A Parent's Guide to Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigations
We know that a visit or contact from a Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworker about your family can be difficult and confusing.
Clear and honest communication is very important in CPS' mission to protect children from abuse and neglect. Please ask your caseworker if you have any questions about what anyone says or about anything you are asked to do. If it is still unclear, you may ask to speak with a CPS supervisor. Please tell your caseworker if:
- You have a hearing impairment or trouble understanding English so CPS can get an interpreter.
- If your child is of American Indian or Native Alaskan heritage because it affects the legal requirements that may apply.
The CPS program investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect by parents or other family or household members.
If needed, CPS may refer parents to services for help. These services may help them solve their problems and learn how to care for and discipline their children in ways that do not harm them or put them at risk of abuse or neglect. These services may include counseling, day care, homemaker services, evaluation, treatment, and parenting classes.
CPS caseworkers have identification cards. Ask to see your caseworker's DFPS
identification card if you want to know if they really work for CPS.
State law requires anybody who believes that a child has been abused or neglected to make a report to the Child Protective Services (CPS) program of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) or to a law enforcement agency. The law requires CPS to investigate these reports to protect children.
CPS only removes children when it is necessary to protect them from abuse or neglect. This happens when there are no reasonable efforts that will keep children safe in their homes. With a court order, CPS can remove children when they are unsafe and the family is unable to make the changes needed to keep them safe. Depending on what is going on with the family, CPS may get a court order to remove children or it may remove children before getting a court order.
If CPS removes your child from your care without a court order, the court will review the case the next working day. In all cases, a judge will schedule a hearing within two weeks after CPS removes a child. When CPS removes children it will ask the parents to complete a Child Caregiver Resource Form. This form gives CPS the names of at least three people, including grandparents and other adult relatives, who might provide care, emotional support, or other support for the child while the parents receive services.
When investigating a report, a caseworker:
- Interviews the child that may have been abused or neglected. The interview with the child must be audio taped or videotaped. The interview may be held at any reasonable time and place, including at school.
- Makes a reasonable effort to tell you of any interviews and the nature of the allegations within 24 hours after an interview has taken place.
- Discusses the report with you to get an explanation of any injuries, safety concerns, or risk of abuse or neglect to the child.
- Gets criminal history information about people alleged to have abused or neglected your child.
The caseworker may also:
- Interview other children in the home.
- Visually examine children in the home for signs of physical abuse or neglect.
- Interview any other person alleged to have abused or neglected your child.
- Interview anyone with information about the situation, including those who can verify explanations of the harm to your child.
- Ask for access to mental health records on your child, yourself, or people alleged to have abused or neglected your child.
- Ask for a medical, psychological, or psychiatric examination of you or your child if it is needed to find out if abuse or neglect has occurred or if there is a risk of abuse or neglect.
- Visit the child's home.
Please cooperate with your caseworker in taking these steps, which are authorized by law to complete the investigation.If necessary, CPS can seek a court order giving your caseworker permission to talk to or examine your children, visit your home, or get health records.
First you should talk to your CPS caseworker or her/his supervisor.
If you think CPS is handling your case improperly, and you can't resolve the issue with your caseworker or supervisor, you can contact the Office of Consumer Affairs by calling 1-800-720-7777 or by email at OCA@dfps.state.tx.us .
The law requires CPS to tell law enforcement agencies about all reports of alleged abuse or neglect. The law enforcement agency decides whether to do a criminal investigation. This is separate from the CPS investigation. You can contact the local law enforcement agency to ask about a criminal investigation. You can also contact local law enforcement if you feel that someone has made a false report against you.
You have the right to consult with a lawyer at any point in the investigation at your own expense. If CPS files a lawsuit regarding your children, you may ask the court for a lawyer to represent you. The court may or may not be able to provide you with a lawyer based on court rules and your financial situation. In some communities, Legal Aid may be available, or you can contact the local bar association or call Lawyer Referral Service at the State Bar of Texas (1-800-252-9690). CPS employees are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.
Your caseworker normally completes the investigation in 30 days. This investigation allows your caseworker to determine if:
- Your child was abused or neglected.
- Your child is at risk of future abuse or neglect.
- Your child is safe.
If your child is not safe, your caseworker will determines if you need services to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect or if CPS needs to remove a child form your care.
However, your caseworker does not make these important decisions alone. Your caseworker's supervisor must approve these decisions before your caseworker tells you about them.
Children are at risk of abuse or neglect when there is a reasonable likelihood that they will be abused or neglected (as defined by the Texas Family Code) in the near future.
CPS knows that all families have strengths. Families know their children best and want them to be safe. If CPS thinks children are not safe in their current situation, CPS may ask the family to help. Your caseworker may ask that you attend a Family Team Meeting. At this meeting, several things happen:
- Everyone will be encouraged to talk openly about child safety issues.
- Parents, the family, and others will work together to make a plan to keep the
- Parents get to choose who will attend these meetings, including friends and family they believe may be able to help them.
Family Team Meetings are voluntary. Parents may request them at any time if they feel it will help them find a way to keep their child safe.
If your caseworker and supervisor think your child is not safe or might be harmed in the very near future, they will work with you to develop a Safety Plan. A Safety Plan is a written agreement between you and CPS that asks you to do certain things to keep your child safe. It's a voluntary agreement but there may be consequences if you don't do what you agree to do. The Safety Plan may be the result of a Family Team Meeting or it may be made at other times during the investigation.
