The Child Protective Services Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services investigates complaints of neglected or abused children. CPS also manages the foster care system and investigates individuals who wish to adopt a child. Although the safety of the child is paramount, CPS will make every reasonable effort to keep the family intact as long as the child’s safety seems certain.
CPS workers cannot release information that might identify the person making a complaint to the parents of a child alleged to be the victim of neglect or abuse. CPS may not release this information to the public, the child or the parents’ representative. Information about the child and his parents is confidential as well. CPS may release confidential information with the client’s consent to a child’s adoptive parents as part of the prosecution or investigation related to a federal or state program or to the child herself after she reaches adulthood. Other medical or social agencies, law enforcement agencies, district attorneys and judges may receive confidential data as needed. Once CPS closes a case and the retention period expires, CPS must delete the information from its database and destroy all paper files in a way that does not compromise confidential information.
Accepting Responsibility for Complaints
CPS only investigates cases if it is the legally responsible department and if the child appears to need protection warranting an investigation. If abuse or neglect has occurred and there is danger of repeated abuse or neglect, or if it is reasonable that abuse or neglect will occur in the near future, CPS may investigate. If a complaint reports past abuse or neglect, but the child is out of danger, CPS refers the complaint to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation as a possible criminal case. CPS will not investigate complaints that lack sufficient detail to enable the department to determine whether the legal definitions of neglect and abuse are met.
Interviewing Alleged Victims and Parents
CPS workers must obtain permission from a parent to enter the home and interview a child alleged to be a victim of abuse or neglect unless the worker has a court order or believes the child to be in immediate danger. If the parent refuses to allow CPS to interview the child, the caseworker cannot interview the child at school. However, the caseworker may interview the child at school if the parent is not present and consent has not previously been refused. CPS workers may pursue a court order to interview or remove the child, and if the worker believes the child to be in immediate danger, the worker may remove the child without obtaining a court order. During the first contact with an alleged abuser, the CPS worker must tell the individual why CPS is conducting the interview. The CPS worker must provide identification if requested, identify himself as a CPS caseworker, review each allegation, and ask for an explanation or response and document interviewees’ answers.
The CPS may obtain a criminal background check on alleged perpetrators, other people living in the home, and, if the parents request one, an individual caring for the victim in the provider’s home. CPS may, but is not required to, announce home visits in advance. Texas law requires any individual with a reasonable belief that a child has been neglected or abused to contact a law enforcement agency or the CPS. Although CPS discourages anonymous reports, the agency will investigate them if they appear to be factual and contain sufficient information.