Children's Administration, Department of Social and Health Services
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What Happens Once Abuse & Neglect is Reported?

Child Protective Services

Staff within DSHS provides Child Protective Services (CPS). When someone reports that a child may be abused or neglected, CPS determines if it meets the criteria for investigation. A report of suspected child abuse or neglect could be made to CPS or the police. Even though CPS staff and the police work together, they make separate investigations. CPS conducts family assessments, and the police conduct criminal investigations.

Protective Custody

When it appears that a child is in danger of being harmed, or has already been seriously abused or neglected, a police officer can place the child in protective custody. Custody of the child is then transferred to CPS which places the child with a relative or in foster care. By law, a child can be kept in protective custody for no more than 72 hours, excluding weekends and legal holidays. If the child is not returned to the parents or some other voluntary arrangement made within 72 hours, the matter must be reviewed by a court.

Parental Rights

In very serious cases of abuse and neglect, a child can be removed permanently from the parents. This is called termination of parental rights. When this happens, the child becomes legally free through a court procedure. The parent no longer has any rights or responsibilities toward the child. If a parent voluntarily gives up a child for adoption, the process is called relinquishing parental rights.

Child Welfare Services

Child Welfare Services (CWS) provides services to children and families with long-standing abuse and neglect problems. Typically these children have been removed from the family home and are in the foster care system. The focus of CWS is to achieve a permanent plan and placement for these children as soon as possible.

End Harm Call 1-866-363-4276

TTY Accessible: 1-800-624-6186