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Reporting child abuse and neglect in Texas

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a family law attorney is having the opportunity to serve the community in which we live. The attorneys and staff at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan take a great deal of pride in being able to represent clients just like you in family law matters across Southeast Texas. Everyone on our team is focused on putting the interests of our clients ahead of ourselves and in providing help and advice to the best of our abilities based on each of our client's circumstances. Our attorneys take seriously the responsibility of advocating for our clients and we want nothing more than the best results for everyone who trust us to work on their families case. 

Some of the most difficult and complex family law matters related to cases involving abuse and neglect of children. If you are a parent who has ever had any experience dealing with allegations related to abuse or neglect if your children and you know exactly what I am talking about. The fact of the matter is that you can be made to feel like you are powerless against accusations and allegations that do not reflect who you are as a parent or a person. As with any family law case, being involved in a situation where your parenting skills are questioned can be extremely deflating. 

Generally speaking, abuse and neglect matters regarding your children fall under the umbrella of Child Protective Services cases in Texas. Child Protective Services is a branch of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. As you may have guessed from the name, Child Protective Services seeks to protect minor children from abuse and neglect. To further this mission the state agency has created a process whereby potential instances of abuse or neglect can be reported to the agency directly by people just like you and me. 

How your family can fit into this world and what role the state of Texas can play in your life moving forward will be the subject matter of today's blog post. Make no mistake, any kind of accusation or allegation of abuse or neglect of your child should be and will be taken seriously by all parties involved. However, you need to be able to keep a level head and maintain perspective regarding these types of situations so that you can protect yourself and your child while maintaining your relationship with him or her no matter what your circumstances are.

How are cases of abuse or neglect reported in Texas?

Before we discuss how all of the factors introduced already in today's blog posts related to you and your family we need to discuss how the reporting structure works about Child Protective Services. The main thing for families like yours to keep in mind is that the best thing you can do for yourself is to never become involved with an investigation led by CPS in the first place. Once an investigation begins there is always the possibility for continuous involvement by the state into your life and that of your child. Even if you have done nothing wrong and you are ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing associated with abuse or neglect there can be damage done to your family life. 

Citizens of Texas must report alleged incidents of abuse or neglect to the state. Certain adults, like doctors, lawyers, teachers, and law enforcement, have a heightened duty 2 report alleged incidents of abuse or neglect, as well. If someone were to need to contact chocolate if the service is about incidents of abuse or neglect if your child he or she could do so by contacting an 1800 number or by sending an electronic message. Child Protective Services employs many people who receive reports of abuse and neglect and then make decisions about through the contact fin regard to them. 

When a report is made to Child Protective Services the agency will determine whether or not there is enough information to proceed with an investigation. Assuming that there is enough information provided the report will be compiled and then sent to a branch of Child Protective Services in the area where the child in question resides. From there, Child Protective Services will investigate the matter to conclude whether or not abuse or neglect occurred. 

A CPS caseworker or CPS investigator will be responsible for conducting an investigation and collecting information that can be used to decide regarding abuse or neglect. The first thing that you need to understand is that the CPS investigator has a lot of power as far as being able to determine whether or not the peace or neglect has occurred. This is the person that will investigate any interviews that have you or anyone else living in your house. What the investigator is trying to get to the bottom of is to determine if there are any threats to your child and their safety in your home.

if there are any threats in your home to your child's safety then what CPS will determine is whether or not you and your spouse are willing and able to address those threats to keep your child safe from harm. If your children are believed to be in an unsafe situation then a full investigation would occur involving Protective Services for your child. 

As I mentioned a moment ago, in a CPS investigation the caseworker may interview you or any family member with information or knowledge about the allegations made in the report. When information is collected, interviews are completed and a decision is ready to be made the CPS caseworker will issue a disposition regarding your child and your circumstances. Several results can occur and those results are what I would like to discuss with you right now.

What are the possible findings that can be made in a Texas Child Protective Services?

There is a range of potential findings or dispositions that can be made in a Texas CPS case. Depending on what evidence can be found by a CPS caseworker regarding potential abuse or neglect of your child will determine the next steps, if any, in your case. It is not necessarily as simple as determining whether abuse or neglect occurred as a yes/no issue. Rather, the findings can lead to a determination that is somewhat more varied. In total, there are five possible results of the initial CPS investigation relating to the abuse or neglect of your child. 

The first possible result of a CPS investigation would be that it is determined there is reason to believe that abuse or neglect of your child has occurred. The standard used to determine whether or not a reason to believe a finding is submitted is a preponderance of the evidence. All this means is that there must be a greater than 50% chance based on evidence that abuse or neglect has occurred. From my perspective, this is a rather low bar for the state to reach but it is the one that is in place for CPS determinations of abuse or neglect. 

