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What Happens If Someone Reports Me to Child Protective Services?

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Child Protective Services Reporting in Texas

Most people in Texas who have children are familiar with Child Protective Services. Even if some parents have never had to interact with CPS, this organization is very well-known. This is because this organization frequently gets involved in cases where parents have been accused of abusing their children. If CPS conducts an investigation into a family and determines that abuse has occurred, parents may lose their custodial rights or face jail time and the children may be relocated into the care of the state.

How does Child Protective Services find out about suspected abuse? In most cases, they rely on reports from concerned family members, teachers or neighbors. There are specific rules about making these kinds of reports and, in some cases, well-meaning people can make false reports.

Who Can Make CPS Reports?

Almost anyone who suspects that child abuse is occurring can call Child Protective Services to make a report. According to CPS and state law, any person who has a reasonable suspicion that some sort of abuse is taking place may make a call to CPS. The law does not require that a person has 100% verified proof of abuse; only reasonable suspicion is required.

Under the law, reasonable suspicion is defined as:

  • The person making the report has information about a child who has been harmed by a parent or legal guardian
  • Another experienced reporter of abuse would reach the same conclusion given the same information

For example, suppose that Diane is a primary school teacher. One of her students, Becky, comes to class with bruises on her arms. When Diane asks Becky how the bruises occurred, Becky states that her parents hit her when she wouldn’t do her chores. Diane may have a reasonable suspicion that abuse has occurred and she can make a report to CPS.

The Five Criteria

When CPS is making a decision on whether or not to investigate a report of child abuse, they use a very specific set of criteria in the decision-making process. These five criteria are determined by state law. These criteria must be supplied by the person making the report. If all five criteria are met, CPS can then register a report. This means that they can begin an official investigation of the abuse claims.

The five criteria include:

  1. The correct name and location of the child
  2. The age of the child must be under 18
  3. The child must be in the jurisdiction of the CPS agency
  4. The perpetrator must be a legal guardian or caretaker of the child
  5. The claims of abuse must fall under the legal definition of abuse

If all of these criteria are met, then CPS can begin an investigation. In most cases, the investigation will begin immediately and they almost always begin within 24 hours. The investigation can include interviews with the children and guardians, inspection of the guardians’ house and drug tests of the guardians.

The Problem of False Allegations

It’s a sad truth that reports of child abuse are sometimes false. In many cases, a false allegation can be made by someone who is simply trying to do the right thing. Doctors, teachers and clergy members may only be trying to help a child when they make a CPS report based on false information.

In some cases, children simply make up claims of abuse or they may even be coached to make false statements by adults who are caught up in a custody battle.

No matter how it happens, false allegations are a serious matter. There are several ways that people who are falsely accused of abuse can handle these claims. They include:

  • Hire an attorney immediately
  • Cooperate with Child Protective Services to the extent a lawyer advises
  • Parents and guardians can refuse to let CPS into their home
  • Parents and guardians can refuse to give consent for their children to be interviewed

It’s always a good idea to behave calmly and respectfully with CPS workers. After all, they are legally obligated to investigate all abuse claims and getting angry with them can make the situation worse. When people find themselves in this situation, the best move is to contact an attorney right away. An attorney may be able to provide advice about the best step to take in this situation.

Have you recently been visited by CPS? It’s important to have an attorney ensure that your rights are protected. Brett Podolsky is a Houston lawyer that can help you. Contact his office today at (713) 227-0087.

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