The responsibilities of Adult Protective Services (APS) are to:
- Investigate reports of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of adults in the community who are 65 or older or who have disabilities, and to provide or arrange for protective services as needed.
- Investigate reports of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of individuals living in state-operated facilities as well as adults and children with mental illness or intellectual disabilities who are served in state-contracted community settings.
2013 Accomplishments and Initiatives
APS conducts regional reviews to ensure quality service is being provided to the program’s clients at the local and regional level. In FY 2013, APS conducted reviews in Northwest Texas (Regions 2/9) and Central Texas (Region 7) to assess program performance, learn about best practices, and more fully understand the unique challenges facing frontline case-workers. APS uses this information to improve APS policy and casework practice. APS will review other areas throughout the state in coming years.
Improving Facility Investigations
APS continued its effort in FY 2013 to improve the timeliness and efficiency of facility investigations. The focus was on consistency in decision-making. APS implemented new processes to better coordinate and communicate with its facility-investigation units statewide. These changes included a new program improvement committee for facility investigations, improving the quality of feedback from state office after case reviews, developing new quality assurance standards, and holding quarterly meeting for supervisors.
Improving In-Home Investigations and Services
APS implemented changes in rules and policies in FY 2013 to improve the services of its In-Home program, which investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults in the community. When maltreatment is confirmed, the program provides and arranges for services to stop the abuse, neglect or financial exploitation (ANE).
The Texas Legislature (Senate Bill 221, 82nd R.S.) gave APS the authority to define abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation in rule, replacing definitions in law. The new rules focus investigations and limited resources on the alleged victims APS is most able to help. They also hold paid caretakers to a higher standard of duty than unpaid caretakers.
New guidelines also strengthen the screening of ANE reports by Statewide Intake and clarified the types of adults with disabilities that qualify for APS services. As expected, the number of APS investigations dropped. APS closely monitored this decline to guard against unintended consequences.
APS’ other major focus for improving the In-Home program was developing new processes and assessment tools, known collectively as SHIELD. An APS group that included field staff worked with national experts to design the new processes and create tools to assess the safety, risk of recidivism, strengths, and needs of clients. APS used a pilot to gain valuable feedback on the new tools and expects to put them into practice in FY 2015.
APS offered training to all management staff in the summer of 2013 to help them become better leaders. Individual sessions for Facility and In-Home program supervisors focused on issues specific to each program.
APS continued its public awareness campaign titled “It’s Everyone’s Business” in FY 2013. The campaign targets the general public, law enforcement, judicial partners, and other partner organizations that provide services to vulnerable adults through news stories, local conferences, and community awareness events.
The goals of the campaign include:
- Raising awareness about the problems of adult abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Adult Protective Services 4 Adult Protective Services Texas Department of Family and Protective Services 2013 Annual Report Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
- Enlisting community collaboration and support.
- Increasing awareness of APS programs and resources.
During October 2012, the campaign focused on financial exploitation with the theme, “If it’s not your money, it’s a crime.” Regions worked with community partners such as law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, and banking institutions to provide education and awareness about financial exploitation of the people who are elderly or have disabilities. To learn more about APS public awareness activities and download information on elder abuse and financial exploitation, visit EveryonesBusiness.org.
May is Older Americans and Elder Abuse Prevention Month. On May 6, 2013, Senator Jose Rodriguez from El Paso welcomed APS Assistant Commissioner Beth Engelking and two members of Texas Partners for APS, Gabriella Reed and Michael Melson, to the Senate floor of the Capitol to proclaim May as Elder Abuse Prevention Month in Texas. In May, APS partnered with community agencies to promote education and awareness of elder abuse. Regional conferences, local media campaigns, and state and county proclamations highlighted the importance of protecting vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.
Texas Partners for Adult Protective Services
Texas Partners for Adult Protective Services is a statewide non-profit organization that is affiliated with APS. It helps improve the lives of APS clients by developing resources and providing assistance to local boards that support APS. Texas Partners for APS is made up of volunteers who are nominated by local non-profit boards. Currently, APS collaborates with twenty-four non-profit boards throughout the state.
Texas non-profit boards:
- Sponsor community events to raise funds to purchase items for APS clients.
- Assist APS staff with educating the public and other service providers about elder abuse issues.
- Provide expertise as speakers for community events and training.
- Sponsor APS staff with recognition and appreciation events.
- Stock and maintain emergency resource rooms in APS offices, giving APS caseworkers easy access to basic necessities for clients.
The annual APS conference is a major national training event that offers continuing education credits to social workers. APS held the 29th annual APS conference in San Antonio during November 2012. The conference drew over 530 attendees from 16 states.
The conference offered two general sessions and 45 workshops. Workshops included topics such as identifying and assessing injuries in homes versus institutional settings, working with law enforcement, and untangling dementia. Every year, the conference gives staff the chance to network and to learn from and with others who serve, treat, and represent victims of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.
Two program areas serve APS clients: In-Home Investigations and Services, and Facility Investigations.
As the population of adults who are 65 and older or who have a disability continues to grow, so does the need for protective services. The workload for the In-Home Investigations and Services program had been at record high levels the past few years, Adult Protective Services 5 Texas Department of Family and Protective Services but declined in FY 2013 due to new rules and policy. Many of APS’ clients lived alone and depended on others for care. In FY 2013, the workload for the Facility Investigations program remained at the record high levels reached in 2011 and 2012.
In-Home Investigations and Services
The largest APS program is In-Home Investigations and Services. The In-Home program investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of adults who are elderly or have disabilities and live in their own homes or in unlicensed room-and-board homes.
This program also investigates allegations of financial exploitation of adults living in nursing homes who may be financially exploited by someone outside the facility. State law requires anyone who believes that an adult who is elderly or has a disability is being abused, neglected, or financially exploited to report it. DFPS takes these reports at 1-800-252-5400 or online att https://www.txabusehotline.org.
APS begins an investigation by contacting someone who has reliable and current information about the alleged victim within 24 hours of receiving a report. APS can make the initial contact in person or by phone. If APS confirms the allegation, it may provide or arrange for emergency services to alleviate abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. These services may include short-term shelter, food, medication, health services, financial assistance for rent and utilities, transportation, and minor home repair.
APS works in partnership with other social service agencies to provide resources to vulnerable adults. APS also works closely with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) on cases that may require guardianship services. APS investigators or DFPS intake caseworkers may notify law enforcement at any point during an investigation if they suspect the allegations constitute a crime.
APS is responsible for investigating abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of people living in state-operated facilities and those receiving services in state-contracted community settings that serve adults and children with mental illness or intellectual disabilities. Investigations are conduct-ed in:
- State-supported living centers, state hospitals, and the Rio Grande State Center.
- Community centers.
- Privately operated intermediate-care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
- Home and community-based waiver programs.
APS starts an investigation after DFPS’ Texas Abuse Hotline receives an allegation. DFPS notifies the facility or provider agency within one hour and notifies law enforcement and the Health and Human Services Commission Office of Inspector General (OIG) within one hour if necessary. APS completes the investigation, makes a finding for each allegation, and sends a report to the provider as well as law enforcement and OIG if necessary. The provider is responsible for taking appropriate steps to protect their clients. APS also determines if the perpetrator meets the criteria for being added to the Employee Misconduct Registry. This registry bars people from certain jobs that involve working with people with disabilities (this also applies to certain In-Home cases). DFPS will send the name of the confirmed perpetrator to the registry after providing due process.