What Happens When Child Protective Services Investigates Your Family?

Understandably, allegations of child abuse are taken very seriously. When an individual or family is accused of neglecting or abusing a child, it’s strongly recommended that the party seek counsel from an attorney with experience handling Child Protective Services (CPS) cases.  An attorney with experience in this area can help the accused build a strong legal defense to prevent charges of criminal abuse or have their children placed in protective custody.

Factors of These Allegations

Child abuse allegations are generally reported to a county CPS who screens these messages and determines if the report meets Virginia’s definition of abuse. There are 4 main criteria CPS looks at to decide whether to officially give the case over to a CPS case worker.

These criteria are:

  1. the alleged incident occurred in Virginia;
  2. the alleged incident involved a person under the age of 18;
  3. the alleged abuser was a parent, caretaker, or guardian;
  4. the legal standards of abuse or neglect were met.

Child abuse, as defined in Virginia Code 63.2-100 is:

  • threatening to cause a physical or mental injury;
  • injuries caused by the sale or manufacturing of drugs;
  • refusal to provide adequate shelter, clothing, food, or healthcare;
  • child abandonment;
  • sexual assault;
  • placing the child in the care of a known sexual offender.

Screening In Or Out

CPS officials can either ‘screen in’ or ‘screen out’ an allegation of child abuse, depending on a few criteria.

For a report to be screened OUT, it must:

  • not have enough information to base an investigation;
  • be proven by CPS or a police officer to be inaccurate or false;
  • be proven that the information doesn’t meet the definitions for child abuse or neglect.

If a report is ‘screened in,’ a thorough investigation must be started within 24 to 48 hours of the report. The investigation can be completed by CPS, law enforcement, or both. If criminal acts have allegedly taken place, only law enforcement can make arrests.

Investigations are usually orchestrated with a team of people that includes:

  • CPS officials;
  • doctors;
  • therapists;
  • social workers; and
  • law enforcement officials.

Officials will interview all parties involved (including the child), as well as anyone who may have knowledge of the alleged abuse, such as teachers or neighbors. Sometimes, the child is given a physical examination to collect evidence or attend to medical needs.

Investigation Results

If the abuse allegations turn out to be substantiated, interventions are immediately taken to protect the child from harm. Parents are often concerned that their children will be taken away from them, but this only happens as a last resort.  It is done when there is confirmation that a child is not safe in their home due to a protective adult’s inability to prevent harm or care for their child.

The case turns out to be unsubstantiated if the authorities determine there was no abuse or there was not enough evidence to prove the suspected abuse took place.

Helping You Protect Your Family

The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller understands how discouraging and emotionally devastating an investigation by CPS can be. We are available 24/7 to offer you and your family legal guidance every step of the way.

To schedule a FREE consultation, contact us online or call at (757) 517-2942.