Assessing for Safety

Wake County Child Welfare conducts assessment of reports by gathering information about child and home and creating plans to ensure safety.

Assessing for Safety of Children Reported as Abused or Neglected

How does Child Welfare Assess for Safety?

The staff person (social worker) who took a report of suspected abuse or neglect will consult with a supervisor to determine if the report meets criteria for an in-person assessment of the children and their home under North Carolina law.  Assessments typically start within 72 hours of the report or quicker if children are in danger of immediate harm. 

To gather information, a social worker will interview all children and all adults in the household as well as other persons who may have information about the child.  The social worker may need to review medical or other records and may request medical assessments be completed as part of the assessment.  

After an assessment is completed, the person making the report will receive a written notice of the finding and whether ongoing services are being provided. 


Depending on the information in a report, an assessment may follow one of two paths called an investigative assessment or a family assessment track.  

Investigative assessments are used for allegations of child abuse and certain cases of child neglect, including those involving a risk of serious injury to a child. Approximately 15% of cases in Wake County follow the investigative track. 

Investigative assessments are: 

  • often conducted in collaboration with law enforcement; 
  • usually involve interviewing children separately from their parents; 
  • determine whether enough evidence exists to agree that the abuse or serious neglect occurred; and 
  • must be completed within 45 days, unless extended for certain reasons 

Family assessments are used to assess most allegations of child neglect (approximately 85% of cases in Wake County).  Family assessments involve the family, and the people they choose to support them, in creating safety for their children.  

In a family assessment: 

  • a social worker usually calls a parent to arrange a time to meet with the family; 
  • determines whether services are needed, provided, recommended, or not needed; 
  • often links a family to services during the assessment; and 
  • must be completed with 45 days 

In both Investigative and Family assessments, the social worker completes a safety assessment and plan when they first make contact with the family. The social worker will discuss safety concerns with the family and ask for input in making a plan for any concerns identified. Participation by parents in developing the plan helps assure that the plan will be workable for the family. Other family members or supportive individuals can also be part of safety planning for the children. Parents will receive a copy of the assessment and plan. 

If services are needed to assure child safety, the social worker will collaborate with parents and the people they identify as support in decision making and work to help the child stay safely at home whenever possible.  

Sometimes children are found to be at such high risk of serious harm or more time is needed to determine if children are safe that the social worker may ask parents to consider placing children temporarily with a relative or other trusted adult. Such arrangements are called Temporary Safety Providers. Arrangements are short-term and allow parents to maintain custody of their children. The Temporary Safety Provider must agree to an assessment, first, including a visit by a social worker to the proposed home and criminal and other background checks.  

Even though social workers collaborate with the family and connect them with needed supports and services, they can choose to request that the court remove children from the home if a family fails to follow through with the plan to ensure their children’s safety.   

In-Home Services

In-Home services are provided after an assessment has concluded that children were abused or neglected and are at risk of additional harm without ongoing protective services.  In-Home Service staff support families to keep their children safely in their homes. 

More information about In-Home Services

What Happens When My Family is Reported

If your family was reported to Child Protective Services, then you may receive a phone call from a social worker to set an in-person interview with you, your household members, and your children or, depending on how severe the abuse is, a visit from a social worker.  At an in-person visit, you will be asked for the names and contact information of other persons who may have information about your children.  The social worker may need to review medical or other records and may request medical assessments be completed.  

Your assigned social worker will work with you to complete the assessment and make sure you have a written response of the decision.  If services are needed to assure child safety, the social worker will involve you and the people you identify to support you in decision making and work to help the child stay safely at home whenever possible.  

More information about What Happens When My Family is Reported 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you have questions about child protective services or child safety?   

Frequently Asked Questions