Are you confused about what Child Protective Services (CPS) in Virginia considers “abuse and neglect”? You’re not alone. These terms can be difficult to grasp, but they are critical when it comes to safeguarding your children’s welfare.
The good news is that the Virginia Beach family law attorneys at Hardt Law can help you better understand these complex legal terms.
Child Abuse and Neglect in Virginia Defined
In Virginia, CPS uses the definition found in state law to determine if a child has suffered abuse or neglect. According to the Code of Virginia, an abused or neglected child refers to any child under age 18 who meets any of the following criteria:
- The child’s parents or legal guardians created, inflicted, or allowed something else to inflict a physical or mental injury on the child through non-accidental means.
- The child’s parents or legal guardians neglected them or refused to provide care necessary for the child’s health.
- The child’s parents or legal guardians abandoned them.
- The child’s parents, legal guardians, or the intimate partner of a parent or legal guardian committed or allowed someone else to commit an act of sexual abuse or exploitation.
- The child lacks parental care or guardianship because of an “unreasonable absence” or the physical or mental incapacitation of the child’s parents or legal guardians.
- The child’s parents or other responsible person created a significant risk of injury by knowingly leaving the child alone with someone who has had to register as a sexual offender based on a previous conviction for certain offenses.
- The child has been a victim of human or sex trafficking.
What Happens If Someone Accuses You of Child Abuse or Neglect?
If a member of the public or a state official files a report of child abuse or neglect against you, CPS will send someone to investigate the situation and take appropriate action. According to information from Virginia CPS, the goals of these investigations are:
- To assess the child’s safety
- Strengthen and support struggling families whenever possible
- Prevent further abuse or neglect of the child
During the investigation, CPS investigators will take the following steps:
- Interview the child and any family living in the home
- Conduct a safety check and, if necessary, create a safety improvement plan
- Look for any signs of abuse, neglect, or injuries to the child
- Interview and observe the child’s siblings, if they have any
- See if there are any prior reports of abuse or neglect
- Complete a risk assessment with the family and, if necessary, determine what services they may need to prevent future abuse or neglect
- Arrange for social services to help the family, if necessary
When Does CPS Contact Law Enforcement?
Under Virginia law, CPS must report certain types of suspected abuse or neglect to law enforcement, including:
- A child’s death
- A child’s severe injury
- Suspected sexual abuse
- Drug offenses involving a child
- Criminal acts contributing to the delinquency of a minor
- A child is left alone with a registered, violent sexual offender who is not related to the child
When to Contact a Virginia Beach Family Law Attorney
If CPS contacts law enforcement in response to allegations that someone abused or neglected your child, it’s essential to contact an attorney immediately. Our lawyers can help with your case by:
- Providing advice on what to say – and what not to say – to CPS or law enforcement during their investigations
- Clarifying the complex laws and terms involved in these cases
- Assisting you during any communication you have with CPS or the police
- Examining the evidence against you and addressing any issues or inconsistencies
- Helping to negotiate agreements with CPS or law enforcement
- Representing you in court proceedings, if necessary
No one should have to face a CPS abuse or neglect investigation alone, and the team at Hardt Law is ready to help you during this challenging time. Call (757) 962-5588 or complete our contact form for a confidential case evaluation.