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 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.
2012 Accomplishments and Initiatives
APS conducts regional reviews to check on how it is serving its clients. In FY 2012, APS State Office staff met with staff in the Lubbock and San Antonio areas to review performance and learn about best practices and the challenges frontline workers face. APS used this information to improve APS policy and casework practice. APS will review other areas of the state in the future.
Improvements to Facility Investigations
In FY 2012, APS continued to work to improve the timeliness and efficiency of facility investigations. The Department of Justice settlement with the State of Texas in 2009 required APS to complete investigations in State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs) and the Rio Grande State Center (involving people with intellectual disabilities) within 10 days, rather than the previous standard of 14 or 21 days.
To address this 10-day standard, APS worked with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services on a plan to place 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 2012, APS facility investigators also began entering witness statements on their tablet computers. This eliminated the time spent scanning handwritten statements and paraphrasing them.
Improvements to In-Home Investigations and Services
APS proposed several rule changes for the In-Home program in 2011. The Texas Legislature gave APS authority to define abuse, neglect, and exploitation for the In-Home program by rule rather than in law (Senate Bill 221, 82nd R.S.). APS asked for this authority for two reasons. First, APS wanted to more efficiently target in-home services to the people who needed them the most. Second, APS wanted to hold paid caretakers to a higher standard of duty than unpaid caretakers when it comes to physical abuse, emotional abuse, and exploitation. Paid and unpaid caregivers are held to the same standard for neglect and sexual abuse.
APS trained its supervisors in the summer of 2012 to help them better manage a mobile workforce. Key themes included:
- The need to focus time and energy on managing people not just cases.
- Empowering staff to make decisions at the appropriate level.
- Ensuring good client outcomes with case practice that complies with policy but is driven by a sense of mission and core values.
Key topics included how to appropriately use policy, how to evaluate and develop employees, and the role of supervisors in training new employees.
APS continued its public awareness campaign called “It’s Everyone’s Business.” The goals of the campaign are to:
- Increase awareness of the problems of adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
- Encourage community collaboration and support.
- Increase awareness of APS programs to benefit its clients.
The campaign uses news stories, local conferences, and community awareness events to reach the public, law enforcement agencies, judicial partners, and other organizations that serve vulnerable adults.
May is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. In May 2012, 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.
During October 2011, APS focused its campaign 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 the elderly. To learn more about APS public awareness activities and download information on elder abuse and exploitation, visit www.EveryonesBusiness.org.
Texas Partners for Adult Protective Services
Texas Partners for Adult Protective Services is the statewide non-profit organization that helps improve the lives of APS clients by developing resources and helping local boards that support APS. Texas nonprofit boards:
- Sponsor community events to raise funds to purchase items for APS clients.
- Help APS staff educate the public and service providers about elder abuse issues.
- Provide expertise as speakers at community events and training.
- Sponsor APS staff with recognition and appreciation events.
- Stock and maintain emergency resource rooms, 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 its 28th annual conference in San Antonio during November 2011. The conference offered two general sessions and 47 workshops. Workshops included topics such as investigative interviewing, complexities in facility investigations, and intervening in domestic violence cases. 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 2011 conference drew over 500 attendees from 15 states, and at least one other country.
Two program areas serve APS clients: In-Home Investigations and Services, and Facility Investigations.
As the population of adults who are 65 or over or have a disability continues to grow, so does the need for protective services. In FY 2012, the workload in both APS programs stayed at the record highs reached in 2011. Many of APS’ clients lived alone and depended 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 live at home or in unlicensed room-and-board homes.
APS also investigates allegations of 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 elderly person or adult with a disability is being abused, neglected, or exploited to report it. DFPS accepts these reports through the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 and online at https://www.txabusehotline.org.
APS begins an investigation by contacting a person who has reliable and current information about the alleged victim within 24 hours of receiving a report. APS can make initial contact in person or by phone. 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 partners 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 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 rise to the level of 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. APS investigates allegations in:
- State supported living centers,
- State hospitals.
- 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 DFPS 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’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) within one hour if necessary. APS investigates, 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. The registry bars people from certain types of 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 due process is satisfied.