In Texas, Child Protective Services (CPS) is a part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). According to DFPS, the department “works with communities to promote safe and healthy families and protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” Their mission is accomplished “through investigations, services and referrals, and prevention programs.”
Practitioners with an education in criminal justice can be very effective in these aspects of CPS functions. Degree candidates enrolled in Lamar University’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, for instance, study advanced investigative techniques, research methods in criminal justice, police-community relations, the juvenile justice system and family court, as well as ethics and psychology. These areas of study, coupled with courses in criminology theory and practice, are highly applicable to CPS work.
How Does CPS Interact With the Community?
The Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG) guide, published under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explains that “the safety and well-being of children across the nation are threatened by child abuse and neglect” on a daily basis. “Intervening effectively in the lives of these children and their families does not rest with any single agency or professional group but rather is a shared community concern.”
CPS is directly involved with the entire process of identifying unhealthy or dangerous situations and working to find solutions. Yet, as the above quote suggests, CPS does not take part in this process alone. CPS practitioners work with family members, community organizations, law enforcement departments and many other agencies to coordinate and create a strong support system for vulnerable children. Effective interventions and comprehensive solutions rely on an interconnected network of caring individuals and public services.
What Is the CPS Process?
The endeavors of CPS agencies represent both direct, immediate action and long-term planning and coordination. Expansive prevention efforts play a part as well. Every community is unique in its culture, socioeconomic makeup and public services structure. Hence, a CPS agency may execute its processes differently according to its specific community, coordinating with appropriate agencies, organizations and law enforcement as needed. Generally speaking, the CPS process is set forth sequentially by the CWIG guide as:
- Reporting and intake
- Initial assessment/investigation
- Comprehensive family assessment
- Development of the family plan
- Change strategies and interventions
- Evaluation of change and family progress
- Closure and ending of CPS involvement
Which CPS Jobs Can I Apply to in Texas?
Practitioners in different roles within a CPS agency are responsible for certain aspects of the above CPS process. Yet, as all aspects of the process are interconnected, there is a great deal of overlap between practitioner roles and responsibilities. In Texas, CPS jobs are delineated as the following:
- Investigator Specialist
- Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS) Specialist
- Conservatorship Specialist
- Special Investigator
- Foster Adoptive Home Development Worker
- Preparation for Adult Living Staff
- Human Services Technician
Each job has its own process focuses. Initial investigation into abuse and neglect claims is generally the purview of the investigator specialist. The FBSS specialist comes in next, providing agency services and coordinating community services, assessing risk and situational factors, developing a plan to address the situation with appropriate intervention as needed, evaluating the plan’s efficacy and progress, et cetera. The conservatorship specialist oversees all aspects of casework and services in situations where a child is removed from their home and placed in CPS conservatorship.
The special investigator role is of particular relevance to graduates of a criminal justice or law enforcement bachelor’s program. Special investigators work with other caseworkers as a team in high-profile or high-risk cases. Special investigators must have advanced investigation skills and extensive knowledge of criminal statutes and law enforcement procedures. They train caseworkers on investigative techniques and accompany those caseworkers in potentially dangerous crisis situations. CPS special investigators also involve and work with law enforcement in situations where criminal acts are alleged.
CPS special investigators in Texas are required to have a bachelor’s degree with major coursework in criminal justice. Given the higher education requirements and complexity inherent to the job, special investigators get paid substantially more than other CPS practitioners in Texas. The starting salary for special investigators ranges from roughly $57,000 to $84,000 per year, depending on experience and qualifications (with an additional $416 per month stipend added after 120 days of employment).
Still, most people drawn to CPS work aren’t doing it for the money. They do it in service of community. Applying your criminal justice education toward ensuring the health and well-being of the children in your community is a great way to make the most of your degree, all while earning a steady salary and making a positive impact.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)