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2120 CPS Authority for Investigating Reports of Abuse or Neglect

2121 Reports Within CPS Authority to Investigate

CPS September 2002

Parent, Family, or Household Member Allegedly Abused/Neglected the Child

CPS has authority to investigate a report that meets the statutory definitions of abuse or neglect when the alleged perpetrator is age 10 or older and is:

  •  legally responsible for the child's care, custody, and welfare (that is, the child's parent, guardian, managing conservator, or possessory conservator);

  •  a person with whom the child's parent lives;

  •  a member of the child's family, which includes individuals who are:

  •  related by blood or marriage;

  •  former spouses of each other; or

  •  the biological parents of the same child, without regard to marriage;

  •  a member of the child's household, which includes:

  •  persons living together in the child's residence, whether or not they are related to each other;

  •  an unrelated person who does not live in the child's residence or whose place of residence cannot be determined, if the person has regular free access to the child's residence or when in the child's residence takes care of or assumes responsibility for children in the household. This category includes boyfriends and girlfriends of household members and baby-sitters, when they are in the child's residence.

Alleged Perpetrator is Unknown

CPS also investigates reports that meet the statutory definitions of abuse or neglect when the identity of the alleged perpetrator is unknown but the harm or threat could reasonably have resulted from an act or failure to act by a parent, family, or household member age 10 or older identified in the above list.

School Personnel or Volunteers Allegedly Abused or Neglected the Child

CPS has the authority to investigate.

2122 Reports Not Within CPS Authority to Investigate

CPS September 2002

CPS receives many reports about children who are in situations that are not optimal for their growth and development, but which do not appear to involve a risk or occurrence of abuse or neglect as defined in Item 2113. CPS staff do not investigate these reports or provide services to these children under the aegis of abuse or neglect; however, some assistance may be offered as a casework-related special request. Staff may also refer these reports to other program areas or to community programs and agencies.

CPS staff notify law enforcement officials about these reports when they contain indications of criminal offenses.

Rule

CPS staff must assist the public in understanding what to report and what can be done about it. If a report clearly does not involve child abuse or neglect[,] or risk of abuse or neglect, CPS will provide information and refer the reporter to other services that may help the child and family. Reports about the following types of circumstances are not considered allegations of abuse or neglect or risk of abuse or neglect, unless accompanied by some other information that appears to involve abuse or neglect.

(1)  Truancy - Voluntary absence from school without a valid excuse.

(2)  Runaway - A child who is voluntarily absent from the home without the consent of the parent or guardian.

(3)  Children In Need of Supervision (CHINS) - Children from ages 10 to 17 who are before a juvenile court for offenses under Section 51.03(b) of the Texas Family Code.

(4)  Reasonable physical discipline - Physical discipline appropriate to a child's age without injuries or substantial risk of harm.

(5)  Latch-key children - School-age children left unattended part of the day, whose parents have taken appropriate precautions to assure the children's safety.

(6)  Harmful or violent children - Children who harm or commit violent acts against other children, but who are not members of the alleged victim's family or household, and who are not themselves abused or neglected.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.503

Reports about the following types of circumstances are also not considered allegations of abuse or neglect unless accompanied by other information that appears to involve a risk or occurrence of abuse or neglect:

  •  Potential for abuse or neglect. A situation involving a remote possibility, but not a substantial risk or genuine threat, of child abuse or neglect.

  •  Inadequate supervision. Insufficient supervision of a child according to community standards, but without bodily injury or a substantial risk of harm.

  •  Inadequate physical care. Insufficient provision for a child's physical needs according to community standards, but without a substantial risk to the child's life or health.

  •  No current risk of abuse or neglect. A situation in which abuse or neglect occurred in the past, but has not occurred recently and is not likely to recur in the foreseeable future.

  •  Parent-child conflict. A situation in which a child is in conflict with his parents, but is not abused or neglected.

2123 Children Not Yet Born or Not Born Alive

CPS September 2002

Reports involving children who have not yet been born or who were not born alive are not within CPS authority to investigate for abuse or neglect, unless:

  •  there are other children in the home alleged to be abused or neglected or at risk of future abuse or neglect; or

  •  the birth is imminent and the child (if born alive) will likely be born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance.

When the child has not yet been born, CPS may initiate a casework-related special request to respond to concerns of medical or other professionals and to assess the situation after the birth to determine if an abuse or neglect report is needed.

2130 The Roles of SWI and CPS During Intake

CPS August 2009

Intake begins when DFPS staff receive a written or spoken report of any kind. The report may or may not contain information about child abuse or neglect. See 1124 Definition of Stages of Service.

The Role of SWI

SWI is the initial point of contact for persons who report abuse or neglect. SWI staff make the initial determination about whether a report meets the criteria for CPS investigation and assessment.

The SWI Intake Worker

The SWI intake worker who receives the initial report gathers as much information from the reporter as necessary to determine whether it appears that a child:

  •  has been abused or neglected and is still at risk of being abused or neglected; or

  •  is at risk of being abused or neglected in the foreseeable future.

