What is Child Protective Services?

Child Protective Services protects children from caregivers who may be harming them

Child Protective Services (CPS) is a branch of your state’s social services department that is responsible for the assessment, investigation and intervention regarding cases of child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse. In all of its procedures, CPS must follow state and federal laws. CPS typically takes cases where a child has been abused or is believed to be at risk of abuse by someone who has care-giving responsibilities for that child.

Child protective services are called by different names in different states

Some examples of names used in other states for child protective services are Department of Family Services, Department of Social Services, and Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). Your state may even have a different name.

When a report has been filed, the role of child protective services is to:

  • Determine if a child has been abused or neglected
  • Protect the child from immediate danger
  • Assess the risk of continuing danger to the child
  • Decide if or what interventions are needed to keep the child safe, and implement these steps, sometimes with the help of other state agencies or programs.
  • Decide on the need for ongoing support of the family such as case management, counseling or medical care. Ongoing support can include programs and services from organizations besides CPS.

"Will CPS remove my child from home?"

First and foremost, CPS is committed to finding safety for a child within the home. In situations where the home is identified as unsafe for children, CPS’s strong preference is to remove the person abusing. CPS removes children from the home only as last resort after all other options have been considered or explored.

CPS compared to Police or Law Enforcement

Because child sexual abuse is a crime in all 50 states, police and law enforcement may also become involved in the investigation of child sexual abuse. The focus of law enforcement is on the person who has abused and on any criminal proceedings that are involved. The focus of CPS is on the family and on the protection of the child.