Thursday, July 31, 2008

Guide to CPS

Child Protective Services (CPS) is a part of Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) within the Arizona State Department of Economic Security and works on behalf of children and families of Arizona. The role of CPS is to ensure the safety of children while maintaining the integrity of the family. When allegations of child abuse or neglect, exploitation or abandonment indicate the need, Arizona law requires that CPS conduct an investigation. One of the most important functions of CPS is to help families receive the services necessary to enable them to remain together and to build better family relationships.

The Goal of Child Protective Services
Child Protective Services helps families by strengthening the ability of parents, guardians or custodians to provide good child care. Its primary objective is to keep children safely within their own families. CPS works cooperatively with parents to make that happen.

Some Basic Information About Child Abuse And Neglect
Sometimes parents, guardians or custodians take actions that create a danger to children in the home. Failure to protect children also may result in their being abused or neglected. There are several types of abuse and neglect:

* Physical abuse includes nonaccidental physical injuries such as broken bones, bruises, burns, cut or other injuries.
* Sexual abuse occurs when there is sexual conduct or contact with children. Using children in pornography, prostitution or other types of sexual activity is also sexual abuse.
* Neglect exists when parents, guardians or custodians place children at substantial risk of harm by not providing children with adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision or medical care. Neglect includes:
- parents leaving a child with no one to care for them or leaving a child with a caretaker and not returning or making other arrangements for their care.
- Allowing children to live in a hazardous environments.
- Using a child for material gain including forcing a child to panhandle, steal or perform other illegal activities.
* Emotional abuse or neglect occurs when a child suffers severe anxiety, withdrawal, depression or other severe emotional disturbance due to acts or omissions by the parent or caretaker.

How CPS Receives Information About A Family
Any individual or agency representative may call CPS to report that a child is not receiving adequate care or protection or that a family might benefit from services. This report can be made by a doctor or nurse, teacher, counselor, social worker or any other concerned person who is aware of the situation. Arizona law requires certain people, such as doctors and psychologists, to make a report to CPS or the police when they suspect that a child is being abused or neglected. When CPS receives information concerning possible abuse or neglect, the report is screened to decide whether investigation is necessary. If so, the report is then ranked according to its seriousness and a decision is made about how quickly the investigation will begin.

How CPS Investigates Reports of Child Abuse
The law requires Child Protective Services to investigate appropriate reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. To do this, the law allows CPS to talk to alleged victims and their siblings without parental permission. Often this occurs at school because it is a neutral environment. All CPS records are confidential. A CPS representative may visit the family home to discuss the report and to talk about the family situation. At the time, suggestions may be offered regarding help that is available to assist the family.

Parents and other individuals have the right to refuse to be interviewed by the CPS representative, to provide information and refuse services offered. However, CPS may proceed with the investigation and file a dependency petition in the juvenile court when it is necessary to protect a child

How A Substantiated CPS Investigation Finding Is Appealed
After an investigation, if CPS has reason to believe that a parent, guardian or custodian abused or neglected a child and intends to confirm this, a letter will be sent to the person accused explaining how an appeal of this decision may be requested and how to get a copy of the CPS report.

If an appeal is requested, the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Protective Services Review Team (PSRT) will review all information and determine if there is enough evidence to agree with the decision made by CPS. If the PSRT disagrees with the decision made by CPS, the person accused will be sent a letter and the abuse or neglect will not be substantiated.

If the PSRT agrees with the CPS decision, a hearing will be scheduled for the person accused with the Office of Administrative Hearings. At this hearing, an Administrative Law Judge will hear all the evidence and make a decision about the allegation and finding.

The Police And Child Protective Services
Suspected child abuse or neglect may be reported either to the police or to Child Protective Services. Both agencies share these reports with the other agency. Although CPS cooperates with the police, the focus of its assessment is different. CPS seeks to protect children and to maintain and stabilize families, not to arrest or prosecute parents.

When A Child Needs Protection
Few of the children who are reported to Child Protective Services are removed from their homes. In most situations where verified family problems exist, the families and CPS work together cooperatively to resolve them. However, under certain circumstances, the law does allow a police officer or a CPS representative to remove a child for up to 72 hours (not counting weekends and holidays) for protection while the investigation takes place. Within 72 hours, the child must be returned home or a dependency petition filed in the juvenile court. A child also may be removed for up to 12 hours for a medical or psychological evaluation. If the CPS investigation shows that the child must remain out of the home for a longer period to protect him/her from harm, CPS arranges for safe, temporary care.

