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What Is the Function of Child Protective Services (CPS)?

In the context of child welfare and family law, Child Protective Services (CPS) has a significant role to play in protecting children who have faced or are at risk of dealing with abuse, physical and mental, sexual, and neglect. CPS is the system of intervention of child abuse and neglect in California under the legal framework of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 300.

The Function of Child Protective Services

The CPS Law Group performs is acutely aware of the importance of both case law and statutory provisions under the California Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 300.

County CPS departments have the following legal obligations:

  1. Investigating and evaluating – CPS initiates thorough investigation and evaluation when allegations are made or reported in terms of abuse, neglect, or violence. The process can be based on complaints from social workers, neighbors, teachers, friends, relatives, or professionals like doctors or therapists. The main objective is to evaluate whether the child requires immediate action.
  2. Assessing the risk factors – After completing the evaluation and investigation done by the CPS, they try to understand the level of risk involved in the case. The child’s age, the degree of abuse or neglect threat, and the parent or guardian’s readiness to make improvements or take prompt action are some of the variables.
  3. Helping with CPS services – CPS might offer assistance to parent/s or guardian/s if the family is willing to cooperate with the services. These services can include counseling, therapy, parenting classes, parenting and child development courses, and substance abuse treatment to improve the case and keep the family unit together if needed while providing the services and treatment to the family to ensure the child’s and family’s best interest. 
  4. Removal of the child: CPS may seek a court order to remove the child away from their parents’ residence if they are in danger. This decision is to be taken seriously and requires that all other alternatives within reasons have been exhausted. 
  5. Court process – CPS is a part of the court’s hearing related to child protection. They file petitions in court and give opinions of the social worker. They support the presenting facts and testify if needed.
  6. Suitable placement of child – when a child is removed from their home, CPS is responsible for the following process in the case, i.e., to find the right place for the child’s living. The process must not jeopardize the child’s safety or well-being. 

Example: A Mother of three was involved with Child Protective Services because of serious neglect, inadequate supervision, and domestic violence in the proximity to her three children, ages 16 months, 4 years, and 12 years. CPS sought an emergency removal of the children based on substantial evidence, leading to a petition for foster care placement in juvenile courts. 

Allegations included in the case:

  • Leaving the children unattended for 3 days.
  • Witnessing physical harm against by a 4-year-old and 12-year-old.
  • Children facing academic struggles and suspension.
  • Harmful environment including broken glass, feces, electrical fixtures, and molding food.
  • Parents alleged to be cocaine abusers.

CPS was given interim legal and physical control of the children by the court. Subsequently, an adjudication hearing ordered the children placed in foster care, created a case plan of reunification, and required the parents to cooperate with receiving CPS services. 

Child protective services, operating under the California Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 300, is an essential root of the child welfare system. CPS Law Group recognizes the importance of the CPS in safeguarding the rights and best interests of the child, but also knows that they can make mistakes. Parents need experienced advocates to protect their rights. CPS conducts investigation and evaluation, supports services, understands risk factors for the temporary removal of children, and participates in court hearings and processes. The implementation of section 300 is designed to ensure that children grow up in a safe environment by analyzing their best interests while their rights are being protected.

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