If you have been accused of child abuse or neglect and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, or the Child Protective Services (CPS), are investigating your case, it’s important to seek legal counsel immediately. Often, parents mistakenly believe their case will be dropped if they work with the CPS or the CPS will immediately recognize their innocence. This is often not the case as the CPS is a governmental investigative agency that frequently violates many parents’ fundamental rights to parent and raise their children without interference by the government. The CPS will commonly remove a child from their home and place the child in foster care. However, CPS caseworkers are required to first consider at least temporary placement with a relative.
Contact Dunham & Jones for a free consultation if you are being investigated by Child Protective Services for the best legal defense and identify any legal strategies necessary for your case. Our family crimes attorneys are experienced in defending cases involving the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and focus on matters involving children and complex, emotionally charged situations, including those of false or exaggerated charges. Call now to learn how the family crimes attorneys at Dunham & Jones can help you through this difficult time.
The Purpose of Child Protective Services (CPS)
The Texas Child Protective Services investigates reports of abuse and neglect of children throughout the state, in addition to:
- Placing children in adoptive homes or foster care;
- Providing services to children and families in their owns; and
- Providing services to youth in foster care as they transition into adulthood.
If anyone reports child abuse or neglect to CPS, Child Protective Services will begin an investigation to determine if the allegations are true. They will also examine the individual and family functions to determine whether any child is at risk for abuse or neglect. If the CPS caseworker determines this is the case, they will initiate protective services to the child who is in need of protection.
Common Offenses Investigated by the CPS in Texas
Child Abuse – Tex. Penal Code § 22.04 – An individual can be investigated for injury to a child, or child abuse, if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence cause:
- Bodily injury to a child,
- Serious bodily injury to a child, or
- Serious mental deficiency, impairment or injury to a child.
Abuse – Tex. Family Code § 261.001(1) – An individual can be investigated for child abuse of they engage in any of the following acts or omissions:
- Allow a child to engage in a sexual performance;
- Allow a child to use a controlled substance;
- Cause mental or emotional injury to a child;
- Cause physical injury or threat of substantial harm to the child;
- Commit sexual conduct harmful to a child’s emotional, mental or physical welfare;
- Compel or encourage a child to engage in sexual conduct or pornography;
- Fail to make a reasonable effort to prevent harmful sexual conduct to a child;
- Fail to make a reasonable effort to prevent the acts of another person resulting in physical injury;
- Permit a child to be in a situation where the child receives mental or emotional injury; and/or
- Use a controlled substance in a way that results in mental, emotional or physical injury to a child.
Neglect – Tex. Family Code § 261.001(4) – An individual can be investigated for child neglect if they engage in any of the following acts or omissions:
- Fail to provide a child with food, clothing or shelter necessary to sustain the child’s life;
- Fail to seek medical care for a child that results in a substantial risk of death, disfigurement or bodily injury;
- Leave a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm; and/or
- Place a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm or harmful sexual conduct.
General CPS Investigation Process
When investigating allegations of child abuse or neglect are reported to the CPS, they will initiate and complete the investigation within a 30-day period. The CPS caseworker will determine the following after the investigation:
- Whether neglect or abuse has occurred;
- Whether the child is at further risk of neglect or abuse; and
- Whether the child is safe.
When conducting an investigation as to whether child abuse or neglect has occurred, the CPS will generally do any of the following:
- Interview the allegedly abused or neglected child, which must be video or audio taped;
- Make a reasonable effort to inform the family of any interviews and the nature of the allegations within 24 hours after an investigation has taken place;
- Discuss the report with the family to determine if there are any explanations for injuries, safety concerns or risk of child neglect or abuse.
- Interview other children in the home;
- Visually examine children for physical signs of abuse or neglect;
- Interview other people who may have information on the situation;
- Request mental health records;
- Request medical, psychological or psychiatric examinations of the child or other family members; and
- Visit the home.
Possible Repercussions of a CPS Investigation
After an investigation into allegations of child abuse or neglect has been conducted by the CPS, they will assign a disposition to the case. This means they will make a determination as to whether there is evidence of abuse or neglect and if the CPS should continue to move forward with the case. The most common dispositions can include any of the following:
- Reason to Believe – This disposition is determined by a preponderance of the evidence, and is based on the conclusion that abuse or neglect has occurred.
- Ruled Out – This disposition is based on available information as to whether it is reasonable to conclude that abuse or neglect has not occurred.
- Unable to Complete – This disposition is based on an investigation that cannot be completed because the family was unable to be located or refused to operate with the investigation.
- Unable to Determine – This disposition is an alternative if none of the preceding dispositions apply to the investigation.
- Administrative Closure – This disposition is based on evidence that intervention by the CPS is unwarranted or unnecessary.
Additionally, the CPS caseworker must determine if there is a reasonable likelihood to believe the child will be abused or neglected in the future. After conducting the investigation, the caseworker will determine if the children are at risk or if they are not at risk.
- The CPS determines the children are not at risk – If there are no significant risk factors and abuse or neglect has not been found to have occurred in the investigation or the case may be closed if the family is willing and able to deal with risk factors in their lives so the children are not at risk through the use of family and community resources.
- The CPS determines the children are at risk – If the caseworker identifies significant risk factors or the family is unwilling or unable to deal with risk factors in their lives to ensure the safety of the children in the future through the use of family and community resources.
If a CPS caseworker determines a child is at risk of neglect or abuse, they may proceed with any of the following:
- Recommending services the family can utilize to address the problem;
- Removing the child from the home;
- Opening the case for family-based safety services; or
- Filing a petition to initiate civil court action in order to protect the victim.
Contact Dunham & Jones for Legal Defense against CPS Investigation
If you have been accused of child neglect or abuse by the CPS in Texas, contact Dunham & Jones now. Dunham & Jones’ aggressive family crimes attorneys will make every effort to fight the allegations against you.
Dunham & Jones provides you with the following when defending your CPS investigation:
- Put the CPS on notice that you are fighting for your children, fighting for your rights and fighting for your innocence;
- An explanation of the CPS child-taking process and how parental rights may be terminated;
- A defense for your case at trial;
- Preventing child removal or fighting to have the child returned home if already removed;
- Protection of your family rights; and
- If child removal is necessary in your case, fighting to have your children placed with family members as opposed to strangers or in foster care.
For a free consultation, call now to discuss your pending CPS investigation.
Additional Resources for Child Protective Services
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services – Learn more about the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the abuse hotlines, DFPS news and state-wide statistics.