Child Protective Services (CPS), which is known here as the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), is a division within the State and local social services that plays a pivotal role in the cases of child abuse and neglect. It is created by the law and its role, responsibilities, and powers are described in the Texas Family Code, Chapter 261. A central registry in Austin maintains all the reported cases of child abuse & neglect and Texas Family Code, §261.001 provides the definitions of abuse & neglect which are used to confirm the various reports made. The DFPS is responsible for conducting the initial investigation on the reported child abuse and neglect cases. Although, it’s a central agency in ensuring child protection, however, it works in conjunction with several other parties to complete the work.
Once the report for child abuse and/or neglect is received, Child Protective Services (DFPS) will start the initial investigation and serve you with a document known as Notification for Removal that will state the reasons for removal. If there are evidences found of abuse (or neglect), the court can ask you & your family to get help to improve living conditions for the child or can put the child temporarily in the custody of the DFPS. In case the child is removed from home, the paperwork filed with the court will be served to you which will include the petition which was filed after the report was received by the DFPS. In this petition, the term respondent is used for the parents or guardian who is accused of child abuse and neglect. If you don’t understand the mentioned reasons or any other part of the petition, take legal advise from a Family Law attorney.
To understand and protect the will of the child, an attorney is appointed by the court known as attorney ad litem (AAL) who has the responsibility to represent the child’s interests. In some cases, a court can also appoint a trained volunteer known as the Court Appointed Special advocate (CASA) who meets with the different parties involved in the case and reports back to the court with his/her findings. If the judge orders mediation for your case, then a meeting involving the respondent (you), respondent’s attorney, AAL, DFPS, and DFPS’s attorney is conducted to resolve the problems in the presence of a mediator.
In general, a child abuse & neglect case goes through eight different stages namely emergency hearing, adversary hearing (also known as show cause), initial permanency planning team (PPT) meeting, status hearing, initial permanency hearing, additional PPT meetings, permanency hearing, and final hearing (i.e. trial). Consulting a Family Law attorney who has a good experience in child protection cases will help you to put a strong case during these hearings and meetings.