What Is Child Protective Services?

Child Protective Services, or CPS, is a government entity in charge of helping children living in at-risk situations. Child Protective Services assists minors who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing neglect or abuse. Every state has a CPS unit as part of its social services department, although its name may vary. If a Child Protective Services investigation finds evidence of abuse, it may intervene to protect the child. Report any suspicions of child mistreatment in California to your county’s CPS unit immediately. Read on to learn more about CPS and if you have any further questions, speak with a knowledgeable California child sexual abuse lawyer.

When Will Child Protective Services Investigate?

Child Protective Services may intervene if someone reports suspicions of child mistreatment. This could include neglect, abandonment, abuse, sexual abuse or exploitation. If the CPS receives a call about potential child abuse or neglect, it will investigate to determine whether the complaint is valid. If it finds signs of child mistreatment, it may act to protect the child from immediate as well as any future danger. CPS intervention could lead to the caregiver’s loss of custody of the child. Child Protective Services may also offer other solutions. It will take many steps during case management.

  1. Protect the child from immediate danger.
  2. Assess the risk of future child mistreatment.
  3. Create a safe place for the child at home.
  4. Remove the abuser from the home.
  5. Provide ongoing family support.
  6. Offer family counseling and/or medical care.
  7. Connect the family to service organizations other than CPS.
  8. Remove the child from the home.

CPS’s job is to assess and identify problems, collect facts, intervene if there is a crisis, offer appropriate support services, set goals for the family, monitor the case, and either resolve the issue or transfer the case to another division. In general, the CPS’s last resort for intervention will be to remove the child from the home or living environment. Typically, Child Protective Services aims to make the child’s home a safer place through interventions such as arresting the abuser or issuing protective orders. CPS may remove a child from his or her home, however, if no suitable alternative exists.

Child Protective Services vs. the Police

Child Protective Services are not a branch of law enforcement. This unit’s focus is on protecting children, not bringing criminal charges against parents or caregivers. However, the police often become involved in CPS investigations since child abuse is a crime in all 50 states. If Child Protective Services believes a child is experiencing physical or sexual abuse, it will notify the police. Law enforcement may then initiate its own investigation. Evidence of child abuse could lead to state prosecutors bringing criminal charges against the parent or legal guardian responsible for childcare.

What Happens If Child Protective Services Takes a Child From the Home?

If Child Protective Services deems it necessary for the child’s safety to remove him or her from the home, CPS will place that child in foster care. Child Protective Services generally tries to find the most family-like foster placement setting possible for the child’s well-being. Usually, the foster home will be close to the child’s parent’s home. CPS will then provide up to 18 months of services to the child and his or her family, often working toward a successful reunification. If reunification is not possible or not in the child’s best interests, CPS will provide foster care assistance until the youth transitions into adulthood.

How to Call Child Protective Services in California

A child’s community plays an important role in his or her safety. Report any suspicions of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, mistreatment or neglect to Child Protective Services immediately. You may do so 24/7 through your county’s CPS phone number. You may remain anonymous if desired. A trained social worker will take your call and ask a few questions. CPS may then investigate the issue further and decide whether to intervene for the child’s protection. Signs of child abuse can include frequent or unusual injuries, bruising, burn marks, cruel or unusual punishments, sexual exploitation, malnourishment, isolation, lack of supervision, unkempt appearance, and inadequate food or shelter.