Child Protective Services (CPS) is a federal agency responsible for investigating claims of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment. When CPS is called or receives a tipoff, they’ll decide whether or not to launch an investigation. An encounter with CPS can be extremely stressful and even terrifying to innocent parents. When CPS shows up at your door, it’s imperative that you cooperate and work with the investigators to prove your innocence.
THE REPORT AND INVESTIGATION PROCESS
After CPS receives a report, they must determine whether they can or need to launch an investigation. The following factors are taken into account:
- CPS must be able to locate the child and family indicated in the report.
- CPS must be able to identify the child and reported abuser in question.
- California CPS has jurisdiction over abuse that took place in the state of California and over abuse cases for children who were abused elsewhere but now reside in California.
- Person in question. CPS can only investigate if the reported abuser is a parent, legal guardian, caregiver, foster parent, or any other adult responsible for the care of the child.
- Reported type of abuse. CPS will determine if the reported acts constitute child abuse. If the reporting person doesn’t describe actual child abuse, CPS won’t investigate.
If the report meets the necessary criteria, CPS will start an investigation to determine the truth of the claims. The investigation typically starts within 24 hours of the initial report. There are three main parts of a CPS investigation:
- The CPS agent in charge of the investigation will conduct interviews with the alleged abuser, the alleged victim, and any other relevant witnesses. The CPS agent will often interview the alleged victim alone and record the conversation.
- Medical and psychological examinations of the alleged victim may be necessary in order to determine the truth of a report.
- Once CPS has finished gathering evidence and conducting interviews, they’ll explain the allegations to the alleged abuser and allow him or her to provide his or her side of the story.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
If you’re investigated by CPS, remember that you have the right to seek legal counsel at any time. If you have been falsely accused, retain a lawyer as soon as possible to start building your defense. Once CPS has concluded an investigation, the next steps depend on whether the agents assigned to the case determine if any abuse took place – or if there’s a risk of future abuse. If the investigation reveals that no abuse, neglect, or endangerment took place or that the claim was false, the case will be closed and the record sealed.
However, if the caseworker’s investigation determines that abuse did take place (or that the child in question is at risk of future abuse), he or she will either remove the child or create a Service Plan to work with the family. This decision hinges on whether CPS believes that reasonable steps can be taken to protect the child’s best interests. If CPS deems that removal necessary, it will file for a court order to take custody of the child. If CPS believes the child is in immediate danger, caseworkers may remove the child from the reach of the abuser without a court order.
False reports are taken seriously. If you’re tempted to call CPS and file a false claim simply to make someone else’s life miserable – even if you believe that they deserve it – don’t do it. Not only does it impede CPS from helping children in real danger, but it also causes your children untold amounts of serious stress. False allegations are serious crimes in most states as well.