Based on the information received, the SWI intake worker decides whether to refer a case to CPS for investigation and assessment.

If the SWI worker refers the case to CPS, the worker assigns an initial level of priority to recommend how quickly CPS must respond, based on the current risk to the child.

Roles of Worker and Supervisor

Once the intake worker has decided whether a report meets the guidelines for referral to CPS, the SWI supervisor, CPS supervisor, or CPS investigation screener:

  •  approves the intake worker's decision; or

  •  documents the reasons for changing the worker's decision.

The Role of CPS

Once CPS receives the intake from SWI, CPS:

  •  reviews all reports referred by SWI for possible investigation; and

  •  decides whether to investigate.

See:

2144 The Role of SWI in Screening Reports of Abuse or Neglect

2142 The Allegations That CPS Accepts for Investigation and Assessment

2150 The Role of CPS in Screening Reports of Abuse or Neglect

See also the SWI Policy and Procedures Handbook, 2100 Assessing Reports Called Into SWI.

2131 Legal Requirements for Reporting Abuse or Neglect

CPS August 2009

Any person who has cause to believe that a child is being abused or neglected is required by Texas law to contact CPS or law enforcement.

Texas Family Code §§261.101(a); 261.103(a)

Mandatory Reporting for DFPS Staff and Other Professionals

A professional who has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected is required by law to report the abuse or neglect within 48 hours of becoming aware of the incident. The professional cannot delegate to or rely on another person to make the report.

For the purposes of reporting, other professionals are defined as persons who are:

  •  licensed or certified by the state;

OR

  •  employed by a facility licensed, certified, or operated by the state;

AND

  •  in the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is required, have direct contact with children.

The term professional includes:

  •  teachers;

  •  nurses;

  •  doctors;

  •  day-care employees;

  •  employees of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services;

  •  juvenile probation officers; and

  •  juvenile detention or correctional officers.

Texas Family Code §261.101(b)

2132 Reporting Requirements for DFPS Staff

CPS June 2014

Like any person in Texas, DFPS staff who have cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected are required by law to immediately report the abuse or neglect to the DFPS Statewide Intake program (SWI) at 1 (800) 252-5400.

DFPS staff (professional and nonprofessional) are required to report, if they have cause to believe that an adult was a victim of abuse or neglect as a child and if they determine in good faith that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of:

  •  another child, or

  •  an adult who is age 65 or older or has a disability.

Texas Family Code §261.101(b)

Texas Human Resources Code §48.002(2)-(7)

2132.1 Reporting Requirements for Licensed or Certified DFPS Staff

CPS June 2014

DFPS staff who are licensed or certified are considered professional reporters and are required to report child abuse or neglect or indecency with a child within 48 hours of first suspecting it.

Professional reporters must not delegate their responsibility to another person or rely on another person to make the report.

Texas Family Code §261.101(b)

2132.2 Reporting Requirements for All Staff When Incidents Involve Older Adults or Adults Who Have Disabilities

CPS June 2014

Any DFPS staff person who has cause to believe that any adult who has a disability or any adult who is age 65 or older is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report the situation to SWI at 1 (800) 252-5400.

Texas Human Resources Code §48.051

2132.3 Reporting Requirements for All DFPS Staff When a Person Refuses to Report

CPS June 2014

DFPS staff must encourage reporters to report to SWI all suspected incidents of abuse or neglect or the risk of abuse or neglect.

If a reporter refuses to report information to SWI, staff must report the information to SWI.

See also 2135 Reports Made to Field Offices.

2132.4 Exception to the Requirement That CPS Staff Notify SWI About Additional Allegations

CPS June 2014

If additional allegations of abuse or neglect involving the same family are discovered during an investigation, the CPS worker conducting the investigation includes the additional allegations in the open investigation, rather than forwarding them to SWI.

2133 Special Issues Relating to Reporting Abuse or Neglect

CPS August 2009

Anonymity

Anonymous reports of abuse or neglect, while not encouraged, are received and acted on.

Texas Family Code §261.304

Intake workers must encourage reporters to give their names and the names of any collateral sources who can corroborate their reports.

Confidentiality

If a reporter requests that his or her identity be kept confidential, the intake worker advises him that DFPS:

  •  may have to disclose the reporter’s identity to the district attorney and to law enforcement officials; but

  •  will not reveal the reporter’s identity to the child’s parents, to alleged perpetrators, to other children in the family, or to others without the reporter's consent, unless a court orders otherwise.

See 1450 Confidentiality of Information.

Texas Family Code §261.201

Immunity

A worker may inform a person who reports abuse or neglect that the law gives the reporter immunity from civil or criminal liability in any judicial proceedings that result from the report, unless the reporter is:

  •  reporting his or her own conduct; or

  •  reporting in bad faith or malice.

