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Template:Merge from Template:Family law Child Protective Services (CPS) is the name of a governmental agency in many states of the United States that responds to reports of child abuse or neglect. Some states use other names, often attempting to reflect more family-centered (as opposed to child-centered) practices, such as "Department of Children & Family Services" (DCFS). CPS is also known by the name of "Department of Social Services" (DSS) or simply "Social Services." Technically, CPS is usually a unit within a state's or county's DSS with the latter also including programs for assistance with Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, child support, public housing, Adult Protective Services, and foster care and adoptions.

Laws and standards


U.S. federal laws that govern CPS agencies include:

Standards for Reporting

Generally speaking, a report must be made when an individual knows or has reasonable cause to believe or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect. These standards guide mandatory reporters in deciding whether to make a report to child protective services.[1]

Persons Responsible for the Child

In addition to defining acts or omissions that constitute child abuse or neglect, several states' statutes provide specific definitions of persons who can get reported to child protective services as perpetrators of abuse or neglect. These are persons who have some relationship or regular responsibility for the child. This generally includes parents, guardians, foster parents, relatives, or legal guardians. Once taken away from home, the goal of CPS is always to reunite the child with their family. In some cases, due to the nature of abuse children are not able to see or converse with the abusers. If parents fail to complete Court Ordered terms and conditions, the children in care may never return home.[1]


In 1655, in what is now the United States, there were criminal court cases involving child abuse.[2] In 1692, states and municipalities identified care for abused and neglected children as the responsibility of local government and private institutions.[3] In 1696, England first used the legal principle of parens patriae, which gave the royal crown care of "charities, infants, idiots, and lunatics returned to the chancery." This principal of parens patriae has been identified as the statutory basis for U.S. governmental intervention in families' child rearing practices.[4]

In 1825, states enacted laws giving social-welfare agencies the right to remove neglected children from their parents and from the streets. These children were placed in almshouses, in orphanages and with other families. In 1835, the Humane Society founded the National Federation of Child Rescue agencies to investigate child maltreatment. In the late-19th century, private child protection agencies – modeled after existing animal protection organizations – developed to investigate reports of child maltreatment, present cases in court and advocate for child welfare legislation.[5]

In 1912, the federal Children's Bureau was established to manage federal child welfare efforts, including services related to child maltreatment. In 1958, amendments to the Social Security Act mandated that states fund child protection efforts.[6] In 1962, professional and media interest in child maltreatment was sparked by the publication of C. Henry Kempe and associates' "The battered child syndrome" in JAMA. By the mid-1960s, in response to public concern that resulted from this article, 49 U.S. states passed child-abuse reporting laws.[7] In 1974, these efforts by the states culminated in the passage of the federal "Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act" (CAPTA; Public Law 93-247) providing federal funding for wide-ranging federal and state child-maltreatment research and services.[8] In 1980, Congress passed the first comprehensive federal child protective services act, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-272), which focused on state economic incentives to substantially decrease the length and number of foster care placements.[9]

Partly funded by the federal government, Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies were first established in response to the 1974 CAPTA which mandated that all states establish procedures to investigate suspected incidents of child maltreatment.[10]


Brenda Scott, in her 1994 book "Out of Control: Who's Watching Our Child Protection Agencies", criticizes CPS, stating, "Child Protective Services is out of control. The system, as it operates today, should be scrapped. If children are to be protected in their homes and in the system, radical new guidelines must be adopted. At the core of the problem is the antifamily mindset of CPS. Removal is the first resort, not the last. With insufficient checks and balances, the system that was designed to protect children has become the greatest perpetrator of harm."[11]

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services had itself been an object of reports of unusual numbers of poisonings, death, rapes and pregnancies of children under its care since 2004. The Texas Family and Protective Services Crisis Management Team was created by executive order after the critical report Forgotten Children of 2004.

