Our FAQs can help when you need to know what to do right away.
CPS JUST KNOCKED ON MY DOOR. WHAT DO I DO?
CPS IS MAKING ALL SORTS OF DEMANDS. DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING THEY SAY?
DO I HAVE TO LET THEM IN MY HOUSE?
CPS SAYS THEY CAN TAKE MY CHILD WITHOUT A COURT ORDER BECAUSE IT’S AN EMERGENCY. WHAT MAKES IT AN EMERGENCY?
Real emergencies are defined in the Texas Family Code and in case law. I won’t quote them in detail here, but they state in general that the investigator must have personal knowledge (not suspicion, not allegations) that there is an immediate danger to a child’s physical (not emotional) health or safety. So immediate that there’s no time to obtain a court order.
A CPS memo to all its employees gave this instruction:
Weighing everything you know at the moment you are considering the removal, would the time it takes to obtain a court order place the child in imminent danger of physical or sexual abuse?
So, for example, if dad did abuse his child – but is currently working offshore – it’s not an emergency. If the parent denies abusing his child and the investigator doesn’t have personal knowledge to the contrary, it’s not an emergency.
WHY IS CPS DEMANDING THAT I BRING MY KIDS TO THEIR OFFICE FOR QUESTIONING?
THE CPS INVESTIGATOR IS REFUSING TO TELL ME WHAT I’VE BEEN ACCUSED OF. CAN SHE DO THAT?
This is the United States, not the U.S.S.R. You are entitled to know.
WHAT IS A SAFETY PLAN?
Occasionally, the demands are reasonable. Agree to stay sober around the kids. That sort of thing. Other times, the demands are ridiculous. One demanded that the parent agree to not let the child get sick. No, I’m not kidding.
A safety plan is NOT legally binding. You may follow it, modify it, or ignore it. However, you must consider what may happen if you don’t do as you agreed. There may be consequences, including the emergency removal of your child. You should consult an attorney before signing or modifying any safety plan.
IS IT LEGAL TO SPANK A CHILD IN TEXAS?
The short answer is “yes”. The long answer is “yes, to a point”.
Let’s look at the applicable law. First, Texas Family Code (TFC) §261.001(1)(c) defines abuse of a child, in part, as physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, excluding reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm.”
Is spanking “reasonable discipline”? For the answer, let’s turn to TFC 151.001(e):
(e) Only the following persons may use corporal punishment for the reasonable discipline of a child:
(1) a parent or grandparent of the child;
(2) a stepparent of the child who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of the child; and
(3) an individual who is a guardian of the child and who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of the child.
The Texas Family Code specifically confirms that the spanking is not abuse, but is reasonable discipline.
The Family Code is at odds with Texas criminal statutes, in that it defines exactly who may use corporal punishment on a child. But Texas Penal Code §9.61 states that:
(a) The use of force, but not deadly force, against a child younger than 18 years is justified:
(1) if the actor is the child’s parent or stepparent or is acting in loco parentis to the child; and
(2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is necessary to discipline the child or to safeguard or promote his welfare.
(b) For purposes of this section, “in loco parentis” includes grandparent and guardian, any person acting by, through, or under the direction of a court with jurisdiction over the child, and anyone who has express or implied consent of the parent or parents.
So if you are, say, mom’s sister who is babysitting the little darling for the night, you are not on the Family Code list. But as long as you have permission from mom to spank, there is no criminal penalty for doing so. And, as long as you don’t cause substantial harm to the child, there is no civil liability either.
Substantial harm is defined in the Texas Administrative Code as:
Real and significant physical injury or damage to a child that includes, but is not limited to, bruises, cuts, welts, skull or other bone fractures, brain damage, subdural hematoma, internal injuries, burns, scalds, wounds, poisoning, human bites, concussions, and dislocations and sprains.
Now you may ask whether slight bruising on a kid’s buttocks is a “real and significant injury.” Reasonable minds can differ, but know that many CPS agents and judges are of the opinion that a bruise, any bruise, anywhere, is abuse. To be safe from government interference, DON’T LEAVE A MARK!
For more information on spanking, see my blog post.