What Happens When CPS Receives a Report?


The following information is based on the structure in a particular state. While other states may vary in their definitions and protocols, generalities can be assumed.

If a report is not taken, CPS can make a referral to an appropriate agency.

  • A low priority case means there is not enough evidence to go out and investigate. CPS has legal limits, which sometimes prevents an investigation from occurring. These cases are written up and kept on file for a period of time – which varies state to state, county to county.
  • A high priority case warrants an investigation. States will vary as to what constitutes a high priority situation, and each state will have a method for coding these situations. Response time will vary depending on the severity – an example would be a response within 24 hours for severe situations and a week’s response time for less severe situations.

After a report is investigated, there are several possible outcomes:

  • Case closed: worker was unable to validate occurrence of abuse.
  • Validated and closed: abuse did occur but the child is protected from its recurrence. For example, if live-in girlfriend was the abuser and dad kicked her out when child disclosed the abuse.
  • Validated and open: abuse did occur and services will help the family. Services may include parent aide, parenting classes, counseling, or day care for the child.
  • Validated and In-home petition: abuse did occur, CPS has custody of the children but it is decided that the children can remain in the home while the family receives services.
  • Validated and children are removed: abuse did occur and it is determined that the children’s well-being depends on their removal from the home. Goals are set for the family and for reunification. If these goals are not met, options may include adoption, guardianship, long-term foster care, or independent living (if the child is a teenager).


CFC# 11571