When investigating abuse or neglect, CPS will do one of the following:
Prevent further harm to the child and keep the child with his or her family when possible. If this objective cannot be attained, CPS will consider removal of the child from the family and placement of the child with substitute families or caretakers.
Place the child in substitute care while helping to resolve family dysfunction so that the child can be returned to the family. If this objective cannot be attained, CPS will recommend the termination of the parent-child relationship and the permanent placement of the child with another family or caretaker.
Recommend termination of the parent-child relationship or other legal remedies that would authorize the child to be placed with another family or caretaker permanently.
Not all children involved in CPS investigations are removed from their home. In some circumstances CPS may determine that the immediate threat of harm has been removed, and the family will be asked to work services or attend various programs to ensure that the threat that started the investigation of the family has been addressed.
However, if CPS determines that abuse or neglect has occurred to the child, the child may be removed from the home. If this occurs, there will be a series of events and court proceedings that will occur as outlined and explained later in this handbook.
What is Abuse or Neglect?
When CPS is investigating an abuse or neglect allegation it is important to know exactly how abuse and neglect are defined in the Texas Family Code (“TFC”).
Abuse – “Abuse” includes the following acts or omissions by a person:
Mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning;
Causing or permitting the child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in a observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning;
Physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is inconsistent with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm;
Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent an action by another person that results in physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child;
Sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children under Section 21.02, Penal Code, indecency with a child under Section 21.11, Penal Code, sexual assault under Section 22.011, Penal Code, or aggravated sexual assault under Section 22.021, Penal Code;
Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child;
Compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct as defined by Section 43.01, Penal Code;
Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene as defined by Section 43.21, Penal Code, or pornographic;
(I) The current use by a person of a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child;
(J) Causing, expressly permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code; or
(K) Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child as defined by Section 43.25, Penal Code. Section 261.001(1).
(A) The leaving of a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, and the demonstration of an intent not to return the child by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator of the child;
The following acts or omissions by a person:
i. Placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would understand requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm to the child;
ii. Failing to seek, obtain, or follow through with medical care for a child, with the failure resulting in a presenting a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or bodily injury or with the failure resulting in an observable and material impairment to the growth, development, or functioning of the child;
iii. The failure to provide a child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child, excluding failure caused primarily by financial inability unless relief services had been offered and refused;
iv. Placing a child in or failing to remove the child from a situation in which the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of sexual conduct harmful to the child; or
v. Placing a child in or failing to remove the child from a situation in which the child would be exposed to acts or omissions that constitute abuse under Subsection (1)(E), (F), (G), (H), or (K) committed against another child; or
(C) The failure by the person responsible for a child’s care, custody, or welfare to permit the child to return to the child’s home without arranging for the necessary care for the child after the child has been absent from the home for any reason, including having been in residential placement or having run away.
Who Will Be Involved in a CPS Case?
When you are involved in a CPS case, it is also important to understand the parties who will be involved in the case and their roles if a lawsuit is filed.
Attorney for CPS – CPS may be represented by a regional attorney employed by CPS or the prosecuting attorney (District or County Attorney) for the particular jurisdiction. This attorney will represent CPS in court. The attorney for CPS has the burden to prove why the child should be in CPS custody or removed from the family.
Attorney Ad Litem (AAL) – Any child involved in a CPS case will have an attorney appointed by the court to represent their interests. This attorney is called an attorney ad litem. ‘Attorney ad litem’ means an attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child, and who owes to the person the duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation. TFC §107.001(2). The attorney ad litem will meet with the child, the child’s family members or others who are involved with the child such as teachers, doctors, or counselor. The attorney ad litem will act as an advocate for the child in court and will serve as an aid to help the court determine what orders are in the best interest of the child. In some cases, the attorney ad litem may also serve as a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the child. The guardian ad litem serves the same purpose as the attorney ad litem and will also act as an advocate for the child in court.
For information about the powers and duties of an AAL for a child, see TFC §107.003 and §107.004.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) – CASA is a group of trained volunteers to assist abused or neglected children going through the court system. The court may appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate in a CPS case. A CASA representative will report to the court on how the child is doing and what they feel is in the child’s best interest. In some cases, the CASA representative may also serve as a guardian ad litem (GAL) as outlined above.
