More child abuse claims by CPS being overturned

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Associated Press

Posted on May 26, 2014 at 10:32 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The state is overturning an increasing number of cases in which Child Protective Services initially ruled that a child had been abused or neglected, according to a newspaper report Sunday.

Twenty-seven percent of CPS rulings were reversed in 2009. That number has risen each year since then, hitting 42 percent last year. More than 1,140 cases were appealed in 2013, and 486 were overturned.

Even though a CPS ruling may be thrown out, the person accused of mistreatment can still face significant hurdles, the Austin American-Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/1k6Uxhg ) in a story published Saturday. For instance, CPS decisions are used in criminal and civil cases, and they are a factor in custody disputes.

Child advocates expressed alarm at the reversal rate.

"I think it's positive for me to see that CPS is actually admitting to wrongdoing and correcting it," Johana Scot, executive director of the Parent Guidance Center, told the American-Statesman. "On the other hand, it's a very scary statistic. That means there are probably a lot of wrongful substantiations, which is scary to me because it's very harmful to the children and families."

But the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees CPS, says there are no indications of systematic problems with its abuse investigations.

Fewer than 3 percent of the 40,000 confirmed abuse cases are appealed each year, agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.

There's also no evidence to show that a 42 percent reversal rate is an abnormally large number, he said.

"There is no criteria or standard that we are aware of that indicates that it is high," Crimmins said. "With 160,000 investigations, there are going to be some mistakes made. That is to be expected."

Such mistakes are not uncommon across the U.S. because of high caseloads, poor supervision, inadequate training and high turnover, according to Michael Petit, a member of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

"The vast majority of these caseworkers and supervisors are doing the best job they can under the circumstances," Petit said. "The problem is they're outmatched by the dimension of the problem."

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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