What Parents Need To Know When CPS Investigates Suspected Abuse and Neglect
Sacramento County Child Protective Services (CPS) is required by law to investigate situations that may be harmful to children. Most of the time, reports of child abuse or neglect come from calls into the Sacramento County Child Abuse Hotline from concerned citizens or mandated reporters. Mandated reporters are law enforcement officers, teachers, daycare operators, healthcare workers or people in other professions whose jobs bring them into contact with children. They are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect. A visit from CPS can be upsetting and confusing for families. This brochure was designed to help answer common questions.
Why has a CPS social worker contacted my family?
CPS has contacted your family in response to a report of suspected child abuse or neglect.
Who made the report?
California law requires that the identity of the reporting person remain confidential. Any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is encouraged to contact the Sacramento County Child Abuse Hotline at 875-KIDS (875-5437).
Does a report to CPS mean that I am a bad parent?
A report means that someone is worried about your family. It can also be an opportunity to receive information and services that may help strengthen your family.
What can I expect?
A CPS Emergency Response social worker will meet with you and your children to assess the situation. Depending on the situation, the social worker may talk to other people who know your children, such as doctors or teachers. The social worker will contact you to arrange a meeting. In some cases the social worker may make an unannounced visit. If your children are school-age, the social worker may visit them at school. State law permits school visits. Most meetings take place immediately. These meetings preferably take place in the family home and the social worker will ask to do a home assessment. In some cases, the social worker may visit with a representative from a neighborhood agency that offers services in your area.
What is a home assessment?
The social worker will ask questions to determine if your children are safe. Depending on the situation, the social worker may talk to other people who know your children, such as doctors or teachers.
What happens after the assessment?
The social worker will make a determination whether the child abuse or neglect concerns were substantiated, inconclusive, or unfounded. He or she will talk with you about the results of the assessment.
Unfounded means the report is determined not to be true.
Inconclusive means that there isn't enough information to know either way.
Substantiated means there is credible information to believe that child abuse or neglect more likely than not did occur.
The social worker may talk with you about voluntary services or community referrals that could help strengthen your family and ensure that your children remain safely in your home. If the social worker believes the children are in immediate danger and there are no interventions to make the situation safe, the social worker can legally remove the children.
In this situation the social worker will give you information about the court hearing and what to expect next. If this happens, the social worker will ask you to identify relatives or family friends who may be able to provide a safe, temporary home for your children. If no appropriate relative is available, your children may be placed in foster care.
What kind of file will I have?
The law requires that CPS document its activities. This information is maintained in a statewide child welfare database that is safeguarded to ensure your right to privacy.
Can I see my file?
In most situations you would be entitled to view your CPS files. In some situations, however, CPS files cannot be viewed without a court order.
Will my information be shared with anyone?
There are situations where the law requires cross-reporting between child protection agencies and law enforcement and/or the Department of Justice. Depending on the situation, CPS may also be required to add your name to the Department of Justice California Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Your social worker will inform you if your name will be added to the CACI.
What rights do I have?
You have the right to be treated in a professional manner, with dignity and respect, free from discrimination. You have the right to have your language, culture or other special needs accommodated. You have the right to speak to a supervisor or program manager if you have concerns regarding the actions of this agency. An Ombudsman, or complaint officer, is also available to hear concerns.