The responsibilities of Adult Protective Services (APS) are to:
- Investigate reports of abuse, neglect, and 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 exploitation of individuals receiving services in state-operated facilities and in state contracted community settings that serve adults and children with mental illness or intellectual disabilities.
2011 Accomplishments and Initiatives
In FY 2011, APS State Office staff met with staff in the Dallas area and in El Paso to review program performance, learn about best practices, and better understand the unique challenges faced by frontline workers. The results of these reviews were used to improve APS policy and casework practice. Other areas of the state will be reviewed in coming years.
Improvements to Investigations
In FY 2011, APS continued its effort to improve the timeliness and efficiency of facility investigations. The Department of Justice settlement with the State of Texas in 2009 required that APS complete investigations in State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs) and the Rio Grande State Center (involving people with intellectual disabilities) within 10 days, rather than 14 or 21 days. As one of the steps taken to address this, APS began working with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services to locate APS investigators at State Supported Living Centers. The goal is to reduce travel time and cost, and improve access to center staff and clients. In FY 2011, APS also trained facility investigators to enter witness statements on their tablet computers. This eliminates the time spent scanning handwritten statements and paraphrasing them.
Improvements to In-Home Investigations and Services
In FY 2011, APS leveraged the knowledge and experience of frontline, in-home investigation staff by holding focus groups across the state. The groups addressed a wide range of casework issues with attention on regional differences in practice and client circumstances. APS workgroups studied the responsibilities of supervisors. APS used feedback from the workgroups to streamline and clarify APS policy and regional practice.
APS continued its public awareness campaign called "It's Everyone's Business" during FY 2011. The goals of the campaign are to raise awareness about the problems of adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation, enlist community collaboration and support, and increase awareness of APS programs. The campaign targets the general public, law enforcement, judicial partners, and organizations that provide services to vulnerable adults.
May is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. In May 2011, 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.
In October 2010, the It's Everyone's Business campaign focused on financial exploitation with the theme of "If it's not your money, it's a crime." Regions worked with community partners, including law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, and banking institutions to provide education and awareness about financial exploitation of the elderly. To learn more about APS public awareness activities and download information on elder abuse and exploitation, visit http://www.EveryonesBusiness.org.
Texas Partners for Adult Protective Services
Texas Partners for Adult Protective Services is the statewide APS-affiliated non-profit organization that helps improve the lives of APS clients by developing resources and providing assistance to local boards that support APS. Local Texas 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 in need.
APS held its 27th Annual APS Conference in San Antonio during October 2010. The conference offered three general sessions and 39 workshops. Workshops included Financial Exploitation of Individuals who are Elderly or have Disabilities, Improving Service Delivery Planning for APS Clients, and Detecting Deception and Obtaining the Truth During Interviews. Every year, the APS Conference gives staff the chance to network and to learn from and with others who serve, treat, and represent victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The annual conference is a major national training event that offers continuing education credits to social workers.
Two program areas serve APS clients: In-Home Investigations and Services, and Facility Investigations.
As the population of adults who are elderly or have a disability continues to grow, so does the need for protective services. APS workload increased in both the In-Home and Facility programs in 2011. Many of these individuals live alone and depend on others for care.
In-Home Investigations and Services
The largest APS program area is In-Home Investigations and Services. The In-Home program investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the elderly or adults with disabilities who reside in their own homes or in unlicensed room-and-board homes.
APS also investigates allegations of exploitation involving vulnerable adults living in nursing homes who may be financially exploited by someone outside the facility. State law requires anyone who believes that an elderly person or adult with a disability is being abused, neglected, or exploited to report it. Reports are made to the DFPS hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or online at https://www.txabusehotline.org.
An investigation begins with initial contact by phone or in person with a person who has reliable and current information about the alleged victim within 24 hours of receiving a report. If the allegation is confirmed, APS may provide or arrange for emergency services to alleviate abuse, neglect, or exploitation. These services may include short-term shelter, food, medication, health services, financial assistance for rent and utility restoration, 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 require coordination and referral for guardianship services. APS investigators or DFPS intake caseworkers may notify law enforcement at any point during an investigation if they suspect allegations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation constitute a criminal offense.
APS is responsible for investigating abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people receiving services in state-operated facilities and 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 (some components).
- Community mental health and mental retardation centers.
- Privately-operated intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities.
- Home and community-based waiver programs.
APS starts an investigation after the DFPS Abuse Hotline receives an allegation. It 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, which bars people from certain types of jobs that involve working with people with disabilities (this is also the case for certain types of in-home cases). DFPS will send the name of the confirmed perpetrator to the registry after due process is satisfied.