May 19, 2023 – In a attempt to prevent false reporting of child abuse throughout Texas, legislature has approved a bill that would hopefully do just that.
House Bill 63, authored by state Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, was approved without discussion by the Texas Senate on Tuesday with a vote of 20-11. The vote came almost a month after it was passed by the House and is now on its way to the Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his consideration.
Should the bill become a law, not only would the work load be reduced for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, it changes the way Texas alerts officials to potential child abuse.
Currently, anyone can call DFPS’ child abuse hotline — 800-252-5400 — or file a report online to notify investigators of potential neglect or abuse of a child and do so anonymously. A child abuse investigator would then follow up on that tip and conduct a preliminary investigation. Should the investigator find no collaborating evidence, the report is considered unfounded and no other action is taken.
However this Bill would require the child abuse agency to obtain a caller’s identity from the start. No report would be taken unless the caller or the online reporter provided their own name, phone number and address. The identity of the caller will remain confidential to all except those who work at DFPS.
In 2022, there were roughly 12,500 anonymous calls to the state and only about 1,00 of those calls resulted in a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect, stated Kate Murphy, director of child protection policy with the advocacy group Texans Care for Children.
State Sen. Kevin Sparks, R-Midland, told legislators on Wednesday that people were weaponizing the state agency against individuals they had a disagreement with, by making false reports.
During the second reading of the Bill on Wednesday, Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, suggested a amendment to change the language to say the state “discourages” false reports, but still allows for follow-ups even if personal information is not provided, however this change failed during second reading.