What Happens In Virginia Child Protective Services Investigations?
Allegations of child abuse are very serious and authorities often take these charges to task when conducting investigations. When someone is accused of the neglect or abuse of a child, he or she should strongly consider retaining experienced and qualified legal counsel to help tell their side of the story and prevent themselves from being criminally charged or have their children placed in protective custody.
Typically, child abuse allegations are reported to county Child Protective Services (CPS) who will screen calls and determine if the report meets the state or local definition of child abuse. There are four main criteria call screeners look at to decide whether or not to forward the case to a CPS specialist.
- The alleged incident took place in the state of Virginia;
- It involved a minor child under the age of 18;
- The supposed perpetrator was a parent, guardian, or caretaker; and
- Legal standards for abuse or neglect were met.
The last criteria is especially important and depending on the jurisdiction, can be subject to interpretation of the local agency. Child abuse is defined in The Code of Virginia 63.2-100 as:
- Threatening to cause a non-accidental injury (physical or mental);
- Injuries caused by the sale of manufacturing of illegal drugs;
- Refusal to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, or healthcare;
- Child abandonment;
- Sexual assaults including rape, indecent exposure, or prostitution; or
- Placing a child in the care of a known sex offender.
Local CPS and Virginia Department of Services
County CPS agencies fall under Virginia’s Department of Social Services but may interpret the statute differently between jurisdictions. What this means is that some counties may enforce the state’s child abuse and neglect statute differently than others. However, it is CPS policy to conduct quarterly meetings with neighboring county CPS agencies to learn from one another and establish some form of consistency.
Difference between family assessments and investigations
Depending on the circumstances and severity of the allegation, the case may be assigned to a family assessment specialist for evaluation or forwarded to an investigator. The difference between the two can have a serious impact on whether or not the child is allowed to remain with his or her parents or be taken away.
Less severe allegations are often passed onto family assessment specialist. These specialists tend to work with families to resolve problems before taking steps that may have deeper impacts. Family assessment specialists may recommend certain treatments or care to resolve issues.
Serious allegations warranting investigation include instances of hospitalization, sexual abuse, or death. Aspects of investigations include safety assessments, combing through medical records, and conducting interviews with the child and his or her parents. Investigators with either determine the allegations were founded or unfounded at the conclusion of their inquiry and make take children into protective custody and file charges against the suspect.
Leesburg Child Abuse Attorneys
If you or your spouse are suspected of child abuse and have been visited by Virginia Child Protective Services or another type of social worker, contact the Leesburg child abuse attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC for a legal consultation. Our attorneys have years of experience dealing with these types of cases and can help ensure your voice is heard and a fair investigation in conducted.