CPS Caseworker – When your child is removed from your home, you will be given a notice of removal and the name and phone number of the CPS investigative caseworker. After approximately two to three weeks, your investigative worker will transfer the case to another caseworker. The CPS Caseworker will be the person at CPS that you will normally have contact with regarding your case. The caseworker will be asking questions of you and your family members and will be the one to give you most of the information about the CPS case. The caseworker will usually visit the child regularly and inform the family about the problems that brought about the CPS case. The caseworker will also deliver a service plan to the family and list the items that the family must complete to have the child returned to the home or to close out the CPS case.
Department – Means the Department of Family and Protective Services. TFC §261.001(2).
Designated Agency – Means the agency designated by the court to be responsible for the protection of children. TFC §261.001(3).
Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) – ‘Guardian ad litem’ means a person appointed to represent the best interest of a child.
The term includes:
A volunteer advocate appointed under Subchapter C;
A professional, other than an attorney, who holds a relevant professional license and whose training relates to the determination of a child’s best interests;
An adult having the competence, training, and expertise determined by the court to be sufficient to represent the best interests of the child; or
An attorney ad litem appointed to service in the dual role. TFC §107.001(5)
For information about the powers and duties of a GAL for a child, see TFC §107.002.
Mediation and Family Group Conference – At some point during a case involving CPS, the court may order that the parties attend a mediation or a family group conference. Mediation is a meeting attended by the mediator, the parents or guardian of the child, their attorneys, the CPS representatives involved in the case and the CPS attorney. In this meeting, the mediator will try and help facilitate an agreement between the parties regarding a resolution of the CPS case. If the parties reach an agreement, they will not have to attend a final trial and the case will be resolved with a final order reflecting the agreements that are reached. If an agreement is not reached, the parties will typically have to attend a final trial. The mediator is an independent and neutral party who is trained to help parties resolve their cases out of court.
Your Attorney – At your initial court proceedings, the court will ask the parent or guardian of the child if they have an attorney. The parent or guardian has a right to have an attorney to represent them in the court proceeding. If the suit involves a request by CPS to terminate the parental rights of a parent, and that parent cannot afford an attorney, the parent may ask the court to appoint them an attorney. If the suit does not involve a request by CPS to terminate the parental rights of a parent, the parent must obtain an attorney on their own. An attorney is an advocate for their client and an attorney does things such as speaking for their client in court, helping their client understand their rights, and informing their clients about the hearings that must be attended and what should be expected at each hearing.
Safety Plan – A safety plan is an agreement between the parents and the department to do certain things such as: taking random drug tests, maintaining a clean home, or relocating children with a family member until certain things are accomplished. The details of a safety plan depend on the facts of the individual case.
What Do the Terms Used By CPS Mean?
If an individual finds themselves reading a packet of CPS records or conversing with a CPS worker, they can become overwhelmed by the use of acronyms within the system. Below is a list of acronyms used by CPS and what they stand for.
AC Assistant Commissioner
ACF Administration for Children and Families
ACR Administrative Case Review
ADA Assistant District Attorney
AOC Aging Out of Care
AP Alleged Perpetrator
APS Adult Protective Services
ARD Admission, Review, Dismissal
ASFA Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997
AV Alleged Victim
CAC Children Advocacy Center
ARC Advancing Residential Child Care
BSD Basic Skills Development
BVS Bureau of Vital Statistics
CAPTA Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
CASA Court Appointed Special Advocate
CCL Child Care Licensing
CHIP Children’s Health Insurance Program
CIP Court Improvement Project
CIRT Critical Incident Resource Team
CIS Communities in School
CLASS Child-Care Licensing Automation Support System
COAC Council on Adoptable Children
COS Circle of Support
CPS Child Protective Services
CRCG Community Resource Coordination Group
CREST Comprehensive Relative Enhancement, Support & Training
CRT Citizens Review Team
CWA Closed Without Assignment
CWB Child Welfare Board
CWD Children with Disabilities
CWLA Child Welfare League of America
CYD Community Youth Development
DADS Department of Aging and Disability Services
DARS Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
DD District Director
DSHS Department of State Health Services
DFPS Department of Family and Protective Services
DIFF El Desarrolio Integral de la Familia
DOB Date of Birth
DPS Department of Public Safety
EA Emergency Assistance
ECI Texas Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention
EMAB Emotional Abuse
ES Educational Specialist
FAD Foster and Adopt
FBSS Family-Based Safety Service
FF Foster Father
