As an education professional, you may be faced with the difficult task of recognizing abuse and neglect of a student.

How does the DFPS define abuse and neglect?

For legal definitions of abuse and neglect, please refer to the Texas Family Code (TFC) Below, you'll find explanation of abuse and neglect using definitions found in the TFC.


  • Physical abuse is deliberate actions resulting in injuries to a child or genuine threats of such actions, or concerns about physical injuries of an unexplained or suspicious nature.
  • Sexual abuse includes:
    • Sexual indecency, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault.
    • Failing to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct to a child.
    • Using the child for the creation of obscene or pornographic material.
  • Emotional abuse is an emotional or mental injury caused by the parent or caregiver that results in an observable effect on the child.
    • Psychological state - Concerns about the child's mental stability, as demonstrated by mood, behavior, and thoughts.
  • Trafficking
    • Labor trafficking - parent or caregiver forcing a child into labor or services that are unhealthy or harmful to the child.
    • Sex trafficking - parent or caregiver receiving compensation for forcing a child to engage in prostitution or other sex acts.
For more information on abuse, click here.


  • Neglectful supervision means improper supervision of a child left alone which could have resulted in substantial harm.
  • Medical neglect is failure to seek, obtain or administer medical treatment that could result in substantial harm.
  • Physical neglect is the failure to provide a child with the necessary food, clothing, and shelter to maintain a healthy life.
  • Abandonment and refusal to accept parental responsibility are where the parent or caregiver left the child in a potentially harmful situation and did not plan to return for the child.
    • Refusal to accept parental responsibility - Child has been out of the home for any reason, and parent/caregiver refuses to allow the child to return home.
For more information on neglect, click here.

DFPS has jurisdiction to investigate when a child is abused or neglected by a parent or guardian. Does DFPS investigate other perpetrators as well?

Yes. Please report to DFPS if one or more of the following people are believed to have abused or neglected a child:

  • A parent, guardian, or foster parent.
  • A member of the child’s family, such as a grandparent or uncle, or a member of the child's household, such as an unrelated roommate of the parent.
  • A parent's boyfriend or girlfriend, regardless of whether that person lives in the home.
  • Personnel or a volunteer at the child’s school.
  • Personnel or a volunteer at a day care or residential facility.