Child Abuse and the Texas Stay at Home order

In attempting to restrict the spread of the coronavirus many counties in Texas initially encouraged staying at home. The various stay at home orders that were implemented impacted families beyond there propensity to become infected with the virus. There are always points of collateral damage that occur as a result of even the most Noble-minded laws and edicts set forth by government. We’ve all heard enough from people in the media, politicians and just plain folk about how the cure has been worse than the disease. I’m not here to give you my opinion on that but let’s talk about some of the collateral issues associated with Texas’ various stay at home orders.

it should be pointed out that at some point in April governor Abbott determined that the various counties in Texas who had limited people’s ability to move about or operating without legal backing to do so. County officials, such as those with Harris County, were outside of their jurisdiction when it came to issuing stay at home orders. To the best of my knowledge, the situation broke down when County officials were attempting to assess criminal penalties for not staying at home and even not wearing masks in public. Once it was determined that the counties could not individually restrict movement or mandate face coverings it became up to the state to issue orders to that effect. 

Rather than continue to Institute stay at home orders, the governor decided to go in the opposite direction and gradually open up the state of Texas to greater movement in more flexibility for businesses to open and for people to congregate in public spaces. There’s been quite a bit of controversy surrounding this as many people to believe that the state should have opened up faster and been more accommodating to businesses as far as allowing them to serve more people at a time. Still others believe that the governor was too quick and opening up the businesses in that increases in positive Corona tests resulted from people no longer taking this subject as seriously as they should. 

Ultimately what I think these stay at home order showed us is that to completely restrict people to their homes and necessary places like grocery stores over an extended period time is not a prescription that is going to help us deal with this virus. In the future, I believe that governments will target stay at home orders to most vulnerable people and to particular subsets of regions who are seeing dramatic increase in cases. 

What we’re left with now is talking about the issues that have been brought about by the stay at home orders. The irony of ironies is that while we are promoting social distancing with abandoned by telling people to stay home, we are invariably recommending that they not socially distance themselves from their family. Families are confined to close spaces for extended periods of time under a dramatic amount of pressure brought about by our concern over this virus. This can be a potentially combustible scenario for families who are going through problems associated with mental health, divorce, and even abuse

I think it is worthwhile to examine some of these issues further and to discuss how and why they have been exacerbated by the coronavirus stay at home orders. When you are talking about family related matters, and variably family law becomes relevant due to the problems that families suffer during stressful situations. I can’t think of a stressful situation that is impacted more families to this extent then has the coronavirus pandemic. While there is really no way of telling how far along in this process, we really are it is telling that many people are seeking the assistance of attorneys, counselors, and therapists during this time. 

Child abuse in Texas families 

unfortunately, child abuse cases impact Texas families even during the best of times. The reasons why people abuse children in their care are many. As a practicing family law attorney, the lawyers with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can tell you just how many different sorts of people engage in behavior with children that makes you shudder. These are tough circumstances to have to come into and to be able to lend a hand to help children and their families is a great responsibility for our attorneys. 

Abuse means more than simply hitting a child. Abuse can extend to emotional abuse and even sexual abuse. Physical violence against child can be perpetrated out of frustration, out of a misguided sense of wanting to discipline the child or for no reason in particular. Violence tends to be cyclical in nature so a child who is acted upon violently by the adult tends to then act violently towards their own children later on in life. The pernicious nature of family violence and child abuse is a significant portion of this conversation. 

Child abuse cases are handled on behalf of the State of Texas by the Texas Department of family Protective Services. This is the state agency whose responsibility it is to protect children and adults who have suffered because of abuse or neglect at the hands of a person who was entrusted with their well-being. For the purposes of today’s blog post, I will be focusing on abuse by mothers and fathers against their children. 

Child Protective Services is a subset of the Department of family and Protective Services. Child Protective Services typically will learn of alleged cases of abuse and neglect by parents against their children bye anonymous tips that are received through a telephone hotline. Child Protective Services has employees whose job it is to receive phone calls from persons to alert the agency to alleged incidents about abuse and neglect. 

The agency employee will take down the name of the child who is been abused, their location and any information that can be provided about the incident in question in the alleged perpetrators. From there, a report will be issued to other employees of Child Protective Services whose job it is to initiate contact with the family and investigate the matter more in depth.