Texas Family Code §261.106

Good Faith

If a reporter of abuse or neglect is a parent who is reporting the other parent in connection with a pending law suit that affects the parent-child relationship, the intake worker may inform the reporter that false reports are admissible as evidence in any suit between parents that involves the terms of conservatorship.

Texas Family Code §153.013

False Reporting

Intake workers may inform any reporter of abuse or neglect that it is a Class B misdemeanor to knowingly or intentionally report without a factual foundation.

Texas Family Code §261.107

2134 Reporting Directly to SWI About Abuse or Neglect

CPS August 2009

The Necessity of Reporting Directly to SWI

The Statewide Intake Division of DFPS (SWI) operates a toll-free, statewide telephone and Internet system for receiving reports of suspected abuse or neglect.

All reports must be processed by SWI because SWI uses electronic recording systems to track and manage the reports received.

Exception

Reporters are encouraged to contact a DFPS field office when they:

  •  have information about a specific case; or

  •  wish to speak with the CPS worker assigned to a case.

Reporting by Telephone to SWI

The number to call to report abuse or neglect to the DFPS Statewide Intake (SWI) Division is 1 (800) 252-5400. SWI calls are electronically recorded, and SWI staff document all reports in the IMPACT case management system.

Reporting by Internet to SWI

Professionals as well as the public have the option to report abuse or neglect online, using the secure Web site maintained by the DFPS Statewide Intake (SWI) Division.

Reporting Emergencies to SWI (Phone Only)

All emergencies related to abuse or neglect must be reported to the DFPS Statewide Intake (SWI) Division by telephone at: 1 (800) 252-5400.

2135 Reports Made to Field Offices

CPS August 2009

The public may report abuse or neglect to their DFPS field office, either in person or by phone; however, field staff must encourage reporters to report by:

  •  calling the DFPS Statewide Intake (SWI) Division at 1 (800) 252-5400; or

  •  report abuse or neglect online, using SWI's secure Web site.

Staff may provide the reporter with a phone and a private place to make the call to SWI; however, if the reporter refuses to call, field staff must obtain the intake information and make the report.

In an emergency, field staff call the report in to SWI.

If the incident is not an emergency, field staff use SWI's secure Web site to report abuse or neglect online, according to the guidelines published in 2134 Reporting Directly to SWI About Abuse or Neglect, under the subheadings:

Reporting by Internet to SWI

Reporting Emergencies to SWI (Phone Only)

2136 When to Notify Law Enforcement About Reports of Abuse or Neglect

CPS August 2009

DFPS notifies law enforcement about the following:

  •  Reports that CPS plans to investigate (including preliminary investigations of anonymous reports and reports merged into one open investigation), even when the reporter has already reported to law enforcement

  •  Reports that CPS refers to the DFPS Child-Care Licensing (CCL) and Adult Protective Services divisions, or other state agencies, such as the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS)

  •  Reports of abuse or neglect by a person who is not responsible for the child's care, custody, or welfare

  •  Reports that the supervisor or screener closes without assignment for investigation

  •  Reports that a child was abused or neglected in the distant past by a person responsible for the child's care, custody, and welfare, but who is in no danger of further abuse or neglect and therefore is not in need of current protection

  •  Any other situations that may involve criminal offenses against a child or that a law enforcement agency has asked to be advised of.

Texas Family Code §261.105(b)

Determining Which Agency to Notify

The law enforcement agency to notify is the agency that has jurisdiction for criminal investigations of abuse or neglect in the geographical area where the alleged incident occurred. Specifically, the worker notifies the person or unit designated to receive reports of abuse or neglect.

If a law enforcement official is alleged to be the perpetrator and the appropriate agency to notify is the alleged perpetrator's employer, the worker must notify the administrative head of the agency; for example, the chief of police or the county sheriff.

Staff may also be required to notify the county or district attorney about certain types of reports.

Timeframes for Reporting

DFPS must notify appropriate law enforcement agencies about reports of child abuse or neglect within the following time frames:

Priority I Report

DFPS must give notice within 24 hours of receiving a priority I report, a sexual abuse report, or a report alleging abuse or neglect in a public or private school. The initial notification may be given orally or by facsimile. This deadline applies even if subsequent information shows that the report is unfounded or does not qualify for priority I treatment. DFPS must follow up an initial oral notification with written notification within three days after receiving the report.

All Other Reports

DFPS must send written notification of all other reports within three days of receiving them. Facsimile-generated reports are considered written notification.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.506

Reporting to Law Enforcement

The DFPS Statewide Intake (SWI) Division handles CPS-related notifications to law enforcement.

The notifications are sent through the fax server or by e-mail before the intakes are sent to the field.

Exceptions are handled by DFPS field staff in the following circumstances:

  •  Sensitive intakes

  •  Intakes that requires special handling because a law enforcement employee is involved

DPFS’s written notification consists of:

  •  a copy of the intake report, generated from the IMPACT case management system; and

  •  the law enforcement notification letter in IMPACT.

If the material is not faxed, the worker sends the notification in a sealed envelope marked as confidential.

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