If your family has been reported to Child Protective Services, then this page will provide helpful information about why you may have been reported, what happens next and what you can do to keep your family safe.
What Happens When My Family is Reported?
Why Was I Reported to Child Protective Services?
All adults in North Carolina, who suspect a child has been abused or neglected, are required to report their concerns to their local department of social services. More severe abuse must be reported to local law enforcement. In Wake County, that department is called Wake County Health & Human Services, Child Protective Services.
Abuse (intentional injury of a child) includes:
- Physical – Unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones and black eyes; infants with unexplained marks or bruises; harsh physical discipline (child is injured to the point of requiring hospitalization); and serious threats to kill the child.
- Sexual – Any sexual contact with or behavior imposed on a child by a caretaker.
- Emotional – Speaking in a way that substantially harms the child leading to serious psychological damage, as evidenced by the child’s severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or aggressive behavior towards him/herself or others.
- Sex Trafficking – Any sex act performed for money. It is a crime to involve children in any way. A person reporting suspected child trafficking does not need proof of force or manipulation.
Neglect (failure to give care that child needs) includes:
- Improper Care – not providing needed food, shelter, medical or mental health care, or education for a child. Examples include: not taking a sick child to the doctor, refusing to take a child with serious mental health needs