Both of the managing partners of our firm have children so we understand how sensitive this topic is. People love their children. In fact, most of the parents that admit abusing their child will tell you that they love their children. However, some parents either abuse the child when they get angry or upset, when they abuse alcohol or drugs, or if they have a psychological illness, for no reason at all. Texas child abuse laws criminalize physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of minors and also require certain third parties with knowledge of the abuse to report it to the proper authorities.
In 2016, there were 58,644 children who were confirmed victims of child abuse in Texas. That’s 58,644 too many. What is one of the scariest things for us is that we understand that many children are unable to speak for themselves, even if their safety or even their lives, are in danger. Child abuse is broadly defined as any type of cruelty to a child, including mental/psychological abuse, physical harm, neglect, and/or sexual abuse or exploitation. Identifying whether or not the other parent is abusing your children will be your first step in the effort to protect them, treat them, and prevent further abuse. Let’s first discuss the symptoms and impact of child abuse in a Texas custody suit.
If you suspect that your child is being abused by someone (usually a family member), then you’re likely already familiar with some of the signs. Here are some signs/symptoms that your child is suffering from abuse as well as the impact that it has:
If you have encountered these symptoms and you suspect that someone is guilty of abusing your child, you will have a duty to report it if you are made aware of it.
We can all agree that child abuse is a terrible thing that happens all over the world every day. One of the first steps of stopping and preventing it is to report it to the proper authorities. In Texas, there is an obligation to immediately report suspected abuse, especially if you are a parent of the child or a teacher, for example. Here is a list of people expected to (& that have a legal obligation to) immediately report abuse:
Texas law requires that any person suspecting that a child has been abused or neglected must immediately make a report. If you believe that it is an emergency, you need to contact “911” to report the suspected or proven abuse. You should also contact the DFPS Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400. You can also make a report online. Professionals (e.g. doctors, teachers, therapists, day-care employees, etc.) must make a report no later than the 48th hour after first suspecting a child has been abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, of the Texas Penal Code.
According to the Texas Family Code, Section 261.101, a professional cannot even rely on another employee or staff member for example, to make the report. If you suspect that your child is being abused, you should report it immediately. This is not always easy because sometimes although people know that the other parent is not a great parent, they don’t initially know that it has risen to a level of abuse or neglect. Since delaying reporting the abuse could have negative impacts on your child, you should not waste any time reporting suspected abuse or neglect.
Note: You won’t be expected to prove the abuse. Child Protective Services (“CPS”) will conduct their own investigation into the allegations. However, if you have any proof, you should be sure to turn it over to CPS.
A child who has been abused or neglected may experience a range of problems, such as relationship difficulties, lack of trust of adults, emotional outbursts (or retreat), low performance at school, depression, anxiety, and anger. Children are the future and children are helpless. This is why Texas punishes people that abuse children. A person may be held both criminally liable and serve jail time or civilly liable and have to pay damages for abuse to the child.
Class B misdemeanor for – Physical injury resulting in substantial harm to the child; mental or emotional injury to the child; failure to prevent injury to the child; harmful sexual conduct or pornography with a child; failure to prevent use of controlled substance by child Class A misdemeanor for – Filing a False Report
Punishment for Committing the Abuse to the Child:
Oftentimes the child will need substantial treatment for the abuse. This may be in the form of physical therapy or in the child may be required to see a child therapist. Treatment for abuse won’t be easy for a child though, as it will have a huge impact on the child mentally. The abuser should get help as soon as possible. The parent should enroll in anger management classes as well as seek professional help from a licensed therapist. If you are a parent that is seeking custody of your children due to this abuse, you should be sure to hire an attorney that has experience handling cases with abuse allegations.
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