Other than the IRS, there may be no other organization that is feared more than CPS. Child Protective Services operates under the Virginia Department of Social Services. Although their goal is to ensure that children are in safe and stable environments free from neglect and abuse, becoming the center of a CPS investigation can be nerve-wracking.
At Hardt Law, P.L.L.C., our compassionate legal team understands how overwhelming and isolating it can be to be at the center of a CPS investigation. We want to help you understand what to expect during a Child Protective Services investigation and how working with an attorney may offer you peace of mind.
What Triggers a Virginia CPS Investigation?
Child Protective Services is an organization investigating allegations of child neglect and abuse. Its mission is to protect the safety and stability of Virginia children and prevent further abuse. Some of the most common signs of child abuse and neglect include:
- Questionable injuries on a child
- Young children frequently left alone
- A child with unattended health care issues or unaddressed medical needs
- Children appearing malnourished
- Children diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases
- Children exhibiting sudden and concerning changes in mood, behavior, or school performance
In Virginia, anyone can report suspected child abuse to CPS. However, by law, professionals who work with children are considered mandatory reporters. Mandated reporters are educators, teachers, physicians, law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, spiritual leaders, and others as outlined by Virginia law.
What Happens During a CPS Investigation in Virginia?
Once a report reaches CPS, the agency must identify and assess a child’s living situation and the safety of their environment. Child Protective Services social workers are supposed to offer services to children and their families to address potential deficiencies and prevent further issues. In cases where a social worker feels there is an imminent risk of danger to a child, a child may be removed from their living situation until CPS completes its investigation.
What can you expect during a Virginia CPS investigation? First, the agency must respond to every child endangerment report, even if that report is due to an error or misrepresentation. Typically, a social services worker asks to speak with the child and all adults accused or suspected of abusing the child.
During this time, the social worker may also evaluate the child’s safety and home environment. These professionals look for obvious signs of abuse and neglect and environmental hazards that risk the child’s safety. During an investigation, you can also expect a social worker to:
- Develop a safety plan with the family when needed
- Interview and observe any siblings in the household
- Contact and interview other individuals associated with the child, like other family members, teachers, and medical providers
- Complete a risk assessment with the family and identify which services may help prevent further instances of abuse or neglect
- Request help from other individuals or services to keep the child safe
Although the thought of an investigator speaking with your child may be frightening, Virginia law allows CPS workers to speak with children and siblings without parental consent or supervision. They are also able to take photographs of suspected injuries without parental consent.
Even if you do not want to cooperate with the CPS investigation, the agency has the legal authority to continue its investigation. Suppose it finds compelling evidence or sufficient cause to believe a child’s safety and well-being are at risk. In that case, it can contact law enforcement or petition the court to secure your cooperation.
Contact a CPS Defense Lawyer Immediately
Finding yourself at the center of a CPS investigation can be heartbreaking. Protect your family by immediately contacting the Virginia CPS defense attorney with Hardt Law, P.L.L.C. Our CPS defense lawyer has extensive experience helping families navigate the CPS investigation process. Arrange for a case evaluation today by contacting our Virginia office at (757) 962-5588.