The decision to remove a child is not made by one person. The CPS case manager discusses each case with a supervisor. When a child is in temporary custody and a dependency petition is being considered, the law requires that a removal review team composed of certain people to assess the case, and alternatives to continued out-of-home placement and services. The review team includes the CPS case manager, a CPS supervisor, a member of a local Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) and a child’s physician, if the child has a medical need or chronic illness. Other professionally qualified persons may also participate in the removal review.

If requested by a parent, guardian or custodian, staff from the department’s Family Advocacy Office will also participate in the review of a child’s removal, before a dependency petition is filed. In order to ensure sufficient time for the review of the removal, please make this call with 48 hours (not including weekends and holidays) of receiving the temporary custody notice.

In certain situations, parents and CPS may agree to place a child in voluntary foster care as an alternative to a dependency petition. This service, limited to a 90-day period, is entered into only when families are willing and able to resolve problems within the allowed time frames. Written consent of the parents as well as the child, if age 12 or older, is required.

Any time beyond 60 days of the child’s initial out-of-home placement will be counted for termination of parental rights purposes if:

* a dependency petition is filed
* the child is made a ward of the court, and
* the case plan is termination of parental rights based on length of time in out-of home placement.

What Happens When A Child Is Removed From The Home
When a child is removed from home for protection from immediate harm. he/she is placed in a licensed foster home, shelter, other licensed family or with a parent or relative. A written notice, called a Temporary Custody Notice (TCN), CPS-1000A, is given to the parent, guardian or custodian stating the reason for removal and the circumstances that placed the child at imminent risk of harm.

The Temporary Custody Notice will include information about a Preliminary Protective Hearing, obtaining an attorney, a meeting to be held, if a dependency petition is filed with the juvenile court and rights and responsibilities, services available, and agencies to contact for assistance.

If a hearing date is not known when the Temporary Custody Notice is served, CPS will give you a notice of the date and time of the Preliminary Protective Hearing within 24 hours. This hearing will be held within 5 to 7 days.

How To Get A Lawyer
The court will appoint a lawyer to represent the parents and if they cannot afford the lawyer’s fee, the court provides legal representation without charge. The Temporary Custody Notice will tell you how to contact an attorney, or this information will be included on the notice of Preliminary Protective Hearing delivered by the CPS case manager within 24 hours after the dependency petition is filed. The parents may consult with the lawyer at any time and have the lawyer represent them at all hearings concerning the children and their parental rights. Any disagreements with CPS may also be discussed with the lawyer.

If parents do not have an attorney before the Preliminary Protective Hearing, or Initial Dependency Hearing, they may make this request at the hearing or at any other time during court involvement.

The Preliminary Protective Hearing
When a dependency petition has been filed, a Preliminary Protective Hearing will be held within 5 to 7 days from the child’s removal. You must talk to your attorney before this hearing and come to a meeting before the hearing. Other people can come to this meeting, including relatives, witnesses, or others with whom the child might be placed.

At this meeting, efforts will be made to try and reach an agreement about the child’s placement, services that should be provided and visitation with the child. The results of this meeting will be discussed at the hearing. At the hearing the court will make orders about the child’s placement, visitation and tasks and services to be provided.

If the parent or guardian denies the allegations in the petition, the court may set a date for an initial dependency hearing.

The Initial Dependency Hearing
An Initial Dependency Hearing will be set within 21 days after the petition is filed. At this hearing the court can declare the child “dependent” or set other conferences or mediation.

After a child has been declared “dependent” the court holds a review hearing at least every six months. The purpose of this hearing is to evaluate the progress made in solving family problems. At this hearing, the court also reviews the child’s placement and placement and decides if its continued involvement is necessary. The court is also required by law to hold an Initial Permanency Hearing if a child has been in out-of-home care at least one (1) year. The purpose of this hearing is to determine if the child would be safe if returned home, or if another permanent plan, such as adoption, guardianship or long-term care is the most appropriate plan for the child.

Case Plans And Staffings
The assigned CPS case manager develops a proposed case plan for every case within 21 days of case assignment. If dependency petition has been filed, this case plan must be a part of the report that is submitted to the court at the time of the Preliminary Protective Hearing. The case plan identifies the goal, objectives, tasks or services to be provided, responsible persons and time frames. The parents should actively participate in the development of the case plan and the case manager must provide parents with a copy of it.