On the other hand, if the CPS caseworker or investigator decides that there is no reason to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred then abuse or neglect allegations will be ruled out. at that point, any investigation would likely be closed and no further action would be taken on the part of CPS. You should be aware that ruled out the terminations do not mean that CPS could not become a factor in your life in the future or even conduct investigations moving forward based on additional allegations of abuse or neglect. 

next, CPS may not be able to conclude or complete their investigation based on the circumstances of your case. You see this happen quite a bit in instances where your family either was not able to be contacted by CPS or subsequently moved during an investigation. Keep in mind that you do not have to participate in a CPS investigation period until and unless law enforcement or the courts become involved you can simply choose not to participate or to speak to a caseworker. CPS will have needed to perform some degree of due diligence before a determination such as this being made. 

Finding that falls short of any of the preceding is unable to determine designation. If none of the previously mentioned determinations are applicable or appropriate then the state or determine nothing in particular and conclude the investigation as such. This does not exonerate you or make a decision one way or the other. It just means that CPS feels that it should be moving on towards other investigations and no further action will be taken at that moment. 

Finally, it sometimes happens that CPS will learn of additional information that causes them to believe further investigation is inappropriate. For instance, information regarding the person who made the report could come forward showing that he or she is biased against your family. Or, investigation and interview of other persons that are related to your family may introduce evidence showing that an investigation is not warranted based on the available evidence or circumstances. At that point, CPS will administratively close the investigation and no further action will be taken. 

The safety of your child is at the forefront of any CPS investigation. Regardless of what decision comes out from CPS, the question will need to be answered about what degree of risk is posed to your child by remaining in your home. The way your family behaves and the way that your family has responded to the investigation will go a long way towards determining the response of CPS in this regard. 

Of course, if the CPS investigator makes its determination that your children are safe because no abuse or neglect is discovered or that the risk of future harm to your child is low due to your family's response to the investigation and your circumstances then your case may be closed. Not only are the allegations, results of the investigation, and your response to the investigation important but so are your home, your extended family, and their ability to help as well as other circumstances important to the ability for CPS to close out your case. This is the ideal situation where it will be determined that no abuse or neglect has occurred and that your case will be closed. 

On the other hand, it could be determined that there are safety and risk factors in your home and that you have been unwilling to participate in the process or take any steps towards fixing those problems. In that case, it would be straight forward 4 CPS to determine that your child is unsafe and to then require additional steps to be fulfilled for the CPS case to be closed. At that point, CPS can offer services to you and your family to address any potential problems. This would include family-based safety services. Additionally, it would be possible for the state to file a lawsuit seeking to become a temporary Conservatory of your child and to remove him or her from your home. 

In most cases, an investigation will be completed after 30 days. What I tell clients with some frequencies that keep in mind we're talking about the government here, who is not known to ever do anything expeditiously or efficiently. As a result, it is possible 4 the state to extend this 30 day time. Until it is satisfied with the results of the investigation. 

Why wouldn't a report of abuse or neglect be turned into an investigation? 

This is the question that I have received from time to time. People are curious as to why a report that was made regarding abuse or neglect if a child was not turned into a full-fledged CPS investigation. After all, a report was made, a Reporter viewed a circumstance that appeared to indicate abuse or neglect if a child had curd and yet no investigation took place. How could this be the case? 

First, the CPS caseworker will decide about how reasonable the likelihood is that a child had been abused or neglected in the past and the chance for that to occur in the future. If you contact CPS and make a report of abuse or neglect of a child then CPS will also have to decide regarding how likely it is that the same child will be abused or neglected in the future. If mitigating circumstances have occurred which seriously decrease or eliminate the chance of future abuse and neglect then it is likely that no investigation will occur. 

As I alluded to at the beginning point of this blog post the allegations made in a report to CPS need to be substantial and specific enough to lead to an investigation. For instance, if you make a report to CPS on behalf of a child and those allegations contained are too general or nonspecific enough to leave an investigator with not enough meat on the bone to conduct an investigation, then one will not occur. What CPS is looking for are specific instances of harm to a child and prolonged risk for future harm. 

Next, CPS needs enough information to be in place to investigate from the standpoint of being able to locate your family. For instance, if a person makes a report of abuse or neglect of your child to CPS it will need to investigate to decide. This is the same type of thing that we discussed earlier regarding the five types of determinations that can be made by CPS regarding an allegation of abuse or neglect. If you choose not to participate in the investigation or choose to move your family and not contact CPS then no investigation may occur due to lack of contact. 

The other instance that I could see leading to no investigation would be 1 where CPS has already begun an investigation into your family or any other regarding abuse or neglect of a child. For instance, if you were at a party and witnessed a parent striking their son repeatedly and each person at the party made a call to CPS then there would not be 10 individual investigations opened up. Rather, all the reports will be rolled into one investigation that would be followed up on by CPS. 

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 consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video where your questions can be answered in a pressure-free and comfortable environment. Thank you for your interest in our law office and we hope you will join us tomorrow as we post additional blogs regarding the world of Texas family law. 

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