Mandatory Reporting of Child Sex Abuse in TexasPublished: Aug 25, 2021 in Sex Crimes Involving Children
The laws in place for mandatory reporting in Texas are clear. Mandated reporters such as teachers, coaches, and other professionals, are obligated to report suspected child abuse or neglect. This includes suspicions of child sexual abuse as well.
Once a mandated reporter makes a report, what happens next? In many cases, it leads to an intensive investigation and sometimes criminal charges. Unfortunately, all too often, there is a rush to judgment with lives and reputations in ruins.
Who Is a Mandated Reporter Under Texas Law?
Under Texas Family Code, Section 261.101, several individuals and professionals in a child’s life are required to contact the authorities if they notice any of the following related to child abuse, sexual abuse, or overall neglect:
- Child abuse
Mandated reporters can include:
- Daycare employees
- Other school staff
- Anyone licensed by the state with direct contact with children
Why Might a Mandated Reporter Make a Report?
Reports are made for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons for a mandated reporter to report suspicions of abuse and child neglect include:
- Signs of visible physical injuries
- Signs of emotional distress
- Signs of neglect (poor hygiene, malnourishment)
- Decline in the child’s grades
- Depression or anxiety
- Acting out in class or with caregivers
Process for Making a Report
Any time a mandated reporter makes a report, it must be made within forty-eight hours of the suspected abuse. The report must then be sent to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services or any local or state law enforcement agency.
Penalties for Not Reporting Child Abuse
Although committing child abuse is a crime, so is not reporting it as a mandated reporter. Failure to make a report as a mandated reporter is a criminal offense. Mandated reporters could face Class A misdemeanor charges, punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
How Are Legal Guardians Accused of Child Abuse?
Under the law, the child’s parents or legal guardians can be accused of child abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect if they:
- Caused harm to the child
- Neglected the child
- Allowed someone else to harm the child
- Put the child in a position to suffer harm or neglect
- Failed to remove the child from a situation that caused them to suffer abuse or neglect
What Happens After a Claim Is Made?
Once a mandated reporter has made a report, it will be reviewed by an Intake Specialist. If the Intake Specialist determines the report is warranted, they may forward the report to a local Texas Department of Family and Protected Services for investigation. This is where Child Protective Services becomes involved.
Child Protective Investigation
A Child Protective Investigation will determine the safety and well-being of the child in question. If CPS finds that the report is credible, there are several steps they can take.
The worst-case scenario is that your child is removed from the home, and you are arrested for criminal child sexual abuse-related charges.
Penalties of a Child Sexual Abuse
The penalties for child sexual abuse convictions in Texas are some of the harshest in the country. Once CPS deems that the complaint made by the mandated reporter is credible, police may arrest you. You could be charged with several crimes depending on the details of your case, such as:
- Indecency with a child
- Sexual assault of a child
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child
- Sexual performance of a child
If convicted, you could spend years and up to life in prison.
Contact a Child Sex Abuse Lawyer in Houston
As soon as you become aware that child sex abuse allegations have been made against you by a mandated reporter, you may feel blindsided and unsure of your options. It’s always best to consult a defense attorney with a background in sex crimes cases. In the Houston area, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett. We can help you understand the gravity of the situation and build a compelling defense.