As soon as possible but not later than 60 days after case opening, the case manager arranges a staffing. Staffings are meetings held with parents and others who are providing services to the family to develop or review the case plan. At the first staffings the permanent case plan is developed. It includes specific details about case objectives, services that will be provided, who will be responsible for providing them and how long they will continue. Parents are encouraged and expected to be involved in this planning process. Staffing also provide an opportunity for all participants to discuss progress, exchange ideas and suggestions, and to work together cooperatively to resolve family problems. Regular staffings are scheduled at least every six months to discuss case progress.

Visitation
Visitation with children in the custody of DES is approved on a case by case basis. All case plans for children in out-of-home care include a Visitation Agreement which is developed by the case manager and family members. Family members include persons who are related by blood or law, are legal guardians, siblings, or adults with a meaningful relationship with the child. Family members should contact the child’s case manger to request visitation.

The Foster Care Review Board (FCRB)
When a child is placed outside his/her own home, the FCRB reviews the case within six months of the original date of placement and every six months after that while the child remains in out-of-home care. The function of the FCRB is to review the case plan, and progress toward its goal and objectives and to make sure the child is receiving good care. The FCRB is made up of community members who are appointed by the juvenile court judge in each county. They are not employed by DES or by the court. The FCRB makes recommendations to the court about individual cases but has no decision-making authority. The court considers the recommendations of the FCRB with other information such as evidence and testimony from parents, case managers and attorneys.

The Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program
In selected cases, the court may appoint a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to help with a case. CASAs are trained volunteers whose primary responsibility is to represent the child’s best interests. CASA volunteers are members of the service team, have access to case records, attend staffings, FCRB reviews and court hearings and may be involved in all case-related activities. From their unique perspective as the child’s special advocate, CASAs prepare reports to the court for all court hearings and may testify on the child’s behalf. The purpose of this program is to ensure that everything is being done to help reunify the family and achieve a safe, permanent home for the child as quickly as possible.

If A Child Is Placed In Foster Care
All foster homes and other facilities used by CPS to provide temporary out-of-home care are licensed by the state and supervised by an assigned licensing worker. Foster parents are trained to provide care and to work with CPS and family members toward the goal of family reunification. CPS case managers visit regularly with children and foster families to ensure that the necessary services, including medical care, are being provided and to monitor the child’s progress. Whenever possible, children needing protection are placed with members of their extended family. Placements with relatives may occur during the period of temporary custody or at any later time. Relatives providing such placements must agree to a background investigation, a home evaluation, and sign an agreement with CPS that specifies the conditions of placement.

Services Are Available For Family
The Department of Economic Security provides services to help families deal with problems and work toward the goal of family reunification. Usually, there is no charge for these services. The CPS case manger talks with family members to decide what is needed. There are also other agencies or groups in Arizona that offer help. Services that may be suggested include:

* Help in getting food, housing, clothing and medical care.
* Intensive family preservation services.
* Psychological evaluations.
* Individual, family or relationship counseling.
* Day care.
* Parent aide services
* Parenting skills training.
* Educational programs, job training or vocational rehabilitation.
* Sexual assault or domestic violence counseling.
* Drug or alcohol treatment programs.
* Peer self-help groups.

Parents Have Responsibilities too
During Child Protective Services involvement, parents are expected to:

* Work with CPS to solve family problems.
* Attend and participate in case staffings, FCRB reviews and court hearings.
* Provide CPS with information about the children.
* Keep CPS informed about changes such as a new address, telephone number, job, income, marriage, or other living changes.
* Follow court orders.
* Visit children regularly when they are in out-of-home placements.
* Contribute to the cost of children’s out-of-home care.
* Keep appointments made with CPS, attorneys, therapists and others who are working with the family.

When Children Return Home
The goal of CPS is to return every child who has been removed to a safe and permanent home. The agency helps parents in solving problems and making a safe living situation for their children. Although the CPS case manager may recommend that a child return home, the court makes the final determination about when the child is returned. CPS works diligently with families to reunify them as quickly as possible and usually continues to provide needed services for some period after family reunification has occurred.

Additional Information And Help Is Available
The Parent Assistance Program is a service designed to help parent or guardians. This program, operating through the Administrative Office of the Courts, provides a 24-hour toll-free hotline to assist parents with their questions and concerns about CPS. Through the hotline, parents may obtain information about legal assistance, the juvenile court system and their legal rights and responsibilities. Trained hotline staff may also provide crisis counseling and referrals to appropriate agencies or individuals.

