Adult Protective Services (APS):
- Investigates reports of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of adults in the community who are 65 or older or who have disabilities, and provides or arranges for protective services as needed.
- Investigates reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people living in state facilities, as well as adults and children with mental illness or intellectual disabilities in state-contracted community settings.
2014 Accomplishments and Initiatives
APS conducts regional reviews to ensure clients at the local level are getting quality services. In FY 2014, APS conducted reviews in the Houston area and South Texas to assess program performance, learn about best practices, and more fully understand the unique challenges facing frontline workers. APS uses this information to improve policy and casework practice. APS will review other areas throughout the state in coming years.
Improving Facility Investigations
In FY 2014, APS focused its efforts to improve the quality of facility investigations. APS expanded and formalized its collaboration with local children’s advocacy centers. The centers provide forensic interviews with APS clients alleged to have been sexually or physically abused. APS also began negotiating with the University of Texas Health Science Center to obtain forensic consultations by its physicians to help determine if a client was abused or neglected. Internally, APS had regional managemers conduct case reviews to give feedback to staff and promote consistent decision-making.
Improving In-Home Investigations and Services
It is not uncommon for APS clients who live at home to refuse to cooperate in developing a service plan to remedy abuse or neglect because they are concerned no one will care for their pets. APS attempts to locate friends, family members, volunteers, and community partners to provide pet care, but this is not always possible.
In 2014, APS began using Purchased Client Services funds to help APS clients with pet care needs. Banfield Charitable Trust also gave APS a grant. The nonprofit’s mission is to keep older adults and adults with disabilities together with their pets. Regions 1 (Panhandle) and 8 (San Antonio) are conducting a pilot of this new service as a part of the grant. The goals of the pilot include increasing client participation in service planning when the client has a pet, and using what’s learned to change policy. Between the generosity of Banfield Charitable Trust and the use of PCS funds, there should be fewer challenges to meeting our clients’ needs and helping them remain with their pets.
New Practice Model
APS is putting into action a new practice model for caseworkers called Strategies that Help Intervention and Evaluation Leading to Decisions (SHIELD). SHIELD is a structured decision-making model that was developed by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) that APS modified to fit its needs. SHIELD provides: Objective, reliable assessments to support decisions. Consistent and accurate decision making. Better information to help management plan, evaluate, and allocate resources. DFPS enhanced its case management system (IMPACT) so caseworkers can do these assessments in the field on tablet PCs. DFPS also develop SHIELD training that all In-Home Program employees and supervisors took in FY 2014 before the statewide SHIELD rollout on September 1, 2014.
APS continued its public awareness campaign titled “It’s Everyone’s Business” in FY 2014. 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.
- Enlisting community collaboration and support for APS clients and needed resources.
- Increasing awareness of APS programs and services.
During October 2013, 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 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 and APS partnered with community agencies to promote education and awareness of elder abuse around the state. Regional conferences, local media campaigns, and state, city 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 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 their local non-profit boards and elected to serve for three-year terms on the statewide board. Currently, APS collaborates with 25 non-profit boards throughout the state. Texas nonprofit 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 30th annual APS conference in San Antonio during November 2013.
The conference drew over 530 attendees from 11 states. The conference offered two general sessions and 54 workshops. Workshops included topics such as how to investigate and prosecute serial abusers, interacting with law enforcement, and communicating with clients who are cognitively impaired. APS leadership presented “core value” awards to staff who demonstrated an outstanding commitment to meeting the needs of clients. 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, until it declined in FY 2013 due to new rules and policy. By FY 2014, however, the number of In-Home investigations was once again rising. Many APS clients live alone and depended on others for care. In FY 2014, the workload for the Facility Investigations program remained at the record high levels reached between FY 2011 and FY 2013.
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 at TxAbuseHotline.org.
APS begins an investigation within 24 hours of receiving a report by contacting someone who has reliable and current information about the alleged victim APS can make the initial contact in person or by phone. APS may also provide or arrange for emergency services to alleviate or prevent further 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 caseworkers or DFPS intake specialists 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 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 conducted 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 the 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.