HOUSTON - When someone calls Child Protective Services to report suspected child abuse the first thing that agency does is prioritize the call.
“Priority one is if there are injuries to the child an immediate safety risk to the child or if there are other children in the home,” said CPS media specialist Tiffani Butler. “Definitely if there is an immediate risk to the child.”
A priority two case is not deemed immediate danger but CPS says it still has concerns about the child’s safety.
“These children cannot protect themselves,” said Randy Burton, founder of the child advocacy group Justice For Children.
“If they (CPS) said it’s priority one it’s going to be a pretty bad case,” Burton said. “We know in cases where they didn’t want to go out or have enough people to go out to a priority one they called it a priority two not because it really was we had kids die that were priority two cases.”
In a priority one case a CPS case worker is supposed to make face to face contact with the victim and family members within a 24 hour period.
Face to face contact is supposed to be made in a priority two case within 48 hours.
But according to data we obtained through CPS between August 1st and September 12th more than 20 percent of priority one and priority two cases had not been seen by a caseworker.
“The caseworkers are overloaded,” Butler said. “Actually here in Harris County alone over the past fiscal year we get 66 new cases a day.”