome.

CPS can and will remove your child from your home under certain conditions

In tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we will discuss additional pieces of information about an investigation and how your life can become impacted as a result.

In the meantime, if you have any questions for one of our licensed family law attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week. If you find yourself with more questions than answers about a subject as intimidating as a CPS case, do try to solve your problems alone.

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Other Related Articles:

  1. Understanding the Role of CPS in Texas child custody cases
  2. Ultimate Guide to Surviving a CPS Investigation
  3. Navigating a CPS case as a non-offending parent
  4. How to Prepare for a CPS Interview in Texas: A Comprehensive Step-By-Step Guide
  5. What Kinds of Questions can CPS ask a Child?
  6. How does CPS decide whether to open a case?
  7. What are the steps of a CPS investigation?
  8. What is conservatorship? How does CPS removal involve conservatorship?
  9. Common Questions in CPS Cases
  10. Visiting with your child during a Texas CPS case

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you need to be a CPS worker in Texas?

To be a CPS worker in Texas, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, or a related field. Additional requirements may include completing background checks, training, and obtaining a state license or certification.

How much do foster parents get paid in Texas?

Foster parent payment rates in Texas vary depending on the child’s needs and the level of care provided. Foster parents receive monthly reimbursements to cover the child’s expenses, which can range from approximately $400 to $800 per child.

What happens when CPS is called in Texas?

When CPS is called in Texas, they will conduct an investigation to assess the safety and well-being of the child. If necessary, they may remove the child from the home temporarily and place them in foster care or with relatives. CPS will work with the family to address any issues and create a plan for the child’s safety and well-being.

What is kinship placement in Texas?

Kinship placement in Texas refers to placing a child in the care of a relative or extended family member when they cannot safely remain with their parents. CPS considers kinship placement as a preferred option to maintain family connections and provide stability for the child.

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