By: M.W. "Bull" Shorten
HOUSTON – While a Houston mother blames the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for retaliation, others claim the number of false reports being filed is ridiculous and a waste of staff resources.
According to Fox 26 Houston reporter Randy Wallace, after a Houston mother proved a CPS worker told her 14-year-old daughter to prostitute, TxDFPS is now investigating the mother’s grown daughter and three grandbabies for allegedly living out of her car with the kids and doing drugs.
However, when TxDFPS interviewed the grown daughter, they interviewed her at home where the kids were clearly living inside the home and no signs of drugs were found.
According to CPS, the new investigation of the grown daughter is not a retaliation by the Department, but the result of a new and entirely separate report.
While anyone can file a report of child abuse, it is up to the TxDFPS to determine whether the report has merit. If the details in the initial report have merit, an investigator will be assigned to interview the family. Many times, the family is interviewed, with the investigator’s findings and visible observations of the children differing from the initial report.
Killeen attorney Brett H. Pritchard claims that out of 440,000+ reports of child abuse each year, “nearly 85% of child abuse reports are not confirmed or are outright false.”
As a result, TxDFPS is stretching resources to sift through the false claims to find the children who need their protection and services.
In the State of Texas, filing a false report is a state jail felony (180 days to 2 years in jail) with a $1,000 civil fine and payment of the victim’s attorney fees. Repeated false claims can be classified as a felony of the 3rd degree (2 years to 10 years in jail), in addition to the civil fine and victim attorney fees. (Texas Family Code §261.107)
While TxDFPS allows child abuse to be reported anonymously, anonymity is only protected if it was a good faith claim. TxDFPS will provide the name of the person who filed the false claim and the names of witnesses who provided false information for the claim to law enforcement as part of the criminal investigation into the false claim(s). TxDFPS will also provide the name of the person who filed the report to the court or any other state agency with jurisdiction.
However, it is the parents of the child who must pursue the criminal charges for a false report. Many parents are so glad to have the TxDFPS case closed that they don’t pursue the fact the case was falsified and used for justification in family law cases, divorces, child custody cases, justification for other criminal cases, or simply meant to smear a political opponent or co-worker.
TxDFPS does not refer cases with suspected false reports to law enforcement. Instead, it is the parent's responsibility to report the false claim with proof of why the claim was false. A simple letter from TxDFPS with a finding of “ruled out” is not enough. The parents must document how the claim is false.
TxDFPS offers families an option to remove the names in unfounded cases from their database, which basically removes their names from the CPS database. However, the parent(s) only have 45 days to request the removal of their name(s).
If a parent removes their name from the database, that information may no longer be available for use in the criminal investigation of the false report. So, it is not always in the best interest of the parent to remove their name from the database.
An experienced family law attorney can assist parents in gathering the documentation law enforcement will need for criminal investigations of false CPS reports.