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Understanding the mandatory reporting law in Texas

| Jan 10, 2021 | Child Protective Services |

If someone reported you to Child Protective Services (CPS) for alleged abuse or neglect, it may be easy to assume that they’re trying to hurt you or get back at you for something. However, it’s important to look at who made the report.

Under Texas law, people in certain occupations have what’s called a “duty to report.” That means if they suspect abuse or neglect of a child, they’re required to report it directly to a state or local law enforcement agency or to the Department of Family and Protective Services. Reporting it to a supervisor or manager is not sufficient.

Who has a duty to report?

The state’s mandatory reporting requirements apply to people like medical professionals, teachers, day care employees and others who have contact with children in a facility or agency that is certified or licensed by the state. Even people in certain professions where communications are sometimes considered privileged, like the clergy and attorneys, have a duty to report within 48 hours.

Texas law has a rather broad definition of abuse and neglect. Basically, it’s any action that could negatively impact a child’s mental or physical health or safety.

The consequences of failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect

Because the state prefers that mandatory reporters err on the side of protecting a child, the consequences are greater if they fail to do so than if they’ve made a mistake -– as long as the report was made in good faith. Failure to report child neglect or abuse can land a mandatory reporter in jail for as long as a year and get them fined thousands of dollars. If they report what they have reason to believe could be neglect or abuse, they are protected from both criminal and civil liability.

If you’re facing a CPS investigation or other consequences due to a report by a doctor, teacher or other mandatory reporter, it’s essential to take that seriously -– even if you know there’s no merit to the suspicion. An attorney who has experience dealing with CPS can help you present your case and protect your rights.