What Happens Once Abuse & Neglect is Reported?

Child Protective Services

When a report includes an allegation of child abuse and/or neglect and meets the minimum Washington Administrative Code (WAC) for child abuse, then the report will be assigned to a CPS pathway for Investigation or Family Assessment Response (FAR). When a report of suspected child abuse or neglect involves a potential crime against a child, the information will be sent to law enforcement. Even though CPS caseworkers and the police work together, they conduct separate assessments. CPS focuses on assessing the safety of the child and needs of the family and law enforcement determine whether or not a crime has occurred.

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, suitable other,  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.

Child and Family Welfare Services

Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS) provides services to children and families to address child safety and well-being issues and focus on the specific needs of the parents. Typically children have been removed from the family home and are in out-of-home placement. The focus of CFWS is to reunify children with their parents if the child can be safely returned home and if not possible, achieve a permanent plan.

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 proceeding. The parent no longer has any rights or responsibilities toward the child. If a parent voluntarily gives up a their parental rights, the process is called relinquishment.