Whether you are concerned about the safety of a Child or are the subject of an investigation by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS) you will be dealing with the complex and often inconsistent policies and procedures of CPS investigators. Understanding the process can help you protect a Child at risk or alternatively clear your name if you are wrongfully accused.
How it starts:
In Texas when a person has "cause to believe" a Child has been the victim of abuse or neglect they are required to make a report to CPS. This "intake" or "referral" initaites a process at CPS that will only end when a Program Director at CPS decides to close the investigation. An investigation will be closed with an "investigative finding." The overwhelming majority of cases are closed with one of three findings: "Reason to believe," "Unable to Determine," or "Ruled Out." The CPS investigation process ordinarily moves quickly, and the results bring consequences that can rapidly change the lives of families unless handled appropriately.
The first act of a properly handled investigation is to assign the case to a caseworker in the region where the Child resides. That Caseworker must make contact with the Child alleged to have been abused or neglected within strict timeframes. Often within twenty four (24) hours. If a parent or caregiver does not allow the investigvative caseworker to observe the Child who is the subject of the investigation then CPS in many circumstances will take additional actions including seeking Court intervention.
Once the safety of a Child is secured, the caseworker will attempt to interview the parents or caregiver and any alleged perpetrator. The caseworker will record the interview. At this point of an investigation obtaining legal representation experienced in navigating the CPS system at this early stage of an investigation can help to quickly close the investigation and prevent further CPS involvement.
CPS will often request supporting documentation such as photographs, school and medical records relating to any of the allegations. Deciding what, if any, records to provide and how to respond depends on the circumstances of each case.
For the wrongfully accused having an investigative finding of "Reason to Believe" can have a serious adverse impact on your life. An alleged perpetrator with a reason to believe finding will have their name placed into a Central Registry. Being placed in the DFPS central registry will impact your ability to obtain employment involving Children, can be used as a weapon in Child custody litigation, and prevent a person from proceeding with an Adoption.