Do I have to report child abuse or neglect?
Clients often ask about reporting to CPS (formally known as “Texas Department of Family and Protective Services”) when they suspect a child might be or have been abused and/or neglected. As seen in the referenced article, many states have specific laws about who does and does not have a duty to report child abuse and/or neglect when suspected and about what happens if such abuse/neglect is not reported.
Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 261.101, a “professional” who has cause to believe a child has been or may be abused or neglected has a duty to report such abuse/neglect to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Subsection (b) of Section 261.101 defines a “professional” as “an individual who is licensed or certified by the state or who is an employee of a facility licensed, certified, or operated by the state and who, in the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is required, has direct contact with children. The term includes teachers, nurses, doctors, daycare employees, employees of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services, juvenile probation offices, and juvenile detention or correctional officers.”
Furthermore, Section 261.101 imposes an additional requirement on professionals who have a duty report. The professional must report the suspected child abuse and/or neglect within the 48th hour after the hour the professional first suspects the abuse/neglect AND may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report.
For non-professionals, Section 261.101(a) states, “A person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report…”
The penalty for failing to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect is a Class A misdemeanor, “except that the offense is a state jail felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the child was a person with mental retardation who resided in a state supported living center, the ICF-MR component of the Rio Grande State Center, or a facility licensed under Chapter 252, Health and Safety Code, AND the actor knew that the child had suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the abuse or neglect.” Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 261.109(b) (emphasis added).
Because of the specific Texas Family Code provisions applicable to reporting child abuse and/or neglect, if a person suspects a child is being abused or neglected, it is best to report such abuse/neglect to the appropriate authorities. The person reporting abuse and/or neglect remains anonymous and may not be discriminated against, suspended or terminated from their employment for reporting such abuse. See Tex. Fam. Code Secs. 261.110; 261.201. Note the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services must investigate all reports of child abuse and/or neglect, thus a report should only be filed if the person believes in good faith that a child is actually being abuse and/or neglected. Persons making false reports of child abuse and/or neglect are subject to both criminal and civil penalties. See Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 261.107.
For more information about reporting child abuse and/or neglect, see http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Contact_Us/report_abuse.asp.