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CPS Responsibility for Reports of Suspected Abuse

What is Child Protective Services (CPS)?

Child Protective Services is a state agency that investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. When suspected abuse or neglect is reported, it is the role of CPS to fully investigate the matter, and to determine whether a reasonable basis for exists that abuse has occurred.

Abuse can be in the form of physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse.  Neglect can take many different forms, including the failure to provide proper food, clothing, housing, medical needs, or supervision.  Not only can CPS take action if abuse or neglect has occurred, it can also initiate action if children are at a high degree of risk that abuse or neglect may take place based upon the circumstances and living conditions of the children.

CPS Usually Becomes Involved with Children through a Referral or Report of Suspected Abuse or Neglect

When such a referral or report is initiated, CPS is charged with conducting a thorough investigation to determine whether abuse or neglect has occurred, or if the living arrangements and conditions of the children who are the focus of the referral or report pose a risk of harm to them.

If CPS finds that abuse or neglect has likely occurred, or if CPS determines that there is a risk of harm to the children in the children’s current situation, further action is usually taken.  CPS may file a “dependency petition” with the court, and the children can be removed from the home. Court proceedings will then be initiated concerning the future custody and welfare of the children.

Liability of CPS/DSHS For Abuse Occurring to Children

Once a report or “referral” of suspected abuse or neglect has been made to CPS, CPS caseworkers must carefully investigate to determine whether abuse or neglect has likely taken place, or if the children that are the subject of such report are in danger or at a risk of being harmed based upon their environment. CPS caseworkers must take all action that is reasonable in light of the circumstances of each case in the course of such investigation.

There are many ways in which CPS/DSHS may incur liability based upon an investigation.  At one extreme, liability can arise if no investigation is conducted and harm to the children subsequently occurs.  More commonly, liability can arise if the investigation is not properly undertaken so that the risks of harm are not properly identified (such as failing to uncover a previous conviction of child abuse by a foster parent), or if proper follow-up is not undertaken (so that the children in the case “fall through the cracks”).

When Abuse Occurs After a Report or Referral is Filed with CPS, We Want to Know Why

When suspected abuse or neglect is reported to CPS and corrective action is not taken and subsequent abuse or neglect occurs, we want answers.  We want to know:

  • exactly what was reported to CPS,
  • what investigation was undertaken,
  • what actions were taken or recommended by CPS to prevent abuse or neglect, and
  • if corrective action was recommended but not undertaken, why this occurred.

We want to fully investigate the protocol and established standards that may have been in place, and to determine whether these protocol and standards were followed. This is the only way that we can determine if the State of Washington may be liable for the abuse and injury that resulted based upon the actions of CPS.

If You or a Loved One Has Suffered Abuse or Neglect Due to the Failure of CPS to Take Appropriate Action, Please Call Us

We can meet with you for a free, no-obligation consultation so that we may learn about the facts and circumstances of your case.  At this time we can also discuss with you the options that are legally available for seeking recovery against the state and/or others who may be legally liable for your abuse.

We usually represent clients in cases involving abuse and neglect on a contingency fee basis.  This means that there are no fees for us unless and until we are successful in recovering monetary damages on your behalf.