In Texas, all citizens are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. When a report of child abuse or neglect is submitted to the DFPS Investigations division, CPS becomes involved. Child Protective Services (CPS) is a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Some of the general responsibilities of CPS include in-home services to families, including Family-Based Safety Services, placing children in foster care, providing services to help minors in foster care transition to adulthood successfully, and facilitating adoption.
Child Protective Investigations (CPI)
Reports of child abuse or neglect are investigated by Child Protective Investigations (CPI). It is CPI's job to determine if a child has been abused or neglected and identify any safety threats in the home. When a CPI investigator determines that a child (or children) is not safe, they will initiate protective services with CPS.
During a CPI investigation, the investigator will often interview both family members and others who may have knowledge of the situation. People commonly interviewed in child abuse cases include the child, the parents, teachers and care providers, doctors, relatives, neighbors, and family friends. They will also visit the family home. The investigator's goal is to get as complete a view of the situation as possible to determine if the report was credible.
What Happens After the Investigation?
If a report is not credible, the case will be dismissed. You will be notified of the dismissal via a letter in the mail.
If a report is deemed credible, there are several ways CPS may proceed, depending on the circumstances at hand. For example, they may begin with Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS), which are designed to ensure a child's safety in the home, or make a return to home possible if the child has been removed. CPS may also provide other in-home services to help reduce the risk of future abuse or neglect.
In serious cases, CPS can immediately remove the child from the home or request a removal from the court.
Who Can Make a Report of Child Abuse or Neglect?
Typically, investigations are initiated by law enforcement after a domestic violence call, when a call is made to DFPS by a mandatory reporter, or when someone calls the Texas Abuse Hotline. The Texas Abuse Hotline is a free, state-wide hotline, and anyone concerned about suspected child abuse or neglect can call the hotline or submit a report online.
How Reports are Classified
After a report is made, it will be classified as either Priority I or Priority II. Priority I reports are for situations in which a child faces an immediate risk of serious harm or even death. Investigations of Priority I reports must begin within 24 hours. Priority II reports are those in which there does not appear to be an immediate risk of serious harm or death, and investigations must begin within 72 hours. CPI makes every effort to complete investigations within 30 days, but there are situations in which extensions are granted.
In some cases, a report will not receive classification as Priority I or II and instead will be directed to an Alternative Response (AR). An AR remains focused on child safety but does not follow the traditional investigation route. There will be no substantiation of allegations nor entry of perpetrators into the Central Registry. AR is family-focused and emphasizes developing a family plan to ensure the safety of children in the home.
When a report is directed to an AR, contact is made with the family within 24 hours, and an assessment of the situation begins by the fifth day. Though Alternative Response differs from traditional CPI investigations, all concerns and allegations from the original report are addressed, and the child's safety remains the top priority.
There are some situations in which a report will not be investigated because it does not meet the Texas Family Code's legal definition of abuse or neglect. For example, if allegations are vague or the report does not contain enough information to locate the family.
To learn more about these types of reports, view our blog post here.
What to Do if Your Family Was Reported to CPS
If you have been contacted by CPS or a CPI investigator following a report of child abuse or neglect, you should seek counsel from an experienced attorney right away. You should also speak with a lawyer if you think a report might be made. CPS cases are complicated and difficult to navigate, and you run the risk of losing your children and your parental rights. It is important that you have reliable, trustworthy legal representation.
If you are a biological parent, adoptive parent, stepparent, or guardian struggling with a CPS case, call Hunt Law Firm, PLLC law firm at (832) 781-0320 for guidance.