If Child Protective Services (CPS) is involved with your family, it is because someone was concerned about the health and safety of your child and notified CPS.
Your first call is to the social worker assigned to your child's case. That person can help you understand what is going on.
- Contact your local child welfare office to find out how to get in touch with your child's social worker.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Child Protective Services (CPS)?
Child Protective Services is a state agency that investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. Child safety is the first concern of Child Protective Services. They will work with both parents to safely care for their child. CPS can also go to court to remove a child from the parents' care if necessary to protect the child.
What is a "Dependency" case?
CPS files a "dependency petition" with the court if it believes that the child has been abused or neglected or is at risk of harm and must be removed from the mother and/or father's care. This begins a court process called a dependency case. At the court hearings, the CPS worker and both the mother and the father can provide information to the court. The judge or commissioner decides issues such as where the child should live, what services are needed to support the family and/or return the child to his or her mother or father and how often visits between the parents and child should occur.
What are my responsibilities as a parent to help raise my child?
- Supporting and raising your child: Whether or not your child is currently living with you, your child still needs your time, attention, emotional and material support. It is important for a child to learn about his/her mother and father, family, culture and values so that the child can succeed in his/her own life. One way to do this is to consistently attend visits and plan age appropriate activities for your child. You should also be involved in other areas of your child's life such as school and recreational activities and your child's health care.
When a child is placed into state custody, the Division of Child Support will look at the finances of either the mother or father or both and decide what amount the parent(s) can pay towards the cost of the child's relative, foster or group home placement. It is very important that you open all mail from Child Support right away, follow instructions and provide accurate information about your current financial situation and other obligations, so that a reasonable plan can be created. Child Support issues can be stressful and there are parent support groups that can help you cope with this process.
- Completing court ordered services: Reaching your goals for your case will largely depend on whether you complete the services ordered by the court. It is very important that you keep appointments, complete services and keep documents and reports that prove that you successfully completed services. Talk to your attorney as soon as possible if you have scheduling transportation or any other problems with completing court ordered services.
What if I have a complaint about CPS?
DCYF Constituent Relations responds to questions, concerns or complaints about DCYF services including Child Protective Services (CPS), Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS), Family Reconciliation Services (FRS), Adoption Services and Foster Care.
Phone: (360) 902-8060 or 1-800 723-4831
Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman (OFCO) investigates complaints about state agency actions or inaction that involve:
- Any child at risk of abuse, neglect or other harm
- A child or parent involved with child protection or child welfare services.
OFCO intervenes and tries to solve problems when a state agency's action or inaction is unauthorized or unreasonable. OFCOP also makes recommendations to the Governor, the Legislature and agency officials to improve the child welfare system.
6840 Fort Dent Way, Suite 125
Mail Stop TT-99
Tukwila, WA 98188
Phone: (206) 439-3870 or (800) 571-7321
TTY: (206) 439-3789
FAX: (206) 439-3877
What are my rights as a parent?
- Right to notice:
- CPS must attempt to notify parents as soon as possible when law enforcement has placed your child in protective custody and transferred custody of your child to CPS.
- CPS will explain the reasons for your child’s removal and inform you of your legal rights.
- You (or your attorney) will be given discovery at the court proceedings, which includes your CPS records. Some of the information in your CPS records may not be available at the time of court, due to an active investigation.
- Once your case is closed you (or your attorney) may request all of your records from Public Disclosure.
- Right to services: The child and both the mother and the father have a right to services to protect the child and strengthen the family. These services may include: individual, group, and family counseling; substance abuse treatment services; mental health services; assistance to address domestic violence, temporary child care and therapeutic services for families; and transportation to or from any of these services. You also have the right to participate with CPS in developing a case plan for your family.
- Right to visit your child/children: Visiting your child is important. Visits between the parent and child are a right and can only be limited if necessary to protect the safety and welfare of the child. When, where and how often your visits happen will depend on the circumstances of your case.
- Right to an attorney: Even if your child does not live with you, you have a right to be represented by an attorney in a child dependency case. Your attorney can look at the files, talk to CPS and other agencies, tell you about the law, help you understand your rights and help you at hearings. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent you. Make sure you show up at all your scheduled hearings even if you have not yet been appointed an attorney. There will be an attorney there to represent you for that hearing.
- The right to have a say in your child’s placement: As the parent, you have the right to ask CPS and the court to place the child in your care. The child must be placed with either the mother or the father unless there are serious concerns about the child’s safety and welfare. Even if the child is not placed with you, you can ask CPS and the courts to place the child with a relative or a non-relative if that person has a close relationship with the child. CPS must consider the mother and father’s request for placement. Placement with a relative is preferred over placement in non-relative foster home.
Court related resources
Court forms and information about different legal actions (paternity, child support, divorce, parenting plans, housing and immigration, etc.) are available at:
Understanding the Dependency Court Process (DCYF 22-1499)
CLEAR is Washington’s toll-free centralized intake, advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance with civil legal problems.