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A straightforward mistake – not even your mistake – can end up with you under the close eye of Child Protective Services, CPS.

Understanding why CPS would open up an investigation of you and your family will help prevent or navigate the process delicately.

If that day comes, then here is what to prepare for from CPS:

  • The first step, a primary investigation, begins;
  • Secondly, if evidence corroborates the alleged report, a full investigation occurs; And
  • Once the investigation completes, charges are made or dropped.

Primary Investigation of CPS

CPS is a government social organization designed to protect children and make sure they are in suitable homes and safe homes.

Generally, CPS can be used to protect you and your family, but when odds turn against you, everything around you feels uncertain.

The likelihood of an investigation by CPS opening on you and your children is most reliant on your behavior and why a person would want to report you.

Also, just because a report opens on you does not mean that you will lose your children’s custody.

Until CPS opens an investigation, rest easy, and enjoy time with your family.

When CPS decides to conduct a primary investigation, someone who knows the family or the child reported potential child abuse.

During this primary investigation, CPS gathers all the evidence to decide whether to drop the case or continue into a full investigation, which most likely has more severe consequences.

When conducting a primary investigation, CPS takes into account:

  • Alleged maltreatment
  • Duration and frequency of maltreatment
  • Explanation of events
  • Parent or caregiver
  • Overall family function

If you find yourself in any fear that you will be under investigation, keep in mind, the investigation process starts as follows:

  • There must be “sufficient evidence” captured during an intake process. The caseworker must decide the further risk of child maltreatment and determine the family’s needs, strengths, and circumstances.
  • The purpose of an investigation is to decide if a child is in a home that is safe from abuse within a specific time frame and there are no signs of neglect. If the family poses low safety and risk concerns, it is addressed in other ways.
  • They do a further assessment of the overall family functioning. They will gather information from other individuals and run a background check on all adults. It will either be dropped or continue into a full-on investigation with consequences during the primary investigation.

Issues in the family’s power and control can lead to a full investigation, meaning that the quality of relationships is terrible.

If possible, CPS will engage the family directly to establish the accuracy of the information gathered.

Suppose the investigators rule that something seems wrong based on the relationships, interviews, and dynamics. In that case, they are more likely to do an in-depth investigation and decide an alternative for child custody.

Full CPS Investigation

It is a caseworker’s job to get the whole story and evidence on a potential cause of a child living in an unsafe situation.

During an extensive investigation, CPS will reach out to other adults that frequently come into contact with your child. These people include teachers, law enforcement officers, caretakers, and physicians.

They could also include relatives, neighbors, and witnesses to the alleged abuse.

After rounds of interviews and collecting information, caseworkers are looking for any of the following:

  • Severe physical injury
  • Age makes the child particularly vulnerable
  • Sexual abuse
  • A parent is likely to flee with the child

If a caseworker can prove that any of these are true, the child will likely be taken into emergency custody within 24 hours.

What Happens After a CPS Investigation

A usual CPS investigation lasts anywhere from 30-90 days.

As a result of the investigation, CPS will make an official determination of whether maltreatment occurred and whether or not it meets the criteria to be Substantiated, Unsubstantiated, or Ruled Out.

If Substantiated, CPS will most likely take the child into custody until finding an alternative arrangement where the child will be safer.

When an investigation in Unsubstantiated, children are not taken, but it will have negative consequences as it relates to the person’s involvement in the child’s life. The person may be prohibited from participating in some activities such as sporting events or chaperoning school functions.

Roughly 25% of substantiated claims lead to criminal investigations of physical or sexual abuse of a child.

If unfounded, then all charges will be dropped, known as Ruled Out.

When CPS does show up and an investigation begins, a good lawyer can strategize and protect you from losing your family. Contact JC Law for a free initial consultation to see how we can help you maintain your household with the kids in it.