Catch and Release: The New World of CPS Investigation
I can’t make this stuff up.
Because Texas CPS has implemented what I call a “catch and release” policy when investigating allegations of child abuse or neglect, stories of CPS investigations like the one I’m going to share with you happen every day.
Jimmy goes fishing and gets caught in a CPS dragnet.
Our story begins with the Jones family on a quiet Thursday afternoon at home in their access-controlled housing community. Mom and dad are working in their home office, trying to finish their end of the month reports. The two oldest boys, Jeff (14) and Jayson (10) ask to walk to the neighborhood pond, about a quarter-mile from home, to do some fishing.
Mom and dad say “sure” but instruct the boys to take Jimmy (5) with them. But, Jimmy didn’t want to fish and the two older boys decided to ride their bikes in the neighborhood rather than fish. Unbeknownst to mom and dad, Jimmy changed his mind, slipped out of the house and went towards the pond, in search of his brothers.
Enter your wacky neighbor and mine
Neighborhood resident Ms. Gladewater sees this young boy walking alone and calls the police to intervene for this “missing child.” The police come, kindly unravel the situation, and usher Jimmy home to his parents. The entire episode transpired in about 15 minutes.
What the Texas Family Code says about reporting abuse
Texas Family Code section 261.101 mandates that anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect must report it immediately. The report may be made to law enforcement or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Further, law enforcement and other persons licensed or certified by the state of Texas are instructed to always err on the side of the child’s safety an
d report suspected abuse or neglect, which can lead to CPS investigations.
If CPS gets a call, you’re getting a call
Texas CPS policy tends to ebb and flow depending on recent events, available funding, and the general political climate. Long starved for resources, the agency has always been pressured to do more with less. Then, when catastrophe strikes, blame gets divvied up from the most junior case investigator to the agency commissioner in Austin.
Now, CPS is adding staff, some more qualified than others, and responding to a mandate to thoroughly and aggressively investigate all reports of suspected abuse or neglect. Coming back to our story, what was a harmless miscommunication on a Thursday afternoon is now a CPS investigation.
What can you expect during an abbreviated CPS investigation
Each investigation differs depending on the allegations, but you should expect the following to occur:
- The CPS worker will visit and inspect your home for safety, cleanliness, and adequate food supplies;
- The CPS worker will interview you not just about the allegations at hand but also about a wide array of other matters such as your employment, relationships, use of alcohol, use of drugs, and criminal history;
- The CPS worker will interview your children… outside your presence. Again, expect this interview to be wide-ranging;
- The CPS worker will contact doctors, teachers and other collaterals necessary to complete the investigation;
- If there is a concern about drug usage, the CPS worker will request you submit to an oral swab drug screen.
Four things I do to help my clients live through a CPS investigation
My work with clients facing CPS investigations extends beyond the courtroom. In fact, my goal is to keep my clients out of the courthouse as the formal legal process simply adds to the trauma of an investigation, causes excessive delay, and adds greatly to the expense of a case. Here are four things I do to help you get through a CPS investigation:
- Protect clients from intimidating or otherwise unprofessional behavior by CPS investigators;
- Clarify and verify the facts of the allegation;
- Identify those specific actions necessary to address any existing safety concerns and to control those risk factors going forward;
- Establish clear deadlines for the conclusion of the CPS investigation and completion of agreed-upon services.
… And the Jones family lived through their CPS investigation
I met with the Jones family, outlined what they should expect during the investigation, and intervened with the CPS investigator to set up a meeting at my office. While the parents were not present during the interview of the children, I was there – – which was a great comfort to mom and dad.
The CPS investigator (who was very professional and sensitive to the boys’ apprehension) completed his investigation quickly and “ruled-out” any allegations against the Jones family.
For more information, please view our FAQ on CPS investigations
Greg Housewirth, Attorney/Mediator
1329 College Avenue
Fort Worth, Texas 76104
P: (817) 923-9999
F: (817) 717-5003