Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Texas

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.101

Any person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect shall immediately make a report.

A professional who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected shall make a report no later than 48 hours after the professional first has reasonable cause to believe that the child has been or may be abused or neglected.

A person or professional shall make a report if the person or professional has reasonable cause to believe that an adult was a victim of abuse or neglect as a child and the person or professional determines in good faith that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of another child, an elderly person, or a person with a disability.

Content of Reports

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.104

The person making a report shall identify the following, if known:

  • The name and address of the child
  • The name and address of the person responsible for the care, custody, or welfare of the child
  • Any other pertinent information concerning the alleged abuse or neglect

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.105

The department shall immediately notify the law enforcement agency of any report it receives that concerns the death of a child from abuse or neglect.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 261.103; 261.405; Admin. Code Tit. 40, § 700.479

The report shall be made to a law enforcement agency, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or the agency that operates or licenses the facility where the abuse or neglect occurred.

The report must be made to the department if the alleged or suspected abuse or neglect involves a person responsible for the care, custody, or welfare of the child.

A report of alleged abuse, neglect, or exploitation in any juvenile justice program or facility shall be made to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and a local law enforcement agency for investigation.

In regulation: The department must provide for receipt of reports of child abuse or neglect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.3015; Admin. Code Tit. 40, § 700.505

In assigning priorities and prescribing investigative procedures based on the severity and immediacy of the alleged harm to a child, the department shall establish an alternative response system to allow the department to make the most effective use of resources to investigate and respond to reported cases of abuse and neglect.

The department may conduct an alternative response to a report of abuse or neglect if the report does not do the following:

  • Allege sexual abuse of a child
  • Allege abuse or neglect that caused the death of a child
  • Indicate a risk of serious physical injury or immediate serious harm to a child

The department may administratively close a reported case of abuse or neglect without completing the investigation or alternative response and without providing services or making a referral to another entity for assistance if the department determines, after contacting a professional or other credible source, the child's safety can be assured without further investigation, response, services, or assistance.

In determining how to classify a reported case of abuse or neglect under the alternative response system, the child's safety is the primary concern. The classification of a case may be changed as warranted by the circumstances.

In regulation: Child Protective Services (CPS) assigns priorities for reports of abuse and neglect based on the assessment of the immediacy of the risk and the severity of the possible harm to the child. Reports are assigned to one of two categories as follows:

  • Priority I reports concern children who appear to face an immediate risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm.
  • Priority II reports are all other reports of abuse or neglect that are not assigned a Priority I.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.301

With assistance from the appropriate State or local law enforcement agency, the department shall make a prompt and thorough investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect allegedly committed by a person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare.

A State agency shall investigate a report that alleges abuse or neglect occurred in a facility operated, licensed, certified, or registered by that agency.

The department is not required to investigate a report that alleges child abuse or neglect by a person other than a person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare. The appropriate State or local law enforcement agency shall investigate that report if the agency determines an investigation should be conducted.

An investigation of a report that alleges that a child has been or may be the victim of a criminal offense, which poses an immediate risk of physical or sexual abuse that could result in the death of or serious harm to the child, shall be conducted jointly by the department and a peace officer.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 261.301; 261.3015; 261.302

As necessary to provide for the protection of the child, the department shall determine the following:

  • The nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect
  • The identity of the person responsible for the abuse or neglect
  • The names and conditions of the other children in the home
  • An evaluation of the parents or persons responsible for the care of the child
  • The adequacy of the home environment
  • The relationship of the child to the persons responsible for the care, custody, or welfare of the child
  • All other pertinent data

An alternative response to a report of abuse or neglect must include the following:

  • A safety assessment of the child who is the subject of the report
  • An assessment of the child's family
  • In collaboration with the child's family, identification of any necessary and appropriate service or support to reduce the risk of future harm to the child

An alternative response to a report of abuse or neglect may not include a formal determination of whether the alleged abuse or neglect occurred.

The investigation may include the following:

  • A visit to the child's home unless the alleged abuse or neglect can be confirmed or clearly ruled out without a home visit
  • An interview with and examination of the subject child, which may include a medical, psychological, or psychiatric examination

The interview with and examination of the child may proceed as follows:

  • Be conducted at any reasonable time and place, including the child's home or the child's school
  • Include the presence of persons the department determines are necessary
  • Include transporting the child for purposes relating to the interview or investigation

The investigation may include an interview with the child's parents and an interview with and medical, psychological, or psychiatric examinations of any child in the home.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.301; Admin. Code Tit. 40, § 700.505

The department shall assign by rule priorities and prescribe investigative procedures for investigations based on the severity and immediacy of the alleged harm to the child. The department is required to do the following:

  • Immediately respond to a report that involves circumstances in which the death of the child or substantial bodily harm to the child would result unless the department immediately intervenes
  • Respond within 24 hours to a report that is assigned the highest priority
  • Respond within 72 hours to a report that is assigned the second highest priority

In regulation: CPS must do the following:

  • Respond immediately to a report of abuse or neglect that is assigned as a Priority I and involves circumstances in which the death of the child or substantial bodily harm to the child will imminently result unless the department immediately intervenes
  • Respond within 24 hours to a report of abuse or neglect that is assigned a Priority I, other than a report described above
  • Respond within 72 hours to a report of abuse or neglect that is assigned a Priority II by initiating an investigation or by forwarding the report to specialized screening staff

Classification of Reports

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 40, § 700.511

The finding made in the investigation about each individual allegation of abuse/neglect that was identified at intake or during the investigation is assigned one of the following allegation dispositions:

  • Reason-to-believe: Based on a preponderance of evidence, staff conclude that abuse or neglect has occurred.
  • Ruled-out: Based on available information, staff determine that it is reasonable to conclude that the abuse or neglect has not occurred.
  • Unable to complete: Staff could not determine whether alleged abuse or neglect occurred due to any of the following circumstances:
    • The family could not be located to begin the investigation.
    • The family moved and could not be located to finish the investigation.
    • The family was unwilling to cooperate with the investigation.
  • Unable-to-determine: Staff conclude that none of the dispositions specified above is appropriate.
  • Administrative closure: Information received after a case was assigned for investigation reveals that continued intervention is unwarranted.