Child Protective and Preventive Services are offered to families by the Department of Social Services which is mandated by law to protect children from abuse or neglect within their families, in foster care, or by persons responsible for the child's welfare as defined by statute. Services are provided to strengthen families; to enable children to remain safe in the home; to temporarily remove from parental custody a child who is at imminent risk of harm; or to pursue termination of parental rights and assure the child permanency in a substitute family if the custodial family cannot be preserved without serious risk to the child.
Primary elements of this mission include:
- Providing services intended to minimize harm to children and maximize the ability of families to protect and care for their own children.
- Providing services for children and their families on the principle that the best child welfare is good family welfare.
- Assessing allegations of abuse or neglect of children to determine if they are in need of protection. Where abuse or neglect is substantiated, these services should assure the support necessary to enable adequate family functioning or to intervene to protect children until parents are able to do so.
- Recognizing that Child Protective and Preventive Services are child centered and family focused. They are designed to ensure that reasonable efforts are made to maintain children safely in their own home, to reunite the family as soon as possible if removal of a child or parent is necessary, and to assure permanency in an adoptive home or other permanent situation if parental rights must be terminated.
Who can receive these services?
Any person under the age of 18 who is believed to have been harmed or placed at significant risk of harm by their parents, guardians, or other caregivers defined by state statute can receive CPS services.
How are the services provided?
Child protective services as provided by DSS involve coordination of services provided by many state agencies and community organizations. These services are identified with the family and in collaboration with the service providers in an effort to meet the families’ specific needs. Intervention in child protection cases requires that a worker has a working knowledge of a variety of treatment modalities and resource development skills.
DSS caseworkers assess reports of child abuse/neglect to determine the validity of the allegation and to determine the type of intervention necessary to protect the child from further harm. This includes determining whether the child is "at risk" of being abused or neglected in the future and identifying the family's need for support services.
Sometimes this treatment intervention requires the temporary placement of children out of their home(s) to ensure their safety. Child protective services caseworkers also provide information and referral services to families requesting assistance not related to abuse/neglect.
What services are offered?
Services such as mental health counseling, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, parenting skills, medical services as appropriate, and other remedial services are provided as necessary when it is believed that the service will assist the family to protect their children. Foster care is a service provided by DSS when it is determined that a child cannot be protected in their own home.
Who must report child abuse and neglect?
State law provides that certain people are mandated to report when they learn information in their professional capacity that leads them to believe that a child is harmed or at significant risk of being harmed (abused or neglected) by their parent, guardian or other caregiver as defined by statute. All other persons may report when they believe a child is harmed or at significant risk of being harmed.
How can I make a report?
The person who believes that a child has been or is being harmed or is at significant risk of being harmed should call the county DSS office where the child resides. Trained staff will assist the person to make a report and assess the information to determine if it meets screening criteria for investigation. Reports also can be made to local law enforcement offices who will communicate with DSS to coordinate an investigation.
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