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2000 Complaints

2100 Definition of a Complaint

OCA October 2014

The OCA acts as a neutral party in reviewing formal complaints about case-specific activities of DFPS program areas. The HHSC defines a complaint as any dissatisfaction expressed by the stakeholder. General inquiries are defined as inquiries concerning services, eligibility, office location, or agency activities.

Complaints are an important source of management information that can be used to measure how well DFPS is fulfilling its mission of protecting children, the elderly, and people with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation by involving clients, families, and communities.

When complaint information is analyzed by comparing data within a district, a program or across program districts, DFPS can gain valuable information about the types of problems that may be occurring and allow management to focus resources toward improvement of DFPS services.

2200 Who Can Submit a Complaint to the OCA

OCA October 2014

The OCA accepts complaints from the following:

  •   Consumers and service recipients – individuals receiving a service, either voluntary or involuntarily, from DFPS

  •   Persons or entities regulated by DFPS – Contracted services or entities in which DFPS has a mandate to regulate

  •   Public – Individuals who are not considered consumers, but who have an interest in a case specific situation

      These individuals may include extended family, friends of the family, foster parents, or members of the community who do not have a legal relationship with the DFPS consumer.

  •   DFPS employees – If the employee alleges a violation of DFPS policy in a case specific situation, the complaint is accepted for review

  •   Government officials, including Texas Legislators and other elected officials

  •   Executive offices – including the following:

  •   Governor

  •   Attorney general

  •   Lieutenant governor

  •   HHSC, including the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Ombudsman

  •   U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  •   Other City and State Officials

  •   Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and other stakeholders

Note that a complainant’s authority to receive confidential information will depend on the complainant’s role in the case if any. See 1600 Confidentiality.

2300 Complaints That OCA Accepts for Review

OCA October 2014

The OCA reviews case-specific complaints as related to policy within the following DFPS programs:

  •   Adult Protective Services In-Home Investigations (APS-IH)

  •   APS Facility Investigations (AFC)

  •   Child Protective Services (CPS)

  •   DFPS Abuse/Neglect Hotline (Statewide Intake or SWI)

  •   Child Care Licensing (CCL) and Residential Child Care Licensing (RCCL)

  •   Centralized Background Check Unit (CBCU)

2400 Complaints That OCA Does Not Accept for Review

OCA October 2014

The OCA does not review complaints that have been reviewed by OCA multiple times and all reasonable efforts have been made within DFPS policies and procedures to resolve.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §702.815(2)

The OCA does not review or respond to complaints regarding or from DFPS staff relating to personnel issues. Inquiries of this nature are forwarded to the respective program’s regional director, or his or her designee. The OCA notifies the complainant that the complaint has been forwarded to the regional director for review and handling.

Complaints related to DFPS employee misconduct involving potentially serious violations of the law, issues involving fraud, theft over $500, substantial abuse of state property or resources, retaliation against employees under the Whistleblower Act, or inappropriate relationships between an employee and a former or current DFPS adult consumer are shared with DFPS legal services and the DFPS auditor’s office, who then determines whether a referral is made to HHSC Office of Inspector General.

When the subject of a complaint is an issue in ongoing or forthcoming litigation against the Agency, or is the subject of a law enforcement investigation or criminal prosecution, the OCA does not review the complaint if the review would interfere with the litigation, investigation, or prosecution, except for ongoing CPS conservatorship cases.

Complaints relating to civil rights issues are forwarded to HHSC Office of Civil Rights for review and handling.

The OCA is not a part of the appeal process for DFPS programs other than CPS.

A complaint may be accepted initially, and then later refused if subsequent investigation or developments determine that the complaint is no longer appropriate for the OCA.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §§702.821(b), 702.823

2500 Complaint Intake

OCA October 2014

Program case-specific complaints are documented in the OCA automated tracking system and assigned to OCA Associates.

2510 Complaints Made Over the Telephone

OCA October 2014

Complaints and general inquiries may be made using the OCA toll free telephone number, 800-720-7777.

To overcome communication barriers that might exist, the OCA uses Language Line Services when an interpreter is necessary to gather complaint information.

During a telephone intake, OCA staff:

  •   notify caller of the role of OCA;

  •   explain if the complaint meets the criteria

  •   explain the complaint process; and

  •   provide a time frame in which a written response to the complainant can be expected.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §702.821(a)

Because callers seek general information about issues unrelated to DFPS, OCA staff may also provide referral information to other state agencies and community resources.

2520 Written Complaints

OCA October 2014

A written complaint may be received by fax (512-339-5892), the DFPS main website, the Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) website, the OCA email address, or the U.S. Postal Service. Complaints that are sent through the mail go to:

Office of Consumer Affairs Y-946

Department of Family and Protective Services

Post Office Box 149030

Austin, TX 78714-9030

OCA staff review the written complaint and gather pertinent information that is used to identify a specific DFPS case or consumer. In some instances, it may be necessary for OCA staff to contact the complainant for additional information.

When OCA receives a complaint via written correspondence, OCA acknowledges receipt of each complaint and informs the complainant whether the complaint meets the criteria for the OCA.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §702.821(a)

2530 Notifying Program Staff

OCA October 2014

The OCA staff request a response to the complaint from the appropriate DFPS regional program staff. In some instances, sufficient information to address the complaint may be obtained from the DFPS database, and contact with regional staff is unnecessary.

2540 Determining the Finding

OCA October 2014

When OCA staff have determined that all pertinent information has been gathered and the review is complete, a determination is made whether DFPS’s actions were in compliance with the applicable program policy, procedure, rule, or statute.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §702.823(a)

A finding must be entered in the OCA automated tracking system before a case can be closed.

OCA staff notify regional DFPS program administration of all valid complaints including a justification for the finding.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §702.823(c)

The OCA manager or OCA lead associate must approve all validated complaint findings before they are submitted to the region.

The OCA findings will not change DFPS case decisions or case actions.

2550 Closing and Responding to Complaints

OCA October 2014

The time frame to close most complaints is 45 calendar days from the date the complaint is received. In some instances, the OCA may experience a delay in closing the complaint. The OCA manager or OCA lead associate may authorize an extension in completing the complaint when necessary.

A written response is provided for every complaint unless an exception is approved by the OCA manager or OCA lead associate.

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