Child Protective Services (CPS) is the part of DSS that investigates reports of child abuse and neglect by parents, guardians, and caregivers. The best hope is that children are kept safe so they can stay in their own homes with their families. Even if there are some worries, DSS can work with families to keep children safe in their homes. Child safety is always the first concern of Child Protective Services.
DSS helps families (parents, guardians, or other caregivers) build strength and support in different ways. DSS might refer the families for services that can improve parenting skills, help them get things they need, or assist the family with building a safety network of family and friends.
If there is a worry for the child’s safety, DSS might ask someone—like a relative or family friend—to move into the home temporarily as a protector to make sure the child is kept safe. If the home cannot be made safe, DSS will ask if the child can stay in someone else’s home (kinship care) until their own home is safe for them to go back. When families cannot provide safety for their child, Child Protective Services can go to court and ask a judge to bring the child into foster care for the child's protection.
How does DSS Help?
After receiving a report of child abuse or neglect, Intake looks at all the available information and decides whether the report meets the state law’s definition of child abuse and/or neglect. If it does, it is forwarded to Investigations so the family can be assessed. The investigator needs to find the answers to the following questions:
- What worries do we have about the children’s safety?
- How has the family been able to keep the children safe in the past?
- What needs to happen to keep the children safe in their home?
In many cases, a safety plan can be developed with a protector or kinship caregiver in place to ensure the child’s safety and well-being while DSS works with the family to lower the risk and increase the family’s ability to protect.
Children are best served when they can safely remain in their homes with their families intact. Sometimes, children might need to be temporarily placed outside of their home while DSS puts resources in place to meet a family’s specific needs. The purpose of the resources is to help a family change the behaviors that put their children at risk and increase the behaviors that can keep their children safe. If the family situation cannot be sufficiently improved to provide safety for the children, permanent placement outside of the family home might need to happen and DSS coordinates this process.
Need to report abuse or neglect?
To report a potential case of child abuse or neglect, immediately contact the county DSS office where the child resides. Intake staff will assist the person making the report and assess the information provided to determine if an investigation is necessary.
Local law enforcement offices can also file reports of potential abuse or neglect and ask DSS to investigate the case.