This flow chart provides an overview of the child protection process.
The first step is identification, which means to recognize signs of child abuse or neglect.
The second step is reporting. This means to contact a designated agency (CPS or law enforcement) and provide information on suspected maltreatment.
The third step is intake. During intake, it is determined whether a report meets statutory and agency guidelines. A decision is made whether to investigate and an assessment is made regarding the urgency of the response to the request.
If the case does not meet statutory and agency guidelines (also known as screened out), the family can be referred to other services, depending on whether any other needs were identified, or the case is closed.
If the report does meet statutory and agency guidelines (also known as screened in), it goes through an initial assessment or investigation. In this process, the caseworker will contact the child and family to gather information and then make a determination of whether maltreatment occurred. The caseworker also will assess the safety of the child and whether there is a need for emergency removal or services. In addition, they will assess the risk of future abuse or neglect.
If the assessment rules out or unsubstantiates that abuse occurred, the case is closed. The family also can be referred to other services depending on whether any other needs were identified.
If the assessment or investigation substantiates the abuse, a family assessment is performed to identify the family's strengths and needs and to assess factors contributing to the risk of maltreatment.
The next step is planning. In this stage, the caseworker specifies the outcomes and goals that will reflect a reduction or elimination of the risk of maltreatment to the child. The caseworker will identify strategies or services to achieve these goals and outcomes; develop case plans, permanency plans, and other plans; and establish time frames to meet these goals.
After developing case plans, the caseworker decides on what type of service provision is necessary. The services can be provided in-home, for example, family preservation and parenting education, or provided out-of-home, for example, foster care and reunification services.
The next step is an evaluation of family progress. This includes assessing the safety of the child and the reduction of risks; evaluating the achievement of family outcomes, goals, and tasks; and reviewing progress and the need for continued services. If such services need to continue, the caseworker will perform additional family and case planning and review the types of services to provide.
Based on findings of the family progress evaluation, the caseworker will decide if the planning goals have been met. If so, the case is closed once the caseworker assesses the levels of safety and risk and determines whether the family can protect the child without further CPS services. The family also can be referred to other services depending on whether any other needs were identified.