42 percent of CPS rulings on child abuse and neglect were overturned last year
The number of cases in Texas being overturned after Child Protective Services initially ruled that abuse or neglect had occurred has reached a very high level, according to the Houston Chronicle. The number of CPS rulings that have been overturned upon review has risen from 27 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2013. The issue raises a number of concerns, especially for parents who are involved in a child custody dispute.
Alarm at reversal rate
Child advocates are understandably alarmed at the high rate of reversals. In 2013, over 1140 CPS rulings were appealed, 486 of which were overturned. According to the Austin American-Statesman, less than three percent of abuse cases are actually appealed every year, although the reasons why parents choose not to appeal are varied. In many cases, parents fear they cannot afford legal representation for the appeals process or that they will not receive a fair hearing from CPS.
While it is impossible to say whether the high rate of reversals in the cases that are actually appealed is indicative of a larger problem, it nonetheless raises concerns over CPS practices. The Child Welfare League of America, for example, recommends that CPS investigators only handle 12 active cases per month. By CPS’s own admission, however, its investigators handle an average of 20 cases per month. Furthermore, the actual number of cases handled by investigators is likely to be even much higher than that figure, since investigators often have to pick up cases left behind by other investigators who quit. About 30 percent of CPS investigators leave their jobs each year.
CPS and child custody
As the Austin American-Statesman points out, an accusation of child abuse can have devastating consequences for parents seeking custody of their child, even if an initial ruling of child abuse is later overturned.
In one case, a woman lost custody of her son due to a finding by CPS that she was emotionally abusing the boy. Not only was it later found that many of the accusations against the woman were unsubstantiated, but that the mother was completely unaware she was even being investigated by CPS in the first place. Furthermore, the boy’s therapist, who the CPS had relied upon when making its child abuse ruling, was later found to have made questionable decisions and is currently fighting against having her license revoked.
Fighting for child custody
As the above issue shows, accusations of child abuse or domestic violence can have grave consequences on a child custody or other family law case. Even if an initial finding of child abuse is later overturned, the damage caused by that initial finding may ultimately lead to irreversible emotional consequences for a family.
Any person involved with a child custody or family law issue deserves the support of an experienced family lawyer. With qualified legal advice, parents will have the guidance they need when trying to resolve the complicated and difficult issues that often arise following a divorce or separation.