Child abuse is a prevalent problem in Texas. The police and Child Protective Services (CPS) take allegations of child abuse seriously. However, not all reports of child abuse are confirmed. Many parents and caregivers in Texas are falsely accused of child abuse and neglect.
Each day, nearly 200 children become victims of child abuse in Texas alone, and more than four children on average die from abuse every week. However, out of over 440,000 reports of child abuse per year, only about 70,000 cases are confirmed. It means that more than 85% of child abuse reports are not confirmed or are outright false.
Being falsely accused of child abuse or neglect is every parent’s nightmare. If the other parent of your child, your child’s teacher, doctor, neighbor, or another person accused you of child abuse, do not hesitate to contact a Harker Heights family law attorney to discuss your options. When facing false accusations of child abuse, it is essential to think clearly and understand your rights.
What is Considered Child Abuse in Texas?
There are many different types of child abuse and neglect, including but not limited to:
Inflicting physical, psychological, or emotional abuse;
Placing a child in a physically, psychologically, or emotionally abusive situation or failing to remove the child from one;
Failing to seek timely medical care for a child, exposing the risk to the risk of bodily injury, disfigurement, or death;
Failing to prove for a child’s basic needs, including shelter, food, and clothing;
Inflicting physical injury or creating a substantial risk of harm for the child’s welfare and safety;
Failing to take reasonable measures to prevent another person from causing physical injury to a child;
Engaging in sexual conduct that harms the child’s physical, emotional, or mental welfare; and
Giving a child drugs or other controlled substances, which eventually leads to addiction or other types of harm.
These and many other types of conduct constitute child abuse and neglect in Texas. If someone, including a neighbor or your partner, reports child abuse to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the authorities will investigate the report to determine whether or not the alleged abuse occurred. In the worst-case scenario, the authorities may even remove an abused child from their home.
What Are the Requirements for Reporting Child Abuse in Texas?
While the Texas DFPS takes all allegations of child abuse seriously, there are specific requirements for reporting child abuse in Texas.
Under Texas law, any person who has reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected must make a complaint to the Texas DFPS. Texas Family Code § 261.101 requires professionals who have direct contact with children to report child abuse to the appropriate agency in a timely manner. “Professionals” who must report child abuse to authorities is any worker who has direct contact with children in the course and scope of their employment. These professionals include anyone who is a government employee or works at a facility licensed or certified by the State of Texas, including:
Healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals)
Juvenile probation officers
Juvenile detention or correctional officers
In Texas, failure to report child abuse as required by law can result in misdemeanor or state jail felony charges. Under a new Texas law that goes into effect on September 1, 2021, family courts and child welfare employees in the state must consider additional medical opinions before removing a child from parents’ home after a child abuse report is made.
The new requirements to consider further medical opinions before removing children from their parents is the latest attempt of legislators to protect parents from false child abuse claims.
What to Do if You Have Been Falsely Accused of Child Abuse?
First and foremost, falsely accusing someone of child abuse is a criminal offense in Texas. Under Texas Family Code § 261.107, making a false report of child abuse with the intent to deceive is a state jail felony. The charges are elevated to a third-degree felony if the individual has previously been convicted for making false child abuse reports.
Even if you know that the accusations of child abuse are false, the fact that you will be investigated by the Department of Family and Protective Services and Child Protective Services is still quite intimidating and frustrating.
Take the following three steps to protect your rights when facing false allegations of child abuse in Texas:
Cooperate with the investigation. Understandably, being falsely accused of abusing your child is not the most pleasant experience. However, it is critical to remain calm and not lose your temper. Dealing with CPS is a stressful and somewhat humiliating experience, but it is essential that you cooperate with the investigation to ensure a favorable outcome. Being uncooperative could make the situation much worse.
Collect evidence to prove that the allegations are false. When authorities are investigating the report of child abuse, you will have an opportunity to present your evidence to prove that the allegations are false. For this reason, you need to make sure that the evidence you collect can convince Child Protective Services that you did not do anything wrong. Your attorney will help gather all available evidence to prove that the allegations are untrue.
Hire a family lawyer to protect your rights. You have a lot to lose if the false allegations of child abuse are confirmed. That is why it is important to be represented by an experienced family lawyer to address false accusations in the most efficient manner possible. Judges and juries in Texas take allegations of child abuse seriously, which is why it is a good idea to hire a lawyer to help you prepare a convincing case and fight back against false accusations.