What Happens When CPS Takes Custody in Texas?

By Heather Frances J.D.

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The Texas Department of Child Protective Services (CPS) investigates reports of child abuse or neglect to protect children. During an investigation, CPS sometimes takes a child from his parent temporarily to protect the child. Children that CPS take are placed in alternate care, such as a foster home, until the investigation is complete.

CPS Investigations

CPS does not automatically take children from their parents merely because an investigation is started. At the beginning of an investigation, a CPS caseworker visually examines a child who has been reported abused or neglected, along with interviews and visual examinations of other children in the family. Caseworkers gather as much information as they can to determine whether abuse or neglect occurred, and whether further involvement is necessary. Through an investigation, CPS can provide services that help parents make a better life for their children, such as helping parents find resources to pay for their needs. Usually, investigations are completed in less than 30 days.


CPS takes children during an investigation only if there is no other way to protect the children from harm. Thus, the CPS does not take children unless there appears to be an immediate danger to the child’s physical health or safety or unless a court order directs CPS to remove the child from his parent’s care. According to CPS, most removals are temporary, and permanent removals happen only in extreme cases. CPS works with families even after children are removed to help make it safe for the children to return to their parents.

After Removal

CPS does not necessarily isolate a child from all family contact after he is removed from his parents. At the time of removal, CPS asks parents to complete a Child Caregiver Resource form that lists at least three adults who can provide care and support for the child while the parents receive services that will help them bring the child home. These caregivers help maintain stability for the child during a difficult time. Depending on the circumstances, CPS may allow parents to contact their children before the first court hearing. At the hearing, the judge determines how much contact parents can have with their child.

Two-Week Hearing

If CPS takes a child from his parents without a court order, a Texas court must review the removal on the next working day. The court appoints an attorney ad litem for the child, who is a special attorney to represent the child’s best interests throughout the court proceedings, and the court may also appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests. In all cases, a judge must schedule a hearing within two weeks of the child’s removal, and parents have the option to hire a lawyer to represent them. At this hearing, the judge decides whether the child should be returned to his parents or if the risk of abuse or neglect is significant enough to require continued foster care. Judges can also place a child with family members or friends instead of foster care.

Additional Hearings

The court will hold additional hearings if a child remains in foster care, including a status hearing within 60 days to make sure the family has a plan for the child to return home. About five months after the first hearing, the court reviews the parents’ progress. Based on a report from CPS to the court, the judge may issue additional orders, as necessary. These progress reviews, called permanency court reviews, are held every four months until the case is resolved and the child’s legal status is permanent. Within 12 months after the child was removed, the court typically returns the child to his parents, gives permanent custody to a relative or friend or gives permanent custody to CPS.