As an education professional, you may be faced with the difficult task of recognizing abuse and neglect of a student.

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How does the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) define abuse and neglect? Get Answer ...

DFPS defines abuse and neglect using definitions found in the Texas Family Code (TFC). The TFC contains detailed legal definitions of abuse and neglect.

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Abuse

  • Physical abuse is a physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, such as bruises, fractures, or death. It also can include a genuine threat of harm even if there is no visible injury.
  • Sexual abuse is sexual conduct harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare. This includes fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or producing pornography.
  • Emotional abuse is an action that results in a marked impact on a child's growth, development, or psychological functioning. Emotional abuse includes extreme forms of punishment such as confining a child in a dark closet, habitual scapegoating, or belittling to the point that it results in noticeable effects on the child's daily functioning.
    More On Abuse

    Physical injury or the genuine threat of substantial harm can come from actions such as hitting, kicking, biting, shaking, choking, or any other violent act against a child. This definition does not include an accident or reasonable discipline that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm.

    An individual can also commit abuse under The Texas Family Code by:

    • Causing or permitting a child to be in a situation in which he or she sustains a mental or emotional injury
    • Failing to make a reasonable effort to prevent physical or sexual conduct that is harmful to a child
    • Compelling or encouraging a child to engage in sexual conduct
    • Using a controlled substance in a manner or to the extent that it results in physical, mental or emotional injury to a child
    • Causing, permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance

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Neglect

  • Neglectful supervision means placing a child in a situation that requires judgment or actions beyond what the child is physically or mentally capable of doing and that results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm to a child.
  • Medical neglect is failing to get or follow up with medical care for a child when the lack of care results in physical injury or in a marked impact on a child's growth, development, or functioning.
  • Physical neglect is the failure to provide a child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child. Physical neglect can include a situation where the home environment presents a health or safety threat to children.
  • Abandonment and refusal to accept parental responsibility are two other categories of neglect.
  • Failing to protect a child from any situation described above also falls under the definitions of abuse and neglect.
    Review Neglect Examples

    Neglectful Supervision:
    Leaving babies, toddlers, or young children home alone, using illegal drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol while caring for a child, or exposing a child to someone who is a known child abuser or sexual predator.

    Medical Neglect:
    Failing to provide a child with medication or medical care necessary to treat a diagnosed medical condition such as diabetes or epilepsy.

    Abandonment and Refusal to Accept Parental Responsibility:
    Leaving a child without arranging for necessary care and demonstrating an intent not to return is an example. Failing to allow a child to return home or to arrange for necessary care by others after the child has been absent from the home for any reason, including having run away.

    An individual can also commit neglect under The Texas Family Code by:

    • Placing a child in, or failing to remove the child from a situation that exposes the child to sexual conduct that is harmful
    • 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
    • If the person responsible for a child's care, custody and welfare fails to allow a child to return home without arranging for necessary care after the child has been absent from the home for any reason, including having run away
    A person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare means a person who traditionally is responsible for a child’s care, custody, or welfare, including:
    • A parent, guardian, managing or possessory conservator, or foster parent of the child
    • A member of the child’s family or household as defined by Chapter 71 of the Texas Family Code
    • A person with whom the child’s parent cohabitates
    • School personnel or a volunteer at the child’s school
    • Personnel or a volunteer at a public or private child-care facility that provides services for the child or at a public or private residential institution or facility where the child resides

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Other Perpetrators

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The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has jurisdiction to investigate when a child is abused or neglected by a parent or guardian. Does DFPS investigate other perpetrators as well? Get Answer ...

Yes. Please make a report to DFPS if one or more of the following people are believed to have abused or neglected a child:

  • A parent, guardian, or foster parent
  • A member of the child’s family, such as a grandparent or uncle; or a member of the child's household, such as an unrelated roommate of the parent
  • A parent's boyfriend or girlfriend, regardless of whether that person lives in the home
  • Personnel or a volunteer at the child’s school
  • Personnel or a volunteer at a day care or residential facility

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