A Parental Child Safety Placement is an agreement between the parents and a voluntary caregiver who has been approved by CPS. CPS calls the family or close friends "voluntary caregivers." In these placements, parents agree to temporarily place their children with family or close friends because CPS has determined the children are not safe with their parents. Your caseworker must tell you why your child is not considered safe. If you and CPS develop a Parental Child Safety Placement, CPS will try to work with you to make the changes needed so your children can be safely returned to your home.
Your caseworker and supervisor decide the type and amount of contact you may have with your child until the first court hearing. When possible, your caseworker will discuss a plan for you to have contact with your child at the time CPS removes your child. The judge that oversees the case may make more decisions about the contact you can have with your child or CPS may make changes later on. Discuss with your caseworker and supervisor any concerns you have about the plan for contact with your children. If you still aren't satisfied, let the judge know at the next court hearing. If you have a lawyer, we suggest you discuss these concerns with him or her.
Because Texas law requires CPS to keep the report and investigation confidential from the public, CPS will only give information to the people who were investigated, the victim's parents, law enforcement officials, courts, and county or district attorneys. There is a very limited exception for certain details about a child death investigation, which must be released to the public, and CPS will share information with providers and others as necessary for services to be provided. For example, a therapist will need to know details of the abuse and neglect to provide counseling. CPS will give relatives or other individuals with whom a child is placed any information necessary to ensure that they are prepared to meet the child's needs. This may include information about any abuse or neglect. The law does not allow CPS to give you the name of the person who reported the child abuse or neglect.
You can pay for a copy (with identities removed) of your case record with investigation information concerning you unless:
- Releasing the information would jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation or the child's safety.
- Or court proceedings are pending and CPS' lawyer determines you cannot have the information.
You can get the form to request a copy of your CPS record from your local CPS office or here. The cost of the copy is determined by DFPS, using established rates.
Speak to your caseworker. An open discussion may settle the matter. If you can't resolve your concerns with the caseworker, discuss them with the supervisor. If CPS thinks that you were responsible for child abuse or neglect and you disagree, you can request an administrative review of the investigation, unless a court has upheld the findings. CPS will give you instructions on how to request this review in the letter it sends when it closes the investigation.
You may also contact the DFPS Office of Consumer Affairs online or by calling 1-800-720-7777 (toll-free) or faxing (512) 339-5892 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The Office of Consumer Affairs handles case-specific complaints about DFPS programs including Child Protective Services
- References to the law in this pamphlet are primarily from the Texas Family Code, Chapter 261, Investigation of Report of Child Abuse or Neglect; Chapter 262, Procedures in Suit by Governmental Entity to Protect Health and Safety of Child; Chapter 263, Review of Placement of Children under Care of the Department of Family and Protective Services; the Texas Administrative Code and the CPS Handbook.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act compliance coordinator can be reached at:
Texas Health and Human Services Commission Civil Rights Office
701 W. 51st St., Mail Code W206
Austin, Texas 78751
(512) 438-4313 or 1-888-388-6332
TDD for people with hearing impairments (512) 438-2960 or 1-877-432-7232
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline
TDD for people with hearing impairments - 1-800-787-3224
Family violence is when a family or household member commits an act intended to cause physical or emotional harm of someone else in the family or household. Family violence is against the law in Texas. The first step in stopping family violence is to recognize it. It's hard to accept that you may be battered by someone you love. Still, you may be a victim of family violence if:
- You are pushed, shoved, slapped, bruised, kicked, strangled, or threatened with a weapon.
- You are verbally attacked or accused.
- Your possessions are intentionally damaged.
- You are not allowed to come and go as you wish.
- You are followed, harassed, or spied upon.
- You are forced to have sex or perform a degrading sexual act.
- You are kept in isolation.
- You have to ask for permission to spend money.
- You feel nervous or afraid for your safety when your partner becomes angry.
- Your partner has threatened to hurt you, your children, or other family members if you leave.
Studies show that between 30 and 60% of batterers who physically abuse their spouses also physically abuse their children. Studies also show that batterers are more than four times as likely to sexually abuse their children or stepchildren. Children may also be hurt indirectly when their parent is abused or may be injured trying to protect their parent.
Family violence victims include men, women, and children. Nationally, reports of domestic disturbances involve almost equal numbers of female and male perpetrators. However, women are 5 to 8 times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men. In 2009, law enforcement reported 196,713 incidents of family violence in Texas, with 111 women killed by their intimate male partners.
No one deserves to be abused. If something about your relationship frightens you, or if you or someone you know is suffering abuse in a relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The CPS caseworker who gave you this brochure may also have information on more community resources.
- CHIPS/Medicaid (formerly TexCare Partnership)
Children’s Health Insurance to Fit Your Budget
Call toll-free 1-877-543-7669 (1-877-KIDS-NOW)
Texas families with uninsured children who are approved may be able to get health insurance through Children's Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Both programs offer health care benefits, including regular medical and dental checkups. Pregnant women who are approved may also receive health services for their unborn children from CHIP.
- Medicaid Buy-In for Children
Call 2-1-1 or 1-877-541-7905
Medicaid Buy-In for Children can help pay medical bills for children with disabilities. This program helps families who need health insurance, but make too much money to get traditional Medicaid. Families "buy in" to Medicaid by making a monthly payment (premium).
- Health Insurance Premium Payment (HIPP)
Call the HIPP Helpline at 1-800-440-0493 (toll-free)