Monday, December 3, 2012

A Guide To Investigation Procedures


A Guide To
What Is Child Abuse And Neglect?
Section 63.2-100 of the Code of
Virginia defines an abused or
neglected child as any child under 18
years of age whose parent, guardian,
or other person responsible for the
child’s care:
1) Causes or threatens to cause a
non-accidental physical or mental
2) Causes or threatens to cause a
non-accidental physical or mental
injury during the manufacture or
sale of certain drugs.
3) Neglects or refuses to provide
adequate food, clothing, shelter,
emotional nurturing, or health care.
4) Abandons the child.
5) Fails to provide adequate
supervision in relation to the child’s
age and level of development.
6) Commits or allows to be committed
any illegal sexual act upon a child
including incest, rape, fondling,
indecent exposure, prostitution, or
allows a child to be used in any
sexually explicit visual material.
7) Knowingly leaves a child alone in
the same dwelling with a person
who is not related to the child by
blood or marriage and who is
required to register as a violent
sexual offender.
In addition, the law requires physicians
to report to CPS any newborn infant
who tests positive for drugs.
The purpose of this brochure is to
help you understand the Child
Protective Services (CPS) reporting
and response process. Please
contact your CPS social worker if
you have additional questions that
are not answered by the information
provided in this brochure.
What Is Child Protective Services?
Child Protective Services, which
operates under the Virginia
Department of Social Services
(VDSS), has the responsibility under
the Code of Virginia to respond to
reports of suspected child abuse or
Local departments of social services
are required by the law to:
Act in response to valid reports of
suspected child maltreatment.
Evaluate child safety.
Support and strengthen families,
whenever possible.
Facilitate services to families to
help ensure the safety of their
Prevent future abuse or neglect.
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Certain professionals who work with
children are required by law to
immediately report suspected child
abuse and neglect.
What Happens After
A Report Is Made?
Local departments of social services
will respond to valid child abuse and
neglect reports by conducting a
family assessment response or an
investigation response. The goals of
both responses are to:
Assess child safety.
Strengthen and support families,
whenever possible.
Prevent future child maltreatment.
Investigation Response
A child abuse or neglect
investigation is conducted when
there are immediate child safety
concerns, or the report is required by
law to be investigated. The following
reports must be investigated:
Sexual abuse.
Death of a child.
Serious injury.
Hospitalization due to suspected
Injuries requiring medical
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Why Has A Child Protective
Services (CPS) Worker
Contacted Me?
You have been contacted because
the Department of Social Services
received a report of possible abuse
or neglect of a child or children in
your care.
Why Would Someone
Make A Report?
The purpose of reporting is to
identify abused and neglected
children as soon as possible so that
the child’s safety and well being can
be addressed.
Some signs that people notice and
may report to CPS include, but are
not limited to:
A child with questionable injuries.
A young child who is left alone.
A child who has unattended health
care problems or medical needs.
A child who is consistently hungry
or appears malnourished.
A child who has a sexually
transmitted disease or other signs
of sexual abuse.
Who Made The Report?
Anyone can make a report of
suspected child abuse or neglect.
The person making the report is not
required to provide his/her name.
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Abuse/neglect occurring in
out-of-family settings, such as
schools, day care programs or
residential programs for children.
What Happens During
An Investigation?
During an investigation, the CPS
social worker will:
Conduct an initial safety
assessment and develop a safety
plan for the child, if needed.
Talk face to face with the child, the
parents, and the alleged
Look for signs of injury, abuse, or
Observe the child’s environment
and/or where the alleged abuse or
neglect occurred.
Interview or observe the siblings.
Check for prior reports of abuse or
Contact other persons who know
the child such as doctors, teachers,
or relatives.
Complete a risk assessment with
the family and determine what
services, if any, are needed to
prevent future abuse or neglect.
Request your assistance in
identifying other individuals who
may be able to help your family if
services are needed to keep your
child/children safe.
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If needed, arrange for services to
support your family.
The Code of Virginia requires a CPS
investigation be completed in 45-60
days from the date of the report.
What Right Does CPS Have
To Talk With A Child?
In order to provide an objective child
safety assessment, Section 63.2-1518
of the Code of Virginia allows a CPS
social worker to speak with a child and
his/her siblings without parental
consent and outside the presence of
the parent/caretaker.
If the CPS social worker talks with the
child or siblings without the
parent/caretaker’s prior knowledge, the
parent/caretaker will be notified about
the interview as soon as possible.
All CPS interviews conducted during an
investigation with alleged victim children
are required to be electronically
recorded. There are some exceptions to
this requirement when the CPS social
worker determines that:
The child’s safety may be endangered
by electronic recording of the
Electronic recording is impractical
due to the child’s age and
development level.
The child refuses to participate.
The investigation team, which may
include law enforcement, determines
that electronic recording is
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What About Examining The Child?
The CPS social worker will observe
the child/children for injuries or signs
of abuse or neglect. Under Section
63.2-1520 of the Code of Virginia,
the CPS social worker is permitted to
take photographs and make the
necessary arrangements to X-ray the
child/children as part of a medical
evaluation. This can be conducted
without parental/caretaker consent.
Photographs of the living conditions
in which the child/children resides
may also be taken with the consent
of the parent/caretaker, or under the
direction of the local Commonwealth
Attorney’s Office.
