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What is considered to be neglect in Texas?

Child neglect falls into a category of offenses that are investigated daily by Child Protective Services in Texas. What we know about these cases is that they are sad and frustrating, to say the least. Not to mention that they can be dangerous for a child. When a child is placed in harm’s way then you have a case that becomes a major concern for everyone involved. There are no easy solutions in a CPS case. Rather, there are almost always difficult conversations to have and decisions that must be made that can impact the life of a young family and a child. 

What are the different types of neglect in Texas?

Texas defines four different types of neglect. Physical neglect is defined as a failure to provide a child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child. The most important distinction to draw when it comes to physical neglect is between that of neglect and that of poverty. The financial inability to provide a child with adequate food, clothing, or shelter is not typically held against a parent when he or she is unable to do so because of a financial issue. The major exception to this rule is that if you are offered financial assistance and refuse then this can be held against you. 

When it comes to physical neglect there are often drug concerns among the caretakers. When you have a co-parent who is addicted to drugs then what you need to consider is that the resources made available to him or her may be used to obtain drugs rather than to care for your child. When CPS investigates potential neglect at the hands of a co-parent, the caseworker needs to be able to distinguish between a legitimate inability to care for a child and an inability to do so out of a drug addiction. 

The next type of neglect is known as medical neglect. Medical neglect is defined as failing to seek, obtain, or follow through with medical care for a child with the failure resulting in or presenting a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or bodily injury or with the failure resulting in an observable and material impairment to the growth, development, or functioning of the child.

What this can end up looking like is that a child can be removed from a home when a parent doe does not allow the child to obtain medical care of a certain variety. Surgery is a good example. If your child’s pediatrician has stated to you that your child needs to have a certain procedure, but you are not allowing that child to have the procedure then there is a potential problem. In that case, the necessity of the procedure would have to be gauged against the inherent risks as well as the degree to which the physician feels strongly about the operation. A report may come into CPS that you are in medical neglect of your child for denying him access to the surgery.

Neglectful supervision is the third type of neglect that we are going to discuss in today’s blog post. Neglectful supervision is defined as the act of placing or leaving a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm. Additionally, a second definition of neglectful supervision includes placing the child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental capacity. One of the common situations that people point to as far as neglectful supervision that often does not meet the definition is that of a “latchkey kid.” Children can be left home alone so long as they are of a certain age and maturity level. 

The last category of neglect that is relevant in Texas is known as abandonment. When a parent abandons their child, he or she does so by placing their child into or failing to remove their child without arranging for necessary care for the child. 

How do CPS investigations work?

CPS will investigate reports made to them of abuse and/or neglect of minor children. The person who makes a report will have their identity kept confidential. When a person makes an anonymous report of abuse or neglect of a child then this can present some issues given that the person’s identity will not be known to CPS. Therefore, CPS would not be able to follow up with the reporter if the need for additional information arises. CPS would investigate and make a finding after the investigation as to whether it believes that abuse or neglect has occurred.

Reports to CPS regarding abuse or neglect come into their intake system in Austin. From there, an intake worker will decide whether the agency must assign a caseworker to investigate the allegations further. The caseworker may need to work with a CPS supervisor to make this determination. A CPS caseworker would then begin to evaluate the case as far as how the child is doing from a safety perspective. 

Are there risk factors in the home that could put the child in a dangerous situation? This is effectively with the CPS caseworker would need to decide on. If CPS comes out to investigate an allegation of neglect made against you and no risk factors were found upon closer examination, then it is likely that the investigation would be closed without much incident. 

On the other hand, if risk factors are identified by the CPS caseworker, then the caseworker would need to decide whether your child needs to be removed from your home to be kept safe. A removal could occur, or services could be provided to your family instead. CPS typically initiates a Safety Plan at this stage of a case to figure out if your child is at risk of harm by remaining in the home. In extreme situations, your child can be removed from your home and placed into the care of a foster family. 

CPS offers different types of help to people depending upon the needs of the children involved. These types of help can allow your family to learn better parenting skills, and acquire knowledge about assistance programs in your area and other types of help, as well. CPS would pay for these services, but you would need to commit to attending any appointments with doctors or other professionals. 

What happens if your child is removed from your home?

If your child is removed from your home and placed into the foster care system, then a judge would immediately look at the situation and decide whether this was the right move to make. An emergency court hearing will typically be held on the following day. If a judge backs the CPS decision to remove your child from your home, then a second hearing would be held approximately two weeks later known as a show cause hearing. 

