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CPS Investigation Process

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If you do not have an active case with CPS, we unfortunately cannot help and kindly request you do not call our law offices.

Children often play rough and get into accidents that cause bumps and bruises. Unfortunately, the physical results of a child’s athleticism can be construed as marks from abuse. When this happens, well-meaning adults may report child abuse or neglect allegations to child protective services (CPS). Parents need to be aware of the CPS investigation process and their rights at this time.

By working with a Pittsburgh CPS attorney, parents are more likely to quickly prove the allegations false and protect their children from trauma. Call Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC today at (412) 471-5100 to learn more.

How CPS Investigations Arise

A CPS or police investigation into alleged child abuse or neglect begins when someone makes a written or oral report to the state or local authorities. Reports can come from anyone, though many are made by mandated reporters. Under the state, adults in certain positions are required to report any suspected child abuse or neglect, including:

  • Anyone licensed or certified to practice in the health field by the Department of State
  • Employees of health care facilities
  • Emergency medical services providers
  • School employees
  • Employees of child care services
  • Religious officials
  • Any adult who is routinely part of looking after the child through a program or activity
  • Social services employees
  • Police officers
  • Library employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Lawyers who work with any of the organizations that provide care for the child
  • Foster parents
  • Any adult family members who are responsible for the child’s welfare

The Allegations Dictate Which Organization Investigates

The nature of the child abuse or neglect allegations and the relationship between the alleged offender and child determine whether an investigation is conducted by the local CPS office, local law enforcement, or both.

If the alleged abuser is a perpetrator and the conduct does not initially appear to amount to a crime, then CPS alone will investigate. If the abuse was done by a perpetrator and it may constitute a criminal offense, then the police will be involved in the investigation as well. By working together, CPS and the police avoid having to conduct duplicate interviews, which can make the situation more traumatic for a child. A perpetrator of child abuse can be a:

  • Parent
  • Spouse or former spouse of a parent
  • Current or former romantic attachment of a parent
  • Babysitter, caregiver, teacher or another person over the age of 14 who is responsible for the child
  • Person over the age of 14 living in the same home as the child
  • Person over the age of 18 who does not live with the child but is related within the third degree through birth or adoption

However, if the alleged offender is not a perpetrator but the conduct may constitute a crime, then only the police investigate.

A Child May Be Removed From the Home

CPS is required to start investigations immediately, which is usually within 24 hours. During this time, the local agency will conduct an assessment as to whether the child is at risk in their current environment. This includes seeing the child right away, usually at home. There are emergency situations in which the child may be removed from the home. CPS employees cannot immediately take custody of a child without a court order. However, protective custody can be based on numerous circumstances, including:

  • A court order
  • Pursuant to an arrest of the offender
  • By a police officer without a court order if there are reasonable grounds to believe the child is in imminent danger
  • By a police officer if there are reasonable grounds to believe the child ran away
  • By a physician or director of a medical facility where the child is being treated if it is immediately necessary
  • By a physician or director of a hospital if the child is a newborn
  • By a police officer at a police station

What an Investigation Entails

An investigation into alleged child abuse includes interviews with the alleged perpetrator or offender, the parents, other child care providers, and the child, depending on their age. Any person who was included in the report is interviewed also. These interviews are conducted by a trained caseworker at an individuals’ home, work, the police station, or a local CPS office.

If there is evidence of bodily injury on the child, CPS may require the child to undergo a physical exam by a certified medical practitioner. If there is a history of abuse, then CPS or the medical examiner have the authority to require additional tests, like X-rays.

Most investigations are wrapped up within 30 days. However, if this is not possible, CPS must document the reasons why it must take longer and should complete the investigation within 60 days.

Potential Outcomes for Parents

CPS will determine whether the report was unfounded or founded. If the allegations were unfounded, then CPS will indicate this in the record and only maintain the record of the investigation for one year. Once the one-year period is up, CPS expunges the record from the statewide database within 120 days.

If the report was founded, then the status of the report changes within the state database and the adults involved, such as the parents, will receive notice of the determination. At this time, the child may or may not be removed from the home. The goal of CPS is to keep families together, and children are only removed if it is necessary. CPS must obtain a court order for the child’s removal, which means they must prove to a judge that the child is in immediate danger if they stay in the home. Also, if the investigation produced evidence of a criminal offense, charges may be brought against the abuser.

If the child is allowed to stay in the home or temporarily removed, parents or other household members may be required to complete parenting classes, alcohol or drug treatment, therapy, anger management classes, or other activities that can improve the safety of the home.

How a Pittsburgh CPS Attorney Can Help

While CPS has a great deal of power when it comes to child abuse investigations, they cannot simply take a child away. Removing a child from their home is serious and traumatic, which is why Pennsylvania law clearly limits when this drastic step is allowed. Additionally, if a child is removed from their home, this does not mean parents cannot get them back. There are numerous ways to prove abuse did not happen or to regain custody in the future.

Any parents facing child abuse allegations or whose child was taken from their home should immediately seek the help of a Pittsburgh CPS attorney at Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC. Call today at (412) 471-5100 to schedule a consultation.