When a report of child abuse or suspected child abuse is made to the police or child protective services (CPS), generally each organization shares the report with the other. While child protective services (CPS) and the police enter into a cooperative arrangement in this regard, beyond the protection of the children involved – their attention is turned in different directions. Despite the many horror stories we see or hear about, child protective services (CPS) is supposed to work to maintain and stabilize families. The police will generally work to arrest and prosecute abusive parents.

Children are generally not removed from the home immediately upon report to child protective services (CPS). Under extreme circumstances, it can happen. In the majority of situations, even after CPS verifies that issues exist with a reported family, child protective services personnel attempt to work with the family to get those issues resolved and keep the family intact. Be advised, though, the law does allow the police department and/or child protective services personnel to remove at-risk children for as long as 72-hours when an investigation is ongoing. Rules may be different from state-to-state, jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction. If an investigation demonstrates that a child appears to be in imminent danger of harm, the child may be removed for a longer period of time and temporary, safe alternative custodial arrangements are made.

Laws generally require a team approach to the decision to remove a child from a home. The child protective services (CPS) case manager will discuss the case with a supervisor. While the child is in temporary custody and consideration for the filing of a dependency petition is in the works, laws typically require a team review of the case. That team seeks alternatives to continued separation of the child from the family home. A team will generally consist of a child protective services (CPS) case manager, a CPS supervisor, a child’s pediatrician, and a representative from a Foster Care Review Board (or equivalent within your locality). Other relevant professional representatives may also be included as part of this team. A parent, guardian, or other legal custodian of the child, members of your locality’s Family Advocacy Office (or equivalent) will be review participants. If this affects your personal situation, be sure to make a call to your Family Advocacy Office within 48-hours of receiving a temporary custody notice. In cases such as these – the sooner you make the call, the better.

A family voluntarily agreeing will child protective services (CPS) to placement of children into foster care is possible under certain circumstances. Generally this is limited to 90-days and is designed to allow families to rectify problems within the home during this period. The expectation is that with resolution of problem, the child will be returned to the family.

When a child’s removal from the family home exceeds 60-days, the time beyond that period is counted for a termination of parental rights petition under the following conditions:

  1. A dependency petition has been filed
  2. The child is made a ward of the court
  3. The case plan is termination of parental rights and it’s tied to the length of time the child has been out of the home in protective placement.

When a child is removed from the home, it is due to an assessment that indicates a need for protection from imminent danger.   The child is then placed in a licensed foster home, a shelter, another licensed or otherwise certified family or with another parent/relative. A written Temporary Custody Notice is given to the parent, guardian, or custodian which details the reason for the child’s removal from the home along with the conditions that put the child imminent risk of harm.  It will also detail:

  • Information about a preliminary protection hearing
  • Information regarding obtaining legal counsel
  • Any other meetings to be held (if applicable)
  • If a dependency petition is filed
  • Your rights and responsibilities
  • Additional services and agencies available to assist you

If a hearing date has not been set at the time a Temporary Custody Notice is served, child protective services (CPS) will provide advanced notice of the preliminary protective hearing date and time within 24 hours. This hearing is typically held within 5 to 7 days.