In a show cause hearing, an attorney for CPS would need to help the agency present solid evidence that your child should remain in the custody of CPS. When CPS has tried diligently to work with you in this regard then it is a tough decision for them to keep your child in foster care. Simply put, do not allow yourself to be put in a situation where CPS is attempting to help you and your child but you refuse to participate. Any services provided to your family by CPS should be able to be completed by you within six months. 

CPS can, after six months, drop the case against you and have your child returned home to you. Or CPS can present evidence arguing that your child needs to remain outside of your home for an additional length of time. A permanent solution to the problem involving your child can be proposed which includes reunification with you in your home, placed permanently with a relative or put up for adoption.   

How to handle the ups and downs of a CPS case

To be sure, there are several ups and downs over the lifecycle of most CPS cases. When you come face to face with a CPS case it can seem like the challenge of a lifetime. In many cases, it will be the challenge of a lifetime. However, bear in mind that your child is relying upon you for strength and resiliency during this time. Even if you don’t feel up to the task you need to feel confident that you are making good decisions for your child and the future of your family. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you sort out the problems that often arise in a CPS case. 

First, now is the time to determine whether you are going to hire an attorney to represent you in your case. Do not make the mistake of going too far down the path of your CPS case and not having an attorney. Rather, once you get the idea that you are going to need to hire a lawyer then you should start the process of looking for representation. Mistakes can be made at the beginning of a CPS case which cannot be undone. For instance, whether you choose to work with an attorney can impact whether you participate in the questioning or interview process by CPS.

At the beginning of a CPS case, you have the option of deciding whether you want to participate in any interview or interaction with CPS. Nothing is obligating you as far as participating in the case. Theoretically, you could choose to ignore the CPS caseworker when she knocks on your door and instead go about your business without talking to them. However, you do need to be aware that what you choose to say or withhold from CPS can impact the nature of the investigation into your family. As a result, what you do not tell CPS can hurt you just as much as what you do say. Again, this is a good reason why you should consider working with an experienced family law attorney.

Many times, a CPS caseworker will catch you by surprise and you will not know how to proceed or whether you should work with someone from their office. However, if you are confident about wanting to speak to CPS then you should do so. This way you can tell the CPS caseworker information about the case in hopes that you may be able to avoid a prolonged investigation. Remember that CPS obtains information about your case indirectly to this point. Once CPS reaches out to you would then have an opportunity to directly comment on the allegations made against you.

It is far from a certainty that CPS will remove your child from your home during an investigation. It can be intimidating to understand that the removal of your child is a possibility. However, much of the time CPS relies upon information that is faulty or without a basis. In that case, the information that you provide to CPS can be extremely helpful and can result in a shorter and more accurate collection of information relevant to your case.

CPS is obligated to inform you of any events or other happenings in the case involving your child. This is especially true if your child is removed from your home. Nobody would argue that it is not intimidating to have CPS come into your life and threaten to have your child removed from your home. Even the best parent can have a tough time when it comes to handling the trajectory of a typical CPS case. There is just so much uncertainty involved, and the consequences can dramatically alter your life.

Working with an experienced CPS defense attorney can matter a great deal because you will be in a better position to communicate with the agency.  Because you have an attorney, there is less of a chance that you will miss important information related to the case. There are going to be opportunities to attend meetings and perform other duties on behalf of your children that you need to be aware of. The more people that can help hold you accountable, the better. 

Working with the right attorney for your case

When you are just starting in a CPS case it can feel like a daunting challenge to try and select the correct attorney for your case. After all, you have probably never gone through one of these cases before. As a result, it can feel like you have no idea where to begin your search for an attorney. However, you have all the tools you need right in front of you. It’s just a matter of learning how to use them. 

Here are some tips that can guide you toward hiring an attorney for your CPS case. First, you should seek out an attorney who practices family law. A CPS case can be complicated because it combines a lot of elements in family law with the unique elements of a CPS case. Finding an attorney who knows how to proceed when working with CPS is crucial. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are dedicated family law practitioners. This means that we work in family law cases every day on behalf of clients just like you. We take pride in serving others and strive for the best results possible on behalf of our clients.

Meeting with an attorney before you hire them is also important. You can learn a lot about an attorney simply by spending time with him or her. It is not a matter of you needing to become a legal scholar in trying to hire a lawyer. That is not necessary. Rather, you can use common sense when attempting to determine the right lawyer for your case. How do you feel about the person sitting across the table from you? Does the attorney listen to what you have to say? Do you feel like the attorney is talking past you? These are all relevant questions to ask yourself in this situation. 

Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day here on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We know that you may be feeling uncertain and worried at a time like this. Our attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week so that you have every opportunity to meet with us. We think that you will immediately notice a difference between our office and other family law attorneys whom you may have met with previously.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material 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 consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody lawsuit.