In Texas, if someone reports suspicions of child abuse or neglect, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) will conduct an investigation to determine if a child has been a victim of neglect or abuse in a family. Investigators will not only consider the safety of the child reported but the safety of all children in the home.
DFPS investigations can involve interviews with not only family members, but with others who may have intimate knowledge of the children’s situation. If an investigator decides that based on the information he or she has gathered, the children are not safe, the investigator will take action to protect the children at risk.
The investigator’s aim while conducting interviews is to obtain enough information to make an appropriate safety decision, which is referred to as a ruling or “disposition.” A disposition can have five different outcomes:
- There was enough evidence that the investigator has a “reason to believe” that the abuse or neglect occurred.
- Based on the information available, abuse or neglect is “ruled out.”
- The investigator was unable to complete the investigation, usually because a family member could not be located or they refused to cooperate with the investigation.
- DFPS reaches the conclusion that none of the above dispositions apply, so DFPS is “unable to determine” if abuse or neglect occurred.
- DFPS proceeds with an “administrative closure” because the agency’s intervention is unwarranted based on information discovered after the investigation was opened.
Three Options to Be Aware Of
There are many options surrounding the outcome of a DFPS investigation, but three of note are: 1) the investigator decides that no abuse or neglect was discovered and therefore the children are safe, 2) the family is willing to take advantage of family and community resources to address the safety threats and improve the safety of their children, or 3) the investigator determines that the children are not safe, and it appears as if the family is not willing or able to use the community resources available to protect the children.
If an investigator concludes that the children are in danger, he or she may offer services to help the family correct the problem, make a referral to Family-Based Safety Services, or file a petition in civil court to protect the children. This type of court action could lead to the removal of children from the home and in the most serious of abuse or neglect cases, termination of parental rights.
If you are the target of a DFPS investigation due to allegations of child abuse or neglect, contact Hunt Law Firm, PLLC to meet with a Katy child custody attorney.