Child Protective Services (CPS) operates under the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS). They are responsible for investigating suspected instances of child maltreatment. The most common reasons for CPS to be called are severe instances of neglect, addiction, or abuse, as well as cases of family members or ex-partners posing serious threats to a child’s wellbeing.
Many people know little about what a CPS investigation looks like. Understanding what happens after a parent is reported to CPS can help you know what your options are if you or another individual feel the need to take this step.
The Report Is Reviewed for Investigation
After a report has been made, the first step that CPS or the police will take is to decide whether to follow up on the report. The reasons they might “screen out” the report, or decide to take no action, include:
- A lack of sufficient information on which to base an investigation
- The information is deemed to be inaccurate or false
- The information does not meet the authorities’ definitions of neglect or abuse
In such cases, the report will remain in the DSS system for one year.
If the report is “screened in,” on the other hand, the authorities have decided that it might be a legitimate indication of child abuse. At this point, CPS may begin a family assessment and/or an investigation.
The goal of a family assessment is to determine whether the child is safe, to strengthen and support the relationships within the family, and to prevent further child maltreatment from occurring. If necessary, CPS will arrange for protective and rehabilitative services. The authorities have 45 – 60 days to complete the family assessment. Upon completion, the case will be closed unless CPS determines that there is enough cause to conduct a further investigation.
An investigation will be conducted if CPS has evidence that there are immediate child safety concerns, previous reports of neglect or abuse, or if the report is required by law to be investigated.
The investigation will involve:
- Interviews – The caseworker will call or visit the home of the person who made the report, the alleged perpetrator, the child, or other members of the family or household.
- Examinations – The caseworker may ask that the child undergo medical or psychological examinations to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred.
- Explanations – Within about 24 hours after the interviews, the caseworker will explain the allegations against the alleged perpetrator and will allow them to explain the circumstances of any safety concerns or injuries.
If the Investigation Substantiates the Maltreatment Claims
If the investigation determines that maltreatment has occurred, the authorities will take steps to protect the child from immediate harm. Follow-up actions may include:
- Supervision by the DSS
- Counseling for the abused child
- Counseling for the whole family
- Other support programs
Many parents worry that CPS intervention will lead to the child being removed from their home. However, this outcome is always the very last resort that is considered.
Virginia Code § 63.2-1503 requires CPS to report certain instances of child abuse or neglect to law enforcement and the Commonwealth Attorney. The local Commonwealth Attorney’s office will decide whether to charge or prosecute.
Contact a Virginia Beach Family Law Attorney
If CPS has become involved in your family, or if you have reason to believe that they will, you need an experienced family law attorney to protect your rights. The seasoned family law attorney at Hardt Law, P.L.L.C. is ready to fiercely advocate for your interests, no matter what comes your family’s way. Contact us online now or call (757) 962-5588 for a confidential case evaluation.