These Child Protective Services employees put themselves into situations that are at best awkward and at worst dangerous. Many of these families R hostile to intervention by the state, some with good reason. The sad thing is that many times you will learn that families are investigated repeatedly by the state due to multiple allegations of abuse and neglect in the home. The sense that I get from many of these families is that they feel like they cannot break the cycle of state intervention for various reasons. Families cannot prevent other people from making anonymous tips to Child Protective Services. Child Protective Services must investigate matters where there is even a scintilla have evidence that abuse, or neglect may be occurring.

After an initial investigation into the matter Child Protective Services will either determine that there was a not enough evidence to proceed with the case, that evidence showed no Bistro neglected curd, that evidence did show that abuse or neglect occurred or that the family refused participation in the investigation and no evidence was collected. If you find yourself in a position where you have been accused of abusing her child during the COVID-19 pandemic, then there is some information that you should be aware of as far as your participation in a Child Protective Services investigation. 

Encountering a Child Protective Services investigator at your front door 

you have probably heard at some point in your life that if a police officer knocks on your door and asked to come in the house to take a look around you do not have to allow him or her to do so. A police officer can obtain a warrant to search your home based on probable cause that crime has been committed. The state of Texas cannot merely ask a judge for a search warrant to your home based off an assumption or a feeling that the law has been broken or that your home may contain evidence of a crime. Rather probable cause must be the basis for the seeking of a search warrant. 

If Child Protective Services comes to your home, then ask you for permission to take a look around the home and they do not yet have a court order you did not have to allow a CPS employee into your home. That does not mean that CPS will stop there, however. CPS employees’ attorneys who can seek court orders that provide CPS with judicial authority and then the authority of law enforcement to enter your home. Once in your home, a search of your residence can and will be conducted. Interviews of your family members, including any children, will likely be sought as well. 

There is a fine line between being overly permissive with CPS and allowing them into your home and into your life unnecessarily and making a difficult situation even more difficult for you and your family. Depending on your individual circumstances it is not always unwise to allow CPS to conduct its investigation and make a fighting as to whether or not abuse or neglect has occurred. Especially in difficult times like these CPS may not be able to gain ready access to your family due to the concern to the coronavirus. 

If you and your family have been inside your home for the past three months with little in the way of other activities to engage in it becomes more likely debt problems and disputes can arise. If you and your children or other people in the home had become engaged in physical behavior with one another the end result may be an investigation conducted by CPS. 

You should be aware that if your case progress is to the point where it is found that there is reason to believe that abuse and neglect has occurred CPS can obtain judicial permission to interview your child outside of your presence at a CPS facility. At this stage, you will not have any control over the questions asked and you will not be able to prepare your child for the interview. From that point CPS can gain additional authority to remove your child from your home and either place him or her in foster care or keep your child in CPS possession. 

A CPS case is a process by which CPS will attempt to gain conservatorships rights over your child due to concerns about abuse or neglect in your home. Ultimately, CPS can seek to return your child to you in your home, return your child to a family member of yours for permanent conservatorships or would seek to establish conservatorships in themselves not a permanent basis until your child turns 18. These are the end results of a CPS case. Under normal circumstances a CPS case will be resolved between 6:00 and nine months from the time that a case is filed initially. 

What does this mean for you and your family during this time of pandemic? Well, if you believe that arguments and disputes within your family are rising to the level where physical violence may occur it will be extremely wise for you to take a step back and remove yourself from those scenarios as much as possible. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as it is said. Simply avoiding these scenarios to begin with will be much better than having to involve attorneys and judges in order to have your name cleared. 

If you cannot do so and a before it has already been filed to CPS alleging abuse or neglect in your home, do not despair. Family law attorneys represent clients in your position with great frequency. Navigating the CPS system without the assistance of an attorney can be a difficult road to travel on. Having someone to hold CPS accountable, keep you all up to date with hearing information, meeting, and input on family safety plans can be essential to your regaining custody rights to your child

Questions about CPS cases and abuse during the coronavirus pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan 

If you have any questions about the information contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, via video and over the telephone. Despite the challenging times that we all find ourselves in, our office takes pride and going the extra mile for our clients and their families. We hope that today’s blog post has been helpful to you and invite you to contact us should you want to learn more.

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