CPS Investigations

CPS Investigation

How Long Does a CPS Investigation Take and What Does it Entail?

When you’ve been notified by your local Department of Social Services that you’re under investigation for the abuse, neglect or dependency of your child or a child in your care, it is an uncertain and fearful time.  If you’ve never been involved with CPS you don’t know what to expect and it may be difficult not to worry:

“Am I going to lose custody of my children?”

Waiting during the investigative phase of your case can be extremely stressful and the process seemingly takes forever.  In more serious cases, you may not be allowed unsupervised contact with your children if you’re allowed contact at all.  How long does a CPS investigation last?

In most instances, Child Protective Services has approximately 45 days to investigate reports of neglect, dependency and abuse.

If the investigation takes longer than 45 days the agency must promptly notify the family about the extension.  DSS is required to document the justification for an extension past the initial period.  For instance, DSS may extend an investigation past 45 days if medical exams or forensic exams must be completed prior to DSS making a case decision.  In other instances, the child may not be able to see a medical provider in the requisite time frame.  Despite this flexibility in cases in which there is no obvious impediment CPS should make every effort to complete its investigation within six weeks.

If DSS receives a report alleging neglect the investigative social worker has up to 72 hours to begin the investigation.  If the allegations rise to the level of serious neglect, abandonment, and/or abuse, the social worker must begin the investigation within 24 hours of receiving the report.  Typically, a social worker will meet with the children and parents within the first few days of the investigation beginning, however these interviews will quickly expand to collateral witnesses and medical personnel if needed as a case develops.

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At the conclusion of the investigation, DSS notifies the parents/caregivers in writing of the agency’s case decision. If a family assessment (i.e., cases involving neglect allegations) was completed DSS can make the following case decision based on its investigation: (1) services recommended, (2) services needed, or (3) services provided services no longer needed; and (4) services not recommended.

Services Needed

If the agency recommends that services are needed DSS usually transfers the case to in-home services where DSS works with the family for a few months to ensure that the family obtains services to address the identified safety concerns.  

Services Recommended

If the agency recommends that services are recommended, DSS should inform the family of what services the family should obtain, but the agency can close the case without further involvement with the family because the risk of maltreatment to the child is low.

Services Provided Services No Longer Needed

Services provided, services no longer needed is a finding made when the safety risks during the investigation were high but through involuntary services and the successful implementation of services mitigated the risk level which resulted in the child no longer being at risk.

Services Not Recommended

Services not recommended is made when the investigation does not find any safety concerns for the child and no other non-safety related services exist. In short, no risk was found that would warrant DSS to be involved or make recommendations because the child is safe.

If DSS conducts an investigative assessment (i.e., cases involving serious neglect, abuse, and/or abandonment) DSS can make the following case decision: (1) substantiated or (2) unsubstantiated.

If DSS conducts an investigative assessment, DSS can make the following case decision: (1) substantiated or (2) unsubstantiated.  DSS will substantiate a report if it finds that the minor child was maltreated, abused or seriously neglected. Depending on the safety risks, DSS may petition the court to remove the children or request that safety plans be put in place to ensure that the child is not exposed to any further maltreatment. If no maltreatment or abuse occurred, the agency will unsubstantiated the report and close the case.

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CPS Investigations can keep you on edge, stressed, and concerned about your family’s future.  DSS has exclusive decision-making authority during the investigative stages which can make you feel helpless and frustrated.  Our Certified Child Welfare Specialists have a wealth of experience helping clients like you fight to reunify or keep their families intact.  Let us help you ensure that you are being treated fairly and your rights are being protected.  Contact us today.

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