Child Protective Services
“The Child Protective Services program
strives to ensure safe, permanent, nurturing families for children by protecting them from abuse and neglect while
attempting to preserve the family unit.” North Carolina Division of Social Services
Child Protective Services (CPS) are legally mandated, non-voluntary services. The purpose of these services is to assess situations where children (under the age of 18 years) are known or suspected to be abused, neglected or dependent by a parent, guardian, custodian or caretaker as defined by North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. Chapter 7B), and to provide services to families in which abuse, neglect or dependency have occurred to ensure the children’s safety and to reduce the risk of future maltreatment. Efforts are always made to keep the family together if possible; children are only removed from the home when the risk of harm is so great the safety of the children cannot be assured in the home, and even when the children must be removed, reasonable efforts continue to reunify the children with their family.
N.C.G.S. 7B-101(13) defines the areas of neglect as: proper care (nutrition, clothing, hygiene); proper supervision; proper discipline; abandoned (parent is absent from the child for an extended period of time without making adequate or appropriate arrangements for the child); necessary medical care; necessary remedial care (services such as speech therapy); environment injurious (physical hazards, substance abuse, domestic violence) and adoption law violation.
N.C.G.S. 7B-101(1) defines the areas of abuse as: inflicts or allows to be inflicted serious physical injury by other than accidental means; creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury by other than accidental means; uses or allows to be used upon the juvenile cruel or grossly inappropriate procedures or grossly inappropriate devices to modify behavior; commits, permits, or encourages the violation of the sexual abuse laws; creates or allows to be created serious emotional damage, and encourages, directs or approves of delinquent acts involving moral turpitude.
N.C.G.S. 7B-101(7) defines dependency as: a child having no parent, guardian or custodian responsible for his/her care, or the parent, guardian or custodian is unable to provide care to the child and there is not an alternative.
By NC law (7B-302), all citizens are mandated reporters, meaning if a person has knowledge that a child is being abused or neglected, or has cause to suspect a child is being abused or neglected, they must contact their local Department of Social Services (DSS) and make a report.
Once a report has been made and accepted, DSS conducts an assessment of the family. An assessment includes: interviewing all household members; visiting the home where the child resides; contacting collaterals provided by the family or that have knowledge of the situation; reviewing the CPS and criminal history of the family, and contacting other professionals who are working with the family. Other activities that can occur in assessments include: drug screening; referrals for mental health, substance abuse or domestic violence assessments or services, and medical evaluations. Evidence of child abuse gathered during an assessment is reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency and the District Attorney’s office.
Once complete, an assessment is closed if there are no findings of abuse, neglect or dependency. If there are findings of abuse, neglect or dependency, and the child’s safety can be assured in the home or in a kinship arrangement, In-Home Services are provided to the family to address the identified needs and to reduce the risk of harm to the child. These are specific to the case, but could include services such as: mental health assessment treatment; substance abuse assessment and treatment; batterer’s assessment and treatment; parenting classes and referrals for assistance with housing. If In-Home services are successful, meaning critical needs have been met, the risk to the child is reduced and the child is safe in the home, the case is closed.
During either the assessment or the in-home phase, if the child is in imminent risk of harm and safety cannot be assured in the home, then the Department must invoke the jurisdiction of the court and file for custody of the child. Even when this occurs, the Department continues to make efforts to provide services to the family that would allow the child to safely return home. (See Child Permanency)
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I make a report to Cleveland County DSS?
Call the Cleveland County Department of Social Services during normal business hours (8 am - 5 pm) at (704) 487-0661. A list of menu options will then guide you.
Child Protective Services must be provided, by NC law, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Cleveland County DSS has an after-hours team to respond to these reports. If you need to make a report in Cleveland County after working hours, on a weekend or a holiday, call Cleveland County Communications at (704) 484-4822. The dispatcher will take your contact number and an after-hours social worker will call you back.
Additionally, reports may be made in writing by mailing your information to the Cleveland County Department of Social Services, or in person by
coming to the Department during normal business hours.
I've heard about reports being screened in and out; what does that mean and how do you decide?
If the conditions described in the report, would, if true, meet the definition of abuse, neglect or dependency, and the person responsible is a parent, custodian, guardian or caretaker by NC law, then the report is screened in, meaning it is accepted for assessment by the Department.
Reports are screened out, in other words, not accepted for assessment by the Department, when the allegations, if true, would not meet the definition of abuse, neglect or dependency; when the alleged perpetrator is not a parent, custodian, guardian or caretaker, or if the victim is 18 or older. Reports also may be screened out because the child does not live in the county where the maltreatment was reported; however, these reports are then referred to the county where the child resides.
The Department also refers cases of abuse by persons other than parents, caretakers, custodians or guardians to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
I am concerned about the family knowing I reported. What are my
The identity of the reporter is protected; the Department cannot share this information except in the following circumstances: if requested by law enforcement and/or the district attorney when conducting a criminal investigation of what was reported, or if ordered to do so by a district court judge. Also, the person who makes a CPS report is immune from criminal or legal liability if the report was made in good faith, and reports can be made anonymously.
Do you have the right to
talk to my children without my permission?
The Cleveland County Department of
Social Services will try to involve the family to the greatest extent possible. However, the agency does have the
right to talk to your child without your permission if deemed necessary.
Who is the reporter? I
have the right to know.
The reporter’s name remains confidential by NC law unless the Department is court ordered to release that information.