Five Things Every Parent Should Know About Child Protective Services (CPS)


Most parents never think in a million years that they will be contacted by Child Protective Services. I get calls from parents who came home to find a social worker’s business card wedged in their door. These parents are often frantic and fearful and for good reason. Sometimes they will contact me after they have already called the social worker. Maybe they have left a message or actually spoken to someone who said they won’t tell them anything about why they are investigating until the parents give the social worker access to their child. Here are five things every parent should know about CPS.

  1. Most Reports To CPS Don’t Result In a Finding of Abuse Or Neglect

According to reports, an estimated 3.3 million referrals of child abuse or neglect are received by CPS agencies in a given year. Of these referrals, 899,000 children were confirmed to be victims of abuse or neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007). That means about 12 out of every 1,000 children up to age 18 in the United States were found to be victims of maltreatment in 2005 (USDHHS, 2007). That is .01 percent of all reports.

  1. Many Calls To CPS Come From Mandated Reporters

Mandated reporters are people who have regular contact with vulnerable such as children and are therefore legally required to ensure a report to CPS is made when they observe or suspect abuse.

In 2011, there were 3.4 million calls to CPS in the United States. Referrals have increased each year. In 1963 there were 150,000 calls.

  1. CPS Fails At Reducing Risk To Children

A 2007 study suggested that investigations by CPS did little or nothing to improve the lives of those children. The only change in households investigated by CPS was that maternal symptoms of depression were shown to be worse in those households.

  1. While CPS Functions Are Largely Handled By Government Today, Private Child Advocacy Groups Were The First Leaders Of The Child Protection Movement

In the 18th and early 19th century, poor and immigrant parents received little to no help or compassion. Religious communities and ethnic communities assisted these families. New York formed the first CPS organization, the New York Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Children.  Many parent today would rather deal with religious organizations or receive assistance in the community than deal with the bureaucracy of CPS.

  1. CPS Receives Federal Bonuses For Adoption

The United States Department of Health and Human Services administers the Child Protective Services Act which is the law CPS has to follow. Adoption 2002 is an initiative that gives a cash adoption bonuses to the states. CPS is reported to received $4,000 to $6,000 for every child that is adopted. In essence, there is incentive for CPS to adopt out the children who are in its care.