Constitutional Issues

In May 2007, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found in ROGERS v. COUNTY OF SAN JOAQUIN, No. 05-16071[12] that a CPS social worker who removed children from their natural parents into foster care without obtaining judicial authorization, was acting without due process and without exigency (emergency conditions) violated the 14th Amendment and Title 42 United State Code Section 1983. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that a state may not make a law that abridges "... the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States" and no state may "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Title 42 United States Code Section 1983[13] states that citizens can sue in federal courts any person that acting under a color of law to deprive the citizens of their civil rights under the pretext of a regulation of a state, See.[14]

Notable lawsuits

In 2010 ex-foster child was awarded $30 million by jury trial in California (Santa Clara County) for sexual abuse damages that happened to him in foster home from 1995 to 1999.[15][16] The foster parent, John Jackson, was licensed by state despite the fact that he abused his own wife and son, overdosed on drugs and was arrested for drunken driving. In 2006, Jackson was convicted in Santa Clara County of nine counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child by force, violence, duress, menace and fear and seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.[15] The sex acts he forced the children in his foster care to perform sent him to prison for 220 years. Later in 2010, Giarretto Institute, the private foster family agency responsible for licensing and monitoring Jackson's foster home and others, also was found to be negligent and liable for 75 percent of the abuse that was inflicted on the victim, and Jackson was liable for the rest.[15]

In 2009 Oregon Department of Human Services has agreed to pay $2 million into a fund for the future care of twins who were allegedly abused by their foster parents, it was the largest such settlement in the agency's history.[17] According to the civil rights suit filed on request of twins' adoptive mother in December 2007 in U.S. Federal Court, kids were kept in makeshift cages—cribs covered with chicken wire secured by duct tape—in a darkened bedroom known as "the dungeon." The brother and sister often went without food, water or human touch. The boy, who had a shunt put into his head at birth to drain fluid, didn't receive medical attention, so when police rescued the twins he was nearly comatose. The same foster family previously took in their care hundreds of other children over nearly four decades.[18] DHS said the foster parents deceived child welfare workers during the checkup visits.[17]

Several lawsuits were brought in 2008 against the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF), accusing it of mishandling reports that Thomas Ferrara, 79, a foster parent, was molesting young girls.[19][20] The suits claimed that though there were records of sexual misconduct allegations against Ferrara in 1992, 1996, and 1999, the DCF continued to place foster children with Ferrara and his then-wife until 2000.[19] Ferrara was arrested in 2001; after a 9-year-old girl told detectives he regularly molested her over two years and threatened to hurt her mother if she told anyone. Records show that Ferrara had as many as 400 children go through his home during his 16 years as a licensed foster parent from 1984 to 2000.[19] Officials stated that the lawsuits over Ferrara end up costing the DCF almost $2.26 million.[20] Similary, in 2007 Florida's DCF paid $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged DCF ignored complaints that another retarded Immokalee girl was being raped by her foster father, Bonifacio Velazquez, until the 15-year-old gave birth to a child.[21][22][23]

In a class action lawsuit Charlie and Nadine H. v. McGreevey[24] was filed in federal court by "Children’s Rights" New York organization on behalf of children in the custody of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS).[25][26] The complaint alleged violations of the children's constitutional rights and their rights under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment, 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA).[27] In July 2002, the federal court granted plaintiffs’ experts access to 500 children’s case files, allowing plaintiffs to collect information concerning harm to children in foster care through a case record review.[25] These files revealed numerous cases in which foster children were abused, and DYFS failed to take proper action. On June 9, 2004, the child welfare panel appointed by the parties approved the NJ State’s Reform Plan. The court accepted the plan on June 17, 2004.[26] The same organization also filed similar lawsuits against several other states in recent years that caused some of the states to start child welfare reforms.[28]


Professor Ted Melhuish in his research of December 7, 2006 presents the case for additional government intervention in terms of "Rates of Return to Human Capital investment." Citing a 1993 study of 123 young African-American children he finds early intervention ultimately contributes to greater tax revenue and also identifies possible cost savings in the areas justice, mental health and welfare. The study concludes that every dollar invested in Child Protective Services produces a return of $7.16[29]

