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What You Should Know About Texas Child Protective Services

Child Protective Services (CPS) is a government agency that runs on the state level. According to the Texas CPS, the mission of the agency is "to protect children from abuse and neglect by working with families to ensure safety, permanency, and well-being for children." Last year alone, the Texas CPS found that 66,398 children were confirmed as victims of abuse or neglect, and 156 children died from maltreatment.

If you're a parent, understanding how CPS gets involved in cases and what their operating protocol looks like can be incredibly useful.

If you're involved in a CPS case, you should contact an attorney immediately. At Garcia-Windsor, P.C., our team has over 80 years of experience working with clients to resolve family law cases. For a free consultation from our team, contact us online or give us a call at (214) 972-3025.

When Does CPS Get Involved in Cases?

CPS takes on cases when somebody reports potential child abuse, neglect, or other forms of maltreatment to the agency. Frequently, individuals will call CPS of their own volition if they believe a child is being mistreated. However, certain 'mandated reporters' who are required to report to CPS if they suspect a child is suffering from abuse.

Mandated reporters are individuals who regularly interact with vulnerable individuals, such as children or the elderly. Some examples of mandatory reporters include:

  • teachers,
  • social workers,
  • health care professionals,
  • law enforcement professionals (LEPs),
  • mental health professionals,
  • childcare providers,
  • and other professionals in adjacent disciplines who regularly interact with vulnerable people.

Generally, it's safe to assume CPS will investigate any reports they receive, usually within 24 hours, if possible. However, in certain circumstances, CPS may choose not to actually assign a caseworker to a report (although they are required to investigate every report). For example, if CPS receives a report that a 17-year-old is being left alone every day between the hours of 3:30-6:00 pm, but the reporter doesn't indicate any other signs of abuse (yelling, physical injuries, abnormal behavior, etc.) they may decide the report isn't substantive enough to warrant a caseworker.

What Does a CPS Investigation Look Like in Texas?

For detailed coverage of how CPS investigations progress under a variety of circumstances, visit the Texas CPS document linked above in this article and scroll to the end. You'll find an in-depth flowchart of Texas' CPS system starting on page 25 and ending on page 30. Generally, here's how a CPS investigation progresses:

  1. CPS receives a report. When CPS receives a report, it considers a variety of factors, such as the relationship between the reporter, victim, and alleged perpetrator, the resources available to the family, and what kind of abuse is being reported. CPS then uses these guidelines to determine whether or not the report warrants an investigation.
  2. CPS classifies the report. If CPS believes the report should be investigated immediately, it's classified as a Priority 1 case and investigated within 24 hours. Less urgent cases are considered Priority 2 and are investigated within 72 hours. Cases CPS believes are not critical but may still legally meet the requirements for neglect do not have a priority and are investigated at the leisure of CPS.
  3. A caseworker is assigned. Once CPS assigns a caseworker, they'll begin investigating the case. Before the caseworker actually goes on-site, they conduct a preliminary investigation of the alleged perpetrator. For example, they'll run a background check to see if the alleged is a criminal or has a history of abuse, and if so, what their background is. The caseworker may also speak with the reporter or individuals who know the alleged or the victim to determine what the family dynamic is like.
  4. The caseworker goes on-site. Once at the site of the alleged abuse, the caseworker will interview all parties involved, including the alleged perpetrator and victim. The caseworker will also often ask to see the house better to determine the living conditions and dynamic of the household.
  5. The caseworker completes safety and risk assessments. Using the information from their investigation, the caseworker will try to determine whether or not the victim is indeed suffering from abuse, neglect, or other maltreatment, and if so, what role the alleged perpetrator plays. Depending on the caseworker's decision, a variety of actions may be taken. If the caseworker determines the victim is not suffering abuse, the case will be closed. If the caseworker determines abuse or neglect is present but does not warrant a criminal charge, they may require the perpetrator to work with CPS to develop a plan for remediation (such as attending therapy with the victim, consenting to regular CPS visits, or removing themself from the home). If the caseworker determines the victim is in danger and should be removed from the home, they'll take the necessary steps to achieve that objective.
  6. The caseworker tries to develop a plan to resolve the situation. The goal of CPS is not to take children away from families or hurt parents. In most situations, CPS works with the victim's caretakers to try and ensure the abuse or neglect discontinues, while still allowing the family to remain together. Possible steps include treatment such as therapy and mandatory parenting courses for the perpetrators. CPS will also remove children from homes if they think doing so is warranted, but will try and work with caretakers to bring the family together again if the correct steps are taken. Depending on the severity of the case, CPS may require face-to-face contact with the victims and caretakers as many as two times per week.
  7. If necessary, CPS will place the victim with new caretakers. This step is a last resort but is necessary in situations where the victim is severely abused, or the perpetrators face criminal charges. Typically, the children are placed with kin who can care for them, or are placed in a temporary home such as foster care. If the caretakers take the necessary steps to correct their behavior, they may still be reunified with their children. If they fail to do so, however, the children may be permanently placed in a different home or transferred to the foster care system, where they may become eligible for adoption.

Remember, CPS will always try and ensure families remain together. It prefers corrective action to pressing criminal charges and will take every measure to keep families unified.

Helpful Tips for Interacting with CPS

If you're involved in a CPS case, you're probably stressed and aren't sure what you should do. Here are some of our tips for interacting with CPS:

  • Collaborating with CPS caseworkers is in your best interest. You can technically refuse to let CPS in your home, or refuse other requests such as drug tests. However, doing so probably isn't in your best interest. CPS caseworkers will take how much (or little) you've cooperated with them into account when determining how to handle your case. Remember, removing children from a home is the last resort for CPS caseworkers—they'd much rather provide a caretaker with the resources they need to care for their children properly. Collaborating with CPS workers helps them achieve that goal.
  • Expect uncomfortable questions. It's the caseworker's job to be as thorough as possible during the investigation, and they'll probably ask you questions that make you uncomfortable. Prepare yourself to answer stressful questions, or be put in situations that may make you uncomfortable.
  • CPS can interact with your child or children without your permission. You may not be legally obligated to let CPS investigate your home, take drug tests, or abide by other demands that involve you, but you can't stop them from seeing your children. CPS can meet with your children without your permission, which is another reason cooperating with CPS is generally advisable, regardless of your situation.

If you're involved in a CPS case, working with an attorney who understands family law inside and out is essential. At Garcia-Windsor, P.C., our Dallas CPS attorney will work with you to help you navigate your case. For a free consultation, contact us online or via phone at (214) 972-3025.

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