FGDM Family Group Decision Making
FH Foster Home
FM Foster Mother
FTE Full Time Equivalent
FTM Family Team Meeting
HHSC Health and Human Services Commission
HIPPY Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters
HS Home Study
HSEGH Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History Report
I&R Information and Review
ICF-MR Intermediate Care Facility for Persons with Mental Retardation
ICPC Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children
ICWA Indian Child Welfare Act
IFCC Interagency Foster Care Committee
IL Independent Living
INS Immigration and Naturalization Service
IT Information Technology
LAR Legislative Appropriation Request
LBB Legislative Budget Board
LOC Level of Care
MDNG Medical Neglect
MEPA Multi Ethnic Placement Act
MHMR Mental Health and Mental Retardation
NCANDS National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System
NSUP Neglectful Supervision
OIG Office of Inspector General
OCOC One Church One Child
OV Oldest Victim
P1 Priority 1
P2 Priority 2
PA Program Administrator
PC Permanency Conference
PD Program Director
PD Public Defender
PDD Professional Development Department
PHAB Physical Abuse
PEP Parents Empowering Parents
PMC Permanent Managing Conservatorship
PPT Permanency Planning Team
PRIDE Parent Resource for Information Development and Education
PSTI Protective Services Training Institute
RCCL Residential Child Care Licensing
RO Ruled Out
RTB Reason to Believe
RTC Residential Treatment Center
SACWIS Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System
SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
SAVERR System for Application and Verification of Eligibility Reporting and Review
SI Special Investigation
SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
SO State Office
SOAH State Office for Administrative Hearings
SSA Social Security Administration
SSI Social Security Income
STAR Services to at-Risk Youth
SWI Statewide Intake
TAC Texas Administrative Code
TALCS Texas Association of Leaders in Children and Family Services
TANF Temporary Aid to Needy Families
TARE Texas Adoption Resource Exchange
TEA Texas Education Agency
TFC Texas Family Code
TIFI Texas Integrated Funding Initiative
TJPC Texas Juvenile Probation Commission
TMC Texas Managing Conservatorship
TNOYS Texas Network of Youth Services
TPC Temporary Possessory Conservatorship
TPR Termination of Parental Rights
TSD Texas School for the Deaf
TSFPI Texas State Foster Parents Incorporated
TWC Texas Workforce Commission
TYC Texas Youth Commission
URM Unaccompanied Refugee Minor
UTD Unable to Determine
YES Youth Emancipating from the System
YFT Youth for Tomorrow
When Can Your Child be Removed from Your Home?
CPS normally concludes a removal is necessary when:
• there is a present danger of serious harm to children in the home;
• the caregiver’s protective capacities are insufficient to keep all of the children safe from the harm; and
• there are no reasonable efforts that CPS can make to prevent removal that would be consistent with the safety of the children. When there has been a report of abuse or neglect, the CPS worker must conduct an investigation to determine the answers to the following questions:
1. Is the child safe?
Workers must, first and foremost, ensure that children are protected from abuse and neglect, free from immediate threats of serious harm, and safely maintained in their homes. If a child appears to face an immediate threat of serious harm at any time, the worker, in concert with the supervisor, must take appropriate actions to protect the child.
2. Did abuse or neglect occur?
The worker must seek to determine whether there is a preponderance of evidence that a child was abused or neglected. If a preponderance of evidence does not indicate that abuse or neglect occurred, the worker must seek to determine whether the allegations should be “ruled out” or found “unable to determine.” If the worker determines that there is a preponderance of evidence that abuse or neglect occurred, the worker must further seek to determine:
• the nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect; and
• the identity of the person responsible for the abuse or neglect. The worker may determine that a perpetrator cannot be named even though a preponderance of evidence indicates that a child was abused or neglected.
Is the child at risk of future abuse or neglect?
The worker must determine whether there is a reasonable likelihood that children in the family or household will be abused or neglected in the foreseeable future after the investigation.
4. Does the child and family need services?
The worker must determine whether the child and family members need to be offered CPS services or referrals to community agencies during or after the investigation to meet safety goals and to support the goals of permanency and well-being for the child. Note: If the investigation worker determines that CPS lacks jurisdiction of the case, the worker must recommend closure of the investigation without determining whether abuse or neglect occurred, the child is at risk of future abuse or neglect, or the family needs services. If the worker is concerned about the child’s safety, he or she must immediately notify the entity responsible for the investigation.
Throughout an investigation, the caseworker constantly assesses a child’s situation to determine whether the child is safe from harm. In the context of safety assessment, safe is defined as:
• the absence of threats to a child’s safety in the home; or
• the control of threats by the caregiver’s ability and willingness to adequately manage foreseeable threats of harm to the child in the home.
