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Child Protection Services - What Gives Them the Right?

Updated on December 27, 2015

Federal Law Implementing Child Protective Services

The basis for the governments intervention in a families life is a legal term called parens patriae. This says that the government has a role in protecting the interests of children and may step in if the parents fail to provide proper care. In the late 1800's state and local districts began looking at ways to protect children. In 1912 the federal government created The Children Bureau to oversee programs that were designed to support the states in their efforts. Over the past several decades, congress has passed significant pieces of legislation that support the states' duty and power to act on behalf of children when the parents are unable or unwilling to do so.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, or CAPTA, is a key piece of legislation that guides child protection. CAPTA was originally enacted in 1974 and amended every few years. It was last amended in 2010.

CAPTA states the problem of child abuse and neglect requires a comprehensive approach that;

(A) integrates the work of social service, legal, health, mental health, education, and substance abuse agencies and community-based organizations;

(B) strengthens coordination among all levels of government, and with private agencies, civic, religious, and professional organizations, and individual volunteers;

(C) emphasizes the need for abuse and neglect prevention, assessment, investigation, and treatment at the neighborhood level;

(D) recognizes the need for properly trained staff with the qualifications needed to carry out their child protection duties; and

(E) is sensitive to ethnic and cultural diversity, which may impact child rearing patterns, while at the same time, not allowing those differences to enable abuse

Help Stop Child Abuse

Financial and Other Assistance

CAPTA provides financial assistance to all states and territories to investigate reports of abuse and neglect, and provide treatment when needed. All states must abide by certain policies, such as comprehensive record keeping, in order to receive those funds. The federal government will also provide information to the states which will help improve the services to children and families. This law also provides grants that are available for the training of workers and other professionals who work with child abuse prevention and treatment.

State Laws and Policies

Each state has passed its own laws regarding child protection based on federal law. Most states have specific rules that cps workers must follow. Some of these rules governing the investigation phase are;

  • After knocking on the families door you must be invited in by an adult who occupies the home before entering. Once inside, if another adult who resides in the home tells you to leave, you must leave the home.
  • You must tell the family what the allegations are. The allegations are found on the initial report of abuse or neglect that is called in.
  • The reporter is the individual who calls in the report alleging abuse or neglect. When talking with the family the reporter's identity is to be kept confidential.
  • All family members must be treated with respect. The family must be included in deciding what their needs are and what services will help them.
  • If the child must be removed workers should look for a relative who is able to care for the child, before looking at foster care.

If you suspect abuse - Report


There are federal laws that govern child protection services. All states also have laws and policies which dictate how cps performs the duties of the agency. Most states have websites where you can find the policies the workers must follow. When working with a family cps workers must be aware of these laws, rules, and policies.


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