Questions and Answers
- What is the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)?
- What does a DFPS investigation mean?
- If I seek help from a Family Violence Program (FVP), will DFPS automatically become involved with my family?
- How will seeking services from an FVP affect me?
- Will DFPS tell anyone else where we are?
- What happens if I already have an open DFPS case when I come to stay at a shelter?
- What happens when I leave a shelter?
- What will I be asked to do if DFPS becomes involved with my family?
- Will I be accused of child abuse if my child has seen a person using violence to harm me?
- Will DFPS take my child away?
- If my child is taken away, can I get my child back?
- How will DFPS help my child and me?
What is the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)?
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is a state agency that is required by law to respond to reports of child abuse or neglect. State law requires any person who believes that a child has been abused or neglected to make a report to DFPS or to a law enforcement agency.
DFPS has two options when investigating concerns of abuse or neglect: a traditional investigation or Alternative Response (AR). After completing the investigation or alternative response assessment, DFPS may determine that your family needs additional resources to help you keep your child safe. If so, the case may remain open, and DFPS will continue to work with your family, including the person using violence.
What does a DFPS investigation mean?
In a traditional investigation or AR case, DFPS will talk to the child who was reportedly abused or neglected, as well as any other children in the family. The caseworker will look for any signs of injury or neglect and seek medical attention for the child if needed. DFPS gathers information to determine if a person used violence, abuse, or neglect and who it was. After gathering the facts, DFPS decides if the child has been abused or is currently at risk of abuse or neglect, if community services may help the family, and whether more DFPS involvement is needed to protect the child. Please talk to your DFPS caseworker if you have any questions about the process.
If I seek help from a Family Violence Program (FVP), will DFPS automatically become involved with my family?
No. Seeking shelter or services from a Family Violence Program (FVP) does not result in an automatic report to DFPS. FVPs include shelter centers, non-residential counseling, legal service providers, or any agency helping victims of domestic violence. DFPS will only become involved if a report of abuse or neglect of your child is made by you or someone else, such as a family member, friend, police officer, or someone at your FVP.
While FVP staff are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect, just seeking services from an FVP does not mean that your child was being abused or neglected. If your child has been abused by a person using violence, FVP staff are encouraged to assist you in making a report to DFPS. Seeking shelter or services is a good step to protect your child, and FVPs have an identified liaison within DFPS to assist when a report must be made.
How will seeking services from an FVP affect me?
Staying in a shelter or seeking services from an FVP may be your best option to protect both you and your child. Your work with FVP staff and your use of community resources is a good sign that you are trying to protect your child. If DFPS is involved, we may offer additional services or resources, including help in building a safety network of relatives, friends, and professionals. Safety networks may help with support, such as babysitting or getting a ride to an appointment.
Will DFPS tell anyone else where we are?
In most circumstances, the law requires DFPS to notify both parents of an investigation. However, DFPS is not required to tell the other parent where you or your child are staying and will not reveal the name or location of your shelter. DFPS also does not reveal the identity of a person who reports child abuse or neglect to the person being investigated. Your family’s safety is a top priority, and DFPS is required to keep client information confidential.
What happens if I already have an open DFPS case when I come to stay at a shelter?
If you have moved to a shelter, tell your DFPS caseworker and let them know how to contact you. Your DFPS caseworker and shelter staff will help you. They are concerned about the safety of you and your child.
What happens when I leave a shelter?
You will need a plan to protect yourself and your child when you leave a shelter. If DFPS is working with you, we want to support you in taking actions that reduce any danger and keep you and your child safe. We encourage you to discuss your options with your DFPS caseworker and to address any continuing safety concerns you may have, including a protective order. The FVP is likely to recommend a safety plan for you as part of exiting the shelter and can assist you in obtaining a protective order.
What will I be asked to do if DFPS becomes involved with my family?
DFPS wants to build on the safe ways you care for your child, as well as help you find other ways to keep your child safe over time without DFPS involvement. We also want your child to have a voice. DFPS will ask you to identify your family’s strengths, needs, resources, and plans for child safety over time, and will offer resources that may be of assistance.
Will I be accused of child abuse if my child has seen a person using violence to harm me?
While DFPS may investigate reports of a child being exposed to domestic violence, this does not automatically result in a finding of child abuse or neglect against the victim of domestic violence. DFPS will not hold the victim accountable for abuse and neglect just for being victimized. DFPS guidelines do note that “domestic violence that physically harms a child or puts the child at substantial risk of immediate harm would constitute an allegation of child abuse or neglect.” DFPS believes that those who commit acts of domestic violence should be held accountable for how they affect the safety and well-being of children, as well as adult victims.
For more information on how DFPS handles cases involving adult victims of domestic violence, see the DFPS Disposition Guidelines for Domestic Violence Resource Guide.
Will DFPS take my child away?
Having DFPS involved with your family does not mean that your child will be taken away. DFPS believes that a child should not be taken away unless there is no other way to protect the child from harm. When there is immediate danger to a child’s physical health or safety, DFPS will work with you and your safety network to develop a plan to ensure your child’s safety. Sometimes this plan may include limiting contact between your child and the person using violence. It might involve supervision when you and your child are together or voluntarily placing your child with a relative. DFPS is only allowed to remove a child from a parent's care when there is immediate danger to a child’s physical health or safety or if a court orders it.
If my child is taken away, can I get my child back?
Most removals are temporary. A child is only taken away permanently in extreme cases. If your child is removed from your care, DFPS will work with you to make it safe for your child to return to you.
How will DFPS help my child and me?
Your DFPS caseworker and his or her supervisor will ask for your input on what you feel would be helpful to keep you and your family safe. We want to support you and work with you to prevent harm to your child. Some of the services that DFPS may provide include:
- Helping you build a safety network.
- Giving you information.
- Referring you to community resources.
- Providing child day care.
- Helping find resources to pay for things, such as essential household items or utility deposits.
- Visit the Domestic Violence Resource Guide to learn more about DFPS services and coordination with community resources.
DFPS also works to find resources for the person using violence. The DFPS caseworker may refer the person using violence to a Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP):
- Visit the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) website, and click on the "Find Help" button.
- The Texas Department of Criminal Justice also provides a list of all accredited BIPPs in the state. However, only some of those have joined the DFPS referral network. The DFPS caseworker will know which programs are provided in your region, and many BIPPs are also using virtual options to make it easier to participate across DFPS regional lines.