If there is no danger of serious harm to a child within the family, the worker must be alert to the development of threats to a child’s safety in the home. If the child is not safe from a danger of serious harm at any time, the caseworker must take immediate protective action.
What Happens After Your Child is Removed From Home?
If your child is removed from your home, you will be notified in writing and you will receive a copy of the paperwork that has been filed with the court. One of the forms you will receive is called a petition. The petition is a court pleading that is created after a report is received and investigated by CPS. The petition will name the parent or guardian of a child as a respondent. This is the term used by the Child Protection Court for the parent or guardian in a child abuse and neglect case.
The petition will list one or more allegations (allegations are located in the Affidavit attached to the petition) — statements of what happened and reasons why your child needs to be in the custody of CPS.
Things to keep in mind:
– You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford to pay for an attorney, and CPS is seeking to terminate your parental rights, you may ask the judge to appoint an attorney for you.
– You have the right to admit or deny the allegations made about you and your family.
– You have the right to be notified of all court hearings.
– You have the right to attend all court hearings and meetings.
– You have the right to an interpreter in court if you do not understand English or are hearing impaired.
– You have the right to talk to your CPS caseworker and your attorney. Remember they may be busy with someone else when you call. Be sure to leave a message with a phone number where you can be reached or try to call them again. Keep track of the best times to call them.
Things move very quickly in child abuse and neglect cases. Be sure that you know what you are supposed to do and when, and then do it. It could make the difference in whether your child is returned to you or not.
If a court orders that a child be removed from their home:
• the family will work with CPS on a plan to be reunited with the child;
• CPS will work with the family to develop an alternate placement for the child; and/or
• there will be a hearing at which time the court will determine where the child will be placed temporarily while the case is pending.
If the court does not return the child home, the court will place the child with a foster family home, a group home or residential facility, or the home of a relative. The court will review the progress of the child and the family’s participation in services every 6 months and will have a permanency hearing after 12 months. After a year, if the family completes the reunification plan set up by CPS and the court, the child will return home. If the family does not complete the reunification plan, the court will most likely proceed with terminating the parents’ rights. The court will then place the child in a permanent home (adoptive, relative, or guardian) or the child will remain in foster care. If the child is put in a permanent home, the case will be closed. If the child is placed in foster care, the child will remain there until age 18 if no permanent home can be found. In this scenario, the case will be closed when the child has reached the age of 18 and has “aged-out” of the system.
What Happens When CPS Does Not Remove A Child?
If CPS determines that the removal of a child is not necessary, the case worker will normally refer the family to services available through CPS or develop a safety plan for the parents, guardians or family members who will remain in possession of the child. A safety plan is a written agreement that is executed between CPS and the family members who will maintain possession of the child.
This agreement contains actions that the family agrees to do to keep the child safe such as:
• the parents seek help from family members, neighbors, or others in the community to protect the children;
• the worker refers the family to community services that help protect the children;
• the worker directly provides the family with services such as in-home visitation and monitoring; and/or
• the worker offers the family the safety services that are purchased through regional contracts.
Examples of services provided to the family include things such as:
• substance-abuse prevention, treatment, and testing;
• sexual-abuse exams;
• evaluation and treatment services;
• emergency homemaker services;
• concrete services such as, transportation and utility assistance;
• protective day care;
• moving the protective parent into a safe environment with the children (Example: After obtaining temporary shelter in a family violence center, an abused woman and her children move into a friend’s home);
• parents voluntarily place the children out of the home (Example: The parents place the child with an aunt and uncle); and/or
• The alleged perpetrator leaves the home during the investigation so that the children can remain in the home.
It is important for the family members who are a party to the safety plan to follow the terms of the agreement and participate in the services provided. If the safety plan is not followed, this could be used as a factor for the removal of the child from the family members who are in violation of the agreement.
What is the Court Procedure Involved in a CPS Case?
When a parent does not voluntarily place their child in a safe home or provide the services needed to provide a safe home, the department will file a lawsuit to order a removal and/or order certain services be performed during a requisite time frame as set forth below. If CPS takes possession of a child without the agreement of a parent or guardian, the following deadlines apply and are calculated from the date the child is removed from the home:
Day 1: Removal of Child/Emergency Hearing
CPS may conduct an emergency removal of a child if a CPS worker finds:
• there is a present danger of serious harm to the child in the home;
• the caregiver’s protective capacities are insufficient to keep the child safe from the harm; and/or
• there are no reasonable efforts that CPS can make to prevent removal of the child that would be consistent with the safety of the child.