Texas 2008 Raid of YFZ Ranch

In April 2008, CPS in Texas removed every minor child from the YFZ Ranch polygamist community. On the affidavit of CPS workers, a judge ordered the emergency removal of over 400 children from the polygamist compound based on suspected neglect and abuse.[citation needed]

Gene Grounds of Victim Relief Ministries commended CPS workers as exhibiting compassion, professionalism and caring concern.[30] CPS performance was questioned by workers from the Hill Country Community Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center in unsigned statements released to the media. Workers alleged poor sanitary conditions at the shelter allowed respiratory infections and chicken pox to spread. The incident commander of the shelter in question reported that some of the accusations were unfounded, while others were accurate "depending on your point of view".[31]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect". Retrieved 2010-08-21.
  2. Pecora et al. (1992), p. 231.
  3. Ibid., pp. 230-1.
  4. Ibid., p. 230.
  5. Pecora et al. (1992), pp. 230-31; Petr (1998), p. 126.
  6. Laird & Michael (2006).
  7. Pecora et al. (1992), p. 232; Petr (1998), p. 126.
  8. Pecora et al. (1992), pp. 232-3; Petr (1998), pp. 126-7.
  9. "Child Protective Services - HISTORICAL OVERVIEW, CURRENT SYSTEM".
  10. "Reporting Child Abuse - Child Protective Services".
  11. Scott, Brenda (1994) Out of Control. Who's Watching Our Child Protection Agencies? p. 179
  12. ROGERS v. COUNTY OF SAN JOAQUIN, No. 05-16071
  13. Title 42 United States Code Section 1983
  14. "Civil Rights Complaint Guide".
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "South Bay sex-abuse lawsuit: Ex-foster child awarded $30 million".
  16. "Estey & Bomberger announces Jury Awards $30 Million in San Jose Molestation Case".
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Gresham foster kids abused despite DHS checks".
  18. "Abuse in children's foster care: State officials call for outside review".
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Florida Foster Care Child Molestation".
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Foster parent, 79, accused of molesting girls in his care".
  21. "Child of rape now 9, yet DCF settlement held up".
  22. "Florida Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 60".
  23. "Florida Senate - 2010".
  24. Charlie and Nadine H. v. McGreevey
  25. 25.0 25.1 "New Jersey (Charlie and Nadine H. v. Corzine)".
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Charlie and Nadine H. v. Corzine".
  27. "Legal Documents(Charlie and Nadine H. v. Corzine)".
  28. "Results of Reform".
  29. Melhuish, Ted. "Why Early Intervention?". Archived from the original on 2007-06-22. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  30. Richardson group: Polygamists' children are OK April 18, 2008 BY JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA-TV
  31. Crotea, Roger (10 May 2008). "Mental health workers rip CPS over sect". San Antonio Express-news .


  • Drake, B. & Jonson-Reid, M. (2007). A response to Melton based on the Best Available Data. Published in: Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 31, Issue 4, April 2007, Pages 343-360.
  • Laird, David and Jennifer Michael (2006). "Budgeting Child Welfare: How will millions cut from the federal budget affect the child welfare system?" Published in: Child Welfare League of America, Children's Voice, Vol. 15, No. 4 (July/August 2006). Available on-line at:
  • Pecora, Peter J., James K. Whittaker, Anthony N. Maluccio, with Richard P. Barth and Robert D. Plotnick (1992). The Child Welfare Challenge: Policy, Practice, and Research. NY:Aldine de Gruyter. ISBN .
  • Petr, Christopher G. (1998). Social Work with Children and their Families: Pragmatic Foundations. NY:Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510607-5.
  • Scott, Brenda (1994), "Out of Control. Who's Watching Our Child Protection Agencies?". Huntington House Publishers. ISBN paper. ISBN hardback.

External links

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