What If I Don’t Want To
Be Investigated?
In most investigations, there is
cooperation between the family and
the CPS social worker. The interview
process provides an opportunity for
your family to express concerns
about your child/children, to identify
family needs, to ask questions, and
to obtain feedback from the CPS
social worker.
If your family chooses not to
cooperate or allow entry into the
home, the CPS social worker is
obligated to proceed with the
investigation, as required by law. If
there is sufficient cause to believe
that the child/children are not safe,
the CPS social worker may contact
law enforcement for assistance or
petition the court to order your
Will My Child Be Taken Away?
The CPS social worker will assist
your family in providing for the child’s
safety in your home. Most of the time,
a plan can be made that will ensure
the child’s safety in his/her own
home. If the child’s safety cannot be
assured, then a determination will be
made as to whether the child may
need to be separated from the family.
This may include having the alleged
abuser or neglecter temporarily leave
the home, placing the child in the
care of relatives, or in a foster home
until it is deemed safe for the child to
return home.
What Are My Rights?
Parenting is both a privilege and a
responsibility. If you are involved in a
CPS investigation, you have the
following rights:
To be notified in writing that you
are the subject of a report.
To meet with the CPS social
worker assigned to the case to
discuss the report, ask questions,
and obtain feedback.
To talk with or be represented by a
lawyer or other person.
To refuse entry into your home by
the CPS social worker.
To tape record the communications
between you and the CPS social
worker, provided all parties are
aware of the recording.
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What Happens After An
Once the investigation is completed,
the CPS social worker will determine
if the report is founded or
unfounded.You will be notified in
writing of the disposition.
Unfounded Disposition
An Unfounded Disposition means
that information gathered during the
investigation did not support a
founded disposition. Records of
unfounded complaints are kept by
local departments of social services
and the VDSS child abuse and
neglect information system for one
year from the date of the complaint.
This information is confidential and
used only by local departments of
social services.
An unfounded disposition may be
kept for more than one year if
additional CPS reports are received
during this period.
If you believe the report was made
in bad faith or was malicious, you
may request that your record be
kept for an additional two years from
the date of the complaint. Section
63.2-1514 of the Code of Virginia
allows you to petition the Circuit
Court for access to the CPS record,
including the identity of the reporter.
Founded Disposition
A Founded Disposition means the
information gathered during the
investigation has revealed a
preponderance of evidence to
To accept or decline services.
To appeal the investigation
findings if you are named as the
person who abused or neglected a
Will Criminal Charges Be Filed?
CPS is required by Section 63.2-
1503 of the Code of Virginia to report
certain types of suspected child
abuse or neglect to law enforcement
and the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
These include:
Death of a child.
Sexual abuse.
Serious injury.
A drug offense involving a child.
Acts contributing to the
delinquency of a minor.
The decision to file criminal charges
or prosecute is made by local law
enforcement and/or the local
Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The CPS investigation is an
administrative proceeding and is
separate from any criminal
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for a judicial record review. The CPS
social worker will provide you with a
written explanation of the appeals
May I See The
Investigation Report?
After the investigation is completed,
you may request to see a copy of
your personal information in the CPS
report.Your request will be granted
unless there is an ongoing criminal
investigation or criminal proceeding;
or the personal information in your file
could endanger the well-being of your
child or other persons.
What Kinds Of Family Services
Are Provided?
A local department of social services
Develop a service plan with you,
designed to ensure the safety and
well being of your child/children.
Link your family to community
services such as family counseling,
parent support groups, parenting
classes, substance abuse services,
children’s programs, child care,
home visits by a CPS social
worker, etc.
You may decline services for your
family and your child. However, if the
CPS social worker believes your
children are unsafe, he/she may
petition the court to require your
family to receive services on behalf of
your child/children.
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support that abuse or neglect
occurred. Section 63.2-1514 of the
Code of Virginia requires that
records of founded dispositions be
kept by local departments of social
services and the VDSS Child Abuse
and Neglect Central Registry.
These records are kept 3 to 18
years, depending upon the severity
of the abuse or neglect. Information
contained in the Child Abuse and
Neglect Central Registry is
confidential. With the exception of
local departments of social services,
the information can only be released
with your signed, notarized
authorization or by court order.
How Do I Appeal A CPS Finding?
If you disagree with the findings of
the investigation and want your
record changed, you must submit a
written request to the director of the
local department of social services
within 30 calendar days after you
receive the written notice of CPS
findings. If you are dissatisfied with
the outcome of the meeting, or if the
local department of social services
fails to send you a written decision
within 45 days of your written
request to change your record, you
may request an administrative review
before a Hearing Officer by writing to
the Commissioner at the Virginia
Department of Social Services.
If you are not satisfied with the
Hearing Officer’s decision, you have
the right to petition the circuit court
To: ________________________________________
A report of suspected child abuse or neglect has
been received about:
(Child or Children)
The concerns are:
(Type of abuse/neglect)
Please call:
(CPS Worker)
at: _________________________________________
(Agency Name & Telephone)
to discuss the report, answer your questions, and
discuss your family’s need for services.
B032-01-0974-06-eng (01/07)
Child Abuse Hotline
(Language Line available)
Virginia Department of Social Services
7 North Eighth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219