You do have the right to appeal if you disagree with a decision made by Child Protective Services in Texas. You must follow the proper legal channels and provide thorough documentation of your innocence in order to do so. There are no guarantees when it comes to overturning a decision made by CPS, but some appeals are approved when they're properly filed and proof of innocence is substantiated.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
The CPS appeals process involves a series of hearings where you can present your case and speak on your own behalf. Excellent documentation and preparation can put you in the best possible position to win your appeal.
Understand the Role of CPS
The Texas Department of Child Protective Services, which many people simply call "CPS," serves as the agency that investigates child abuse and neglect. They determine if abuse or neglect are present and they advocate for children who come from abusive homes. Anyone can report suspected abuse to CPS, often anonymously. Certain professionals, like teachers and nurses, must report any suspected abuse or neglect. Foster parents must also call the report line any time a foster child gets badly hurt or falls ill, even if it's by complete accident.
The investigative team from the corresponding county opens a case when CPS receives a report. They visit the home and make an initial assessment regarding a child's safety. In some cases, they might remove the child from the home immediately and have the parents begin a service plan. The goal is the reunification of the family at the beginning of every case, but CPS might change the goal to termination of parental rights if the parents don't complete the plan in 12 to 18 months. Parents can appeal several decisions throughout the span of a case.
How Are Texas CPS Decisions Made?
You'll be notified in writing of the CPS decision after an officer of the department visits your home and investigates. CPS will issue a “Reason to Believe” or "RTB" finding if the officer finds that child abuse or neglect has most likely occurred. You can contest this if you believe it's unfounded.
Start the CPS Appeal Process
You have 45 days to request a review of the decision after you receive your RTB instructions from CPS. You're required to follow these instructions outlined in the letter. You should also consider involving a family law attorney if you have one or hire someone to help you appeal your case.
You'll be asked to appear for a meeting with your caseworker and a supervisor where you can present evidence of your innocence, including statements and relevant written materials. You'll be asked questions by counsel at this hearing. It's the duty of the CPS officer to determine whether your presented evidence is enough to overturn the prior finding.
You have the option to request a further review from the Texas Department of Child Protective Services Office of Consumer Relations if the original RTB finding is upheld, but you won't have an opportunity to speak on your own behalf or present evidence at this review.
Request an Additional Hearing if Necessary
If you're turned down after your hearing with the Office of Consumer Relations, your RTB finding will remain until a third party is given access to the decision information by either you or the CPS registry. This would often be the case during an employment background investigation. You have the option to request an additional hearing at this point. An administrative law judge will make a decision on your case during your appeal hearing. This judge is an independent authority and does not work for CPS.
Know Your Chances
Overall, the more you're able to document your innocence and stay on top of your appeal, the greater your chances of success. Whether you elect to involve an attorney, researching cases similar to yours can help you win your appeal. And just consulting with an attorney can be helpful, even if you don't hire anyone to actually handle the appeal for you.
- Law Office of Bryan Fagan: Child Protective Services Investigation
- Hernandez Law Firm: Child Protective Services Cases
- Texas DFPS: Frequently Asked Questions About Reporting Abuse
- Texas DFPS: Report Abuse, Neglect, or Exploitation
- Law Office of Bryan Fagan: Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 3