To contact the parent assistance program call:
Phoenix: (602) 542-9580
Statewide toll-free: 1-800-732-8193

The Family Advocate’s Office Upon request by the parent, guardian or custodian, the Family Adovate Office will immediately review the removal of a child by CPS before a dependency petition is filed. The family Advocate Office accepts requests for removal reviews received within 72 hours of the date and time the Temporary Custody Notice (TCN) was served; however, since dependency petition need to be filed within 72 hours of the child’s removal, in order to ensure sufficient time for the review of the removal, please contact the Family Advocate Office within 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) of receiving the TCN.

The DES Family Advocate’s Office is also available to provide additional information or assistance to parents. The responsibility of the Family Advocate is to handle inquiries, concerns and complaints/grievances about CPS. This office explains procedures to parents and other concerned individuals, assesses clients’ needs and attempts to resolve problems. The Family Advocate may review case records, and working in coordination with CPS, initiates the problem-solving process.

To contact the Family Advocacy Office call:
Statewide toll-free: 1-877-527-0765
Phoenix: (602) 364-0777

The DES Client Advocate’s Office is also available to provide additional information or assistance to parents. The responsibility of the CPS Client Advocate is to handle inquiries, concerns and complaints about CPS. This office explains procedures to parents and other concerned individuals, assesses clients’ needs and attempts to resolve problems. The Client Advocate may review case records, and working in coordination with CPS, initiates the problem-solving process.

To contact the client advocate call:
Phoenix: (602) 542-3581
Statewide toll-free: 1-800-352-8168

The Arizona Ombudsmen-Citizen’s Aide is available to handle inquires, concerns and complaints about agency actions, including CPS. This office may be able to help you to resolve your complaint.

To contact the ombudsman-citizen’s aide call:
Phoenix: (602) 277-7292
Statewide toll-free: 1-800-872-2879

Handling Disagreements With CPS
All parties are encouraged to discuss issues and resolve complaints with their CPS case manager, and proceed to supervisors or management staff only when resolution has not been reached. When parents disagree with the case manager, they should express their concerns either directly to the case manager, within the staffing or with their lawyer. Parents also may speak with the CPS supervisor. If agreement still cannot be reached, the assistant program manager or the district program manager may assist with problem resolution. The CPS Client Advocate (602-542-3581) may also be of assistance in working with the system.

The Child Welfare Mediation Program, operating within the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, was created to mediate certain disputes that arise among families, CPS and others concerned with the welfare of children. Mediation of issues will be arranged when a family member or CPS requests it.

To contact the mediation program call:
Phoenix: (602) 542-4192
Tucson: (520) 628-6504
Flagstaff: (928) 773-0474

To Learn More About The Law
Arizona’s laws about child protection are contained in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 8, Section 2-5. These may be obtained at any county court house building or at the public library.

What are the guidelines for the age that a child can be left home alone while we are at work
Arizona’s statutes (laws) do not designate an age when a child can be left alone. A parent is responsible for the decisions they make about their children being left alone.

The law does require however, that the Arizona Department of Economic Security Child Protective Services (CPS) investigate reports of neglect which include failure to provide supervision that places a child at substantial risk of harm. Leaving children alone is included in the category of supervision.

CPS has identified situations (that could cause a substantiated risk of harm to children who are alone) that are taken as reports for investigation. For example: - Children under the age of six; - A child of any age who cannot care for his or herself due to a physical, emotional or mental inability; - Children six to nine years of age, for three hours or longer; or it is unknown when the parent will return.

CPS understands there are times when school age children may have to be alone for a while. A call about these (latch key) children doesn’t automatically mean a CPS report will be taken, however, anyone can call CPS when they know or believe children are alone.

When calls come into CPS, specific questions are asked to help determine if there is a problem for the child. These may include: Does the child know how to reach the parent? Does the child know how to get emergency help? Is there a neighbor to go to? Is someone checking in on the child?

Sometimes police are called to the home. Before removing children, often police will try to make contact with the parent or other responsible person to come and supervise the children. The police are required to make these reports to CPS. This could result in a CPS Specialist contacting the children and parent about the report and making an assessment of any needed services.

Parent’s must use good judgment about their children’s capabilities, as they are ultimately responsible.

We hope this helps in providing an answer to your question. If you need additional information or wish to speak to someone from CPS, call the CPS Hotline at 1-888-767-2445.