If a child is removed by CPS without a hearing, an emergency hearing must be held by a court on the “first working day” after removal, but no more than three days after removal (TFC §262.106). At this hearing, the court will determine if the factors listed above exist. If the above-findings are made, the child will remain in the possession of CPS until further order of the court.
Day 14 (after removal): Adversary Hearing
At this hearing the court will enter temporary orders regarding the child or return the child to the parent, guardian or relative if the court finds it is safe to do so and is in the child’s best interest. If the child is not returned, the court will name CPS as the temporary managing conservator of the child and the temporary orders will set forth guidelines regarding the rights of the parties, visitation, child support, and services to perform (i.e. counseling, substance abuse evaluations, random drug tests, anger management, and parenting classes).
Day 60 (after removal): Status Hearing
Within 60 days after temporary managing conservatorship is awarded at the 14-day Adversary Hearing, the court will review the child’s status and the permanency plan (TFC §263.201).
Day 180 (after removal): Initial Permanency Hearing
At this hearing the court will perform the following tasks:
• Review or locate any service efforts for the parties and the child (TFC §263.301(c); 263.306(2)).
• Review CPS’s efforts in attempting to locate all necessary persons; requesting service of citation; and obtaining assistance from a parent in attempting to locate an absent parent, alleged father, or relative of the child.
• Return the child to the parents if it is safe to do so and is in the child’s best interest.
• Place the child with a non-parent having standing under Chapter 102 of the TFC if it is safe to do so and is in the child’s best interest.
• Evaluate CPS efforts to identify relatives with whom placement could be safely made.
• Evaluate the parties’ compliance with temporary orders and the services plan.
• Determine whether the current placement is appropriate for meeting the child’s needs, including with respect to a child who has been placed outside of the state, whether that placement continues to be in the best interest of the child or if any other plans or services are needed to meet the child’s special needs or circumstances.
• Determine plans, services, and further temporary orders necessary to ensure final orders are rendered prior to the dismissal deadline.
Day 270 (after removal): Permanency Hearing
At this hearing the court will perform the same duties and tasks as it did at the 180-day Initial Permanency Hearing. Every 120 days after the 180-day Initial Permanency Hearing, the court will conduct additional permanency hearings and will continue to perform the duties and tasks at each hearing. The court may shorten, but may not extend, the 120-day deadline for subsequent permanency hearings (TFC §263.305).
Day 360 (after removal): Trial/Dismissal of Suit/Extension of Case
At this stage, the court must enter a final order, dismiss the case, or extend the deadline for the finalization of the case by 180 days if the court finds extraordinary circumstances. “Final order” is an order that does one of the following:
• Returns the child to a parent;
• Grants managing conservatorship to a relative or other person;
• Appoints CPS as the permanent managing conservator; or
• Terminates the parent-child relationship;
At this hearing, the court may also extend the time to enter a final order by an additional 180 days from the original deadline (TFC §263.401(b).
Day 540: Dismiss/Return to Monitor/Trial
The case must be dismissed on the next Monday following 18 months from the date the temporary managing conservatorship was granted to CPS unless either:
• A final order has been entered (TFC §263.401(d); or
• The child has been placed with a parent or relative for up to 180 days of monitoring (TFC §263.403).
Day 720: Dismiss/Trial
The case must be dismissed or the court must enter a final order regarding the conservatorship of the child by this date.
If I am a Father What Do I Need to Know?
If a father has established his parental rights to a child in a suit to adjudicate parentage or under some other law, the father will be entitled to notice of a proceeding filed by the CPS regarding a child. However, if a father’s parental rights have not been adjudicated, the father may not receive any notice of such an action. Therefore, acknowledging paternity for a child born to unmarried parents is very important. Under Texas law, a father may establish his paternity of a child born to unmarried parents by:
Signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity that is filed with the State Bureau of Vital Statistics;
Registering with the Bureau of Vital Statistics registry of paternity BEFORE the birth of the child, but not later than the 31st day after the date of the birth of the child; or
Filing suit with the Attorney General’s office or with a private attorney to establish paternity.
If a father has established paternity by one of the foregoing methods, notice of a proceeding to adopt or to terminate the rights regarding a child must be given to the father before a final order can be entered.
Acknowledgement of Paternity forms can be found at the hospital, the local registrar, the child support office, or the State Bureau of Vital Statistics at (512) 458-7393.
For more information on this topic or for legal consultation please contact Blanchard & Thomas Law Firm.