As an education professional, you may be faced with the difficult task of recognizing abuse and neglect of a student.

Definitions of Abuse and Neglect

For legal definitions of abuse and neglect, please refer to the Texas Family Code (TFC). Below, you'll find DFPS' explanations of abuse and neglect based on the definitions found in the TFC.


Physical abuse
Deliberate actions resulting in injuries to a child or genuine threats of such actions or concerns about physical injuries of an unexplained or suspicious nature.
Sexual abuse
  • Sexual indecency, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault.
  • Failing to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct to a child.
  • Using the child for the creation of obscene or pornographic material.
Emotional abuse
An emotional or mental injury caused by the parent or caregiver that results in an observable effect on the child.
Psychological state
Concerns about the child's mental stability, as demonstrated by mood, behavior, and thoughts.
  • Labor trafficking: Parent or caregiver forcing a child into labor or services that are unhealthy or harmful to the child.
  • Sex trafficking: Parent or caregiver receiving compensation for forcing a child to engage in prostitution or other sex acts.


Neglectful supervision
Placing the child in, or failing to remove a child from, a situation that:
  • A reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities.
  • Results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm to the child.
  • Exposes the child to a substantial risk of harmful sexual conduct.
  • Exposes the child to sexual abuse committed against another child.
Medical neglect
Failure to seek, obtain, or administer medical treatment that could result in substantial harm.
Physical neglect
Failure to provide a child with the necessary food, clothing, and shelter to maintain a healthy life.
Requires both of the following components:
  • Leaving a child in a situation that would expose the child to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm without arranging for necessary care for the child.
  • A parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator of a child who shows no intent to return.

Who to Report

DFPS has jurisdiction to investigate when a child is abused or neglected by a parent or guardian. DFPS also investigates other perpetrators.

Please report to DFPS if one or more of the following people are believed to have abused or neglected a child:

  • A parent, guardian, or foster parent.
  • A member of the child’s family, such as a grandparent or uncle, or a member of the child's household, such as an unrelated roommate of the parent.
  • A parent's boyfriend or girlfriend, regardless of whether that person lives in the home.
  • Personnel or a volunteer at the child’s school.
  • Personnel or a volunteer at a day care or residential facility.