When a child abuse claim is made in Texas, a complicated multi-agency response usually follows.
The obstacles to the investigation, noted the Star-Telegram appear early on and often during these sensitive investigations.
Given the social stigma, this crime carries, suspects rarely confess to child abuse, particularly when the alleged victims are small children. The Star-Telegram noted suspects frequently attempt to say a child was injured in other ways like a fall.
Dr. Jayme Coffman, medical director of child abuse services at Cook Children’s Medical Center said of the crime.
“Generally it’s a crime of isolation and only one person really knows what happened.”
Tarrant County employs a multi-level approach to investigations. The county’s response includes police officers, Child Protective Services, medical professionals and the district attorney’s office. All of these agencies work in unison to investigate child abuse.
The trigger for the agencies to go to work is a report of suspected child abuse either from a social worker, a teacher, a medical professional or a law enforcement officer.
When searching for signs of abuse, the buck stops to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office and the Cook Children’s Medical CARE team. They are charged with finding out of the injuries are accidental or deliberate and assessing the explanation given.
The Tarrant County team was set up in 1994 when it started to work child sexual abuse cases. The team widened its scope in the early 2000s when it began working physical abuse cases for Tarrant County and other counties.
The team is comprised of doctors, nurses and staff with specialist training in detecting and treating child abuse and sexual abuse.
The article stated that team members sift through a thorough history of each child after taking on a case. They interview the child when possible and talk to caregivers. Team members work to ensure explanations for a given injury match the injury type and the child’s development level. They look to rule out any other medical issues in the child’s background that could mimic abuse.
Under Texas law, you commit an offense if have knowledge of suspected child abuse but fail to report it. This applies to professionals like teachers, social workers, clergy and medical professionals.
Failure to report child abuse is a misdemeanor. However, child abuse is charged as a felony. The seriousness depends on the extent of the injury. Child abuse may be charged as a:
Child abuse charges are very serious in Texas and elsewhere. If you have been charged with this crime, please call today.