By Sarah Snyder
A change in policy could mean a greater risk for child abuse and neglect. Because of the Gates Case, Child Protective Services is now required to get a court order before they can remove a child from their home.
Last fall, the Gates court case changed CPS procedures for intervention in allegations of abuse and neglect. Before the case, CPS workers could remove a child prior to abuse then file a court order later.
Now the threat must be higher, and CPS can only remove a child if their life is in imminent danger.
It's meant big changes in the way local children's homes operate. We spoke to the High Sky Children's Ranch to find out what this means for West Texas.
"Since the new law, it's been quite different," Shawna Bowerman, Emergency Service Director for High Sky Children's Ranch, said.
For High Sky Children's Ranch, the change has meant fewer seats at the table.
"Initially we had 31 children, and as they were discharged and moved to more permanent placements, we didn't have more kids coming in," Bowerman said.
High Sky Ranch tells NewsWest 9 before the law changed, they had so many kids needing emergency care, they re-licensed one of their buildings as a shelter just to accomodate the need.
"In the process of getting people hired and getting the house ready for that, the law went into effect," Bowerman said. "So it reduced our numbers in that area."
They even had to send some children to other area homes. But after the law went into effect, they went from overflowing to ten children.
"I didn't know what to think," Bowerman said. "I've worked in this business for 14 years, so it's had its peaks and its valleys and things change and we work through the change."
But High Sky says the CPS changes haven't been all negative. Many children are getting to stay at the ranch longer meaning they could be near their friends and stay in their current school without having to relocate.
"About 85% of our kids are children who are removed due to abuse and neglect are from this area," Bowerman said.
Child care workers say they're adjusting to the changes and getting things back on track, but the threat is still there.
"I do think that's a possibility that kids could continue to be abused if they're not removed quickly in some situations," Bowerman said.
The Ector County attorney's office says they've seen a significant impact.
Since the emergency removal policies changed, they're seeing a drop in the number of emergency and non-emergency cases.
That means there are fewer children being taken out for abuse in Ector County, something the attorneys say is dangerous.
The longer the kids stay in their homes, the risk for continued abuse goes up.