This is the next post in my series explaining what a Las Vegas parent should know if a friend, family member, or anonymous source has contacted Child Protective Services (CPS) regarding their child. My last post provided an overview of topics that I will be discussing in the upcoming weeks. In this post I will explain the initial steps that CPS will take if a report is made to their agency.
Child Protective Services can be contacted via either telephone or online. Anyone can contact the agency and report concerns of abuse or neglect of a child, whether it be a family member, neighbor, or casual acquaintance. Professional workers who interact with children, such as teachers, doctors, and counselors are known as ‘mandated reporters,’ and by law must make a report if they have any reason to suspect that abuse is occurring.
The first thing that happens when one makes a report to CPS is that the person reporting the concern is asked for as much detail as possible. The reporter will be asked a series of questions such as whether the child is in immediate danger, whether there are siblings in the home, what is the nature of the abuse, what is the child’s address and contact information, is the abuse ongoing to the extent of the reporter’s knowledge, etc. The questions are very detailed and the reporter is asked to give as much information as they can. Once a report is made a CPS worker will either determine that 1) the report made does not qualify as abuse, 2) not enough information was provided to investigate, or 3) the incident should be investigated further. In the event of the first two scenarios, the reporter will be contacted to inform them of the agency’s conclusion, the ‘case’ will be closed, and the family in question will not be contacted or have any knowledge that a report was made. In the third scenario, a case worker from CPS will contact the family in question to make a home visit.
During the first visit a caseworker from CPS will be sent to a child’s home to speak with the child and parents in question and to assess the home environment. At this point the family is not under active investigation and CPS is still gathering information to determine if potential abuse is happening. Many times a worker is sent to a home and determines that allegations of abuse are unfounded. During the initial home visit the caseworker will be visually assessing whether the home is habitable, whether the child shows visual signs of abuse or appears to fear the parent. The caseworker will provide the child an opportunity to confide any abuse that has been happening in confidence. The caseworker will also interview the parents, any other children in the home, and any other adults in the home, and directly ask them questions related to the allegations.
Following the initial home visit, one of two things will happen. The caseworker may determine that allegations of abuse were unfounded, and the case will be officially closed with no further action. Or the caseworker will determine that there is evidence of abuse, and CPS will become actively involved with the family. If a CPS case is actively opened then, depending on the circumstances, there is a possibility that a parent could be in danger of losing their child for at least a period of time. If CPS is opening an active case and the parent has legal questions about what is happening, it is important to contact an attorney right away. Call our Las Vegas family law office now if you find yourself in such a situation.