How are cases reported to CPS?
Everyone has a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Child Protective Services (CPS) is part of a state agency, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The sole purpose of CPS is to investigate reports of child abuse or neglect. By law, the person making the report must remain anonymous. Doctors, lawyers, therapists, and clergy are legally required to file a report if they suspect child abuse or neglect.
Can CPS take my child?
YES. If CPS investigates a report and believes the child is in danger, it can remove the child from the unsafe environment. An unsafe environment may involve physical violence towards the child or another member of the household or sexual contact with a child. It can also involve neglect, such as not providing enough food or medical care for the child or leaving the child without proper supervision. The environment is also considered unsafe for the child if members of the child’s household are using illegal drugs or if firearms in the home are unlocked and away from the child.
What happens after the separation?
CPS will notify the child’s parents in writing and provide all documents filed with the court. The documents will include a written statement from the investigator stating the reasons for the removal. A court hearing will be held within 14 days. At that time, the judge will decide if the child should be returned home, stay with a friend or relative, or remain in CPS custody (foster care). If the judge decides not to return the child, CPS will develop a service plan with her input, which lists the steps she needs to take to address CPS’s safety concerns about the child. The Plan may also require you to attend parenting or anger management classes, complete a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, submit to random drug testing and other requirements. Because the court requires you to comply with the Plan, failure to do so will delay or prevent your child’s return.
CPS has not taken custody of my child. Do I have to follow your recommendations?
A CPS investigation may identify concerns about your child’s care or your home environment, but it allows you to keep the child at home or with a relative while you work to make any recommended changes. A written agreement called a Safety Plan lists recommended actions and may include a referral to Family Safety Services to help you. No court case is filed and you cannot be forced to accept the Security Plan. But if you do not agree, or if the Plan is not followed, CPS can file a court case and ask the court to order you to comply and/or take the child into custody and file a court case.
What are my rights?
- You have the right to talk to your CPS caseworker. Communications with the caseworker are not confidential and anything you say may be used in court.
- If CPS has filed a lawsuit against you to take your children, you have the right to a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford an attorney. At the first CPS hearing, ask the court to appoint an attorney to represent you.
- You have the right to deny allegations made by CPS.
- You have the right to be notified of and attend all court hearings.
- You have the right to an interpreter if you do not understand English or are hard of hearing.
How long will the case remain open?
If CPS files a court case, you only have 12 months to prove to the court that your children can be safely returned to you. Safety plans and family-based safety services can last from 60 to 90 days or more, depending on what is needed. If you have a safety plan and your child is assigned to someone else, the placement should not last more than 90 days, although you can make an agreement with CPS to continue it for 6 months or more. If your child is with you and receiving Family Based Safety Services, the case may stay open for 6-9 months or longer if the services are still needed to make sure you have a safe home for your child. If CPS is only investigating, the investigation must be completed within 30 days, although the time frame may be extended.