We know that a visit or contact from a Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) investigator or caseworker about your family can be difficult and confusing.

Clear and honest communication is very important to the DFPS mission to protect children from abuse and neglect. Please ask your investigator or 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 DFPS supervisor. Please tell your investigator or caseworker if:

  • You have a hearing impairment or trouble understanding English so DFPS can get an interpreter.
  • If your child is of American Indian or Native Alaskan heritage because it affects the legal requirements that may apply.

What is DFPS Investigations?

DFPS Investigations is the division of the Department of Family and Protective Services that investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect by parents or other family or household members.

If needed, DFPS  investigators and caseworkers 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.

DFPS investigators and caseworkers have identification cards. Ask to see your  investigator's or caseworker's DFPS identification card if you want to know if they really work for DFPS.

Why is DFPS visiting my family?

State law requires anybody who believes that a child has been abused or neglected to make a report to DFPS or a law enforcement agency. The law requires DFPS to investigate these reports  to protect children.

Will DFPS take my child away?

DFPS 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, DFPS 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, DFPS may get a court order to remove children or it may remove children before getting a court order.

If DFPS 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 DFPS removes a child. When DFPS removes children it will ask the parents to complete a Child Caregiver Resource Form. This form gives DFPS 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.

What does DFPS do in a child abuse or neglect investigation?

When investigating a report, the investigator:

  • 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 about any interviews that have taken place and the nature of the allegations within 24 hours after an interview.
  • 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, as well as other caregivers and household members.

The investigator 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 investigator in taking these steps which are authorized by law to complete the investigation.If necessary, DFPS can seek a court order giving your investigator or caseworker permission to talk to or examine your children, visit your home, or get health records.

How do I make a complaint?

First, you should talk to your DFPS investigator or her or his supervisor.

If you think DFPS is handling your case improperly, and you can't resolve the issue with your investigator, caseworker, or supervisor, you can contact the Office of Consumer Relations by calling 1-800-720-7777 or by email at OCR@dfps.state.tx.us .

Will DFPS talk to law enforcement about my case?

The law requires DFPS 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 DFPS 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.

Do I need a lawyer? How do I get one?

You have the right to consult with a lawyer at any point in the investigation at your own expense. If DFPS 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). DFPS employees are prohibited by law from giving legal advice.

How long does an investigation last?

Your investigator normally completes the investigation in 30 days. This allows your investigator 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 investigator will determine if you need services to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect or if DFPS needs to remove a child form your care.

However, your investigator does not make these important decisions alone. Your investigator 's supervisor must approve these decisions before your investigator tells you about them.

What does "risk of child abuse and neglect" mean?

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.

What is a Family Team Meeting?

DFPS knows that all families have strengths. Families know their children best and want them to be safe. If DFPS thinks children are not safe in their current situation, DFPS 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
    child safe.
  • 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.

What is a Safety Plan?

If your investigator 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 DFPS 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.

What is a Parental Child Safety Placement?

A Parental Child Safety Placement is an agreement between the parents and a voluntary caregiver who has been approved by DFPS. DFPS calls the family or close friends "voluntary caregivers." In these placements, parents agree to temporarily place their children with family or close friends because DFPS has determined the children are not safe with their parents. Your investigator must tell you why your child is not considered safe. If you and DFPS develop a Parental Child Safety Placement, DFPS will try to work with you to make the changes needed so your children can be safely returned to your home.

Can I contact my child after he or she is removed from my care?

Your investigator, caseworker, and supervisor decide the type and amount of contact you may have with your child until the first court hearing. When possible, your investigator will discuss a plan for you to have contact with your child at the time DFPS removes your child. The judge that oversees the case may make more decisions about the contact you can have with your child or DFPS may make changes later on. Discuss with your investigator, 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.

Who will know what is in DFPS records about me?

Because Texas law requires DFPS to keep the report and investigation confidential from the public, DFPS 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 DFPS 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. DFPS 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 DFPS to give you the name of the person who reported the child abuse or neglect.

How can I know what is in my DFPS record?

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 DFPS' lawyer determines you cannot have the information.

You can get the form to request a copy of your DFPS record from your local DFPS office or download here. The cost of the copy is determined by DFPS, using established rates.

What can I do if I disagree with the conduct or findings of the DFPS investigation?

Speak to your investigator. An open discussion may settle the matter. If you can't resolve your concerns with the investigator, discuss them with the supervisor. If DFPS 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. DFPS 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 Relations:

The Office of Consumer Affairs handles only case-specific questions and complaints about DFPS programs, including Investigations.

References

References to the law in this pamphlet are primarily from:

The Americans with Disabilities Act compliance coordinator can be reached at:

Texas Health and Human Services 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

More Resources

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Phone 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • 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. Women are five to eight times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men. In 2015, the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) documented 158 women in Texas killed by their intimate partners – a 20% increase over 2014.  The Honoring Texas Victims Report provides detailed information on all domestic violence homicides.

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 DFPS caseworker who gave you this brochure may also have information on more community resources.

CHIP/Medicaid (formerly TexCare Partnership)

Call toll-free 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669). 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 toll-free at 1-800-440-0493. HIPP is the Texas Medicaid program that helps families pay for employer-sponsored health insurance premiums. It is for families with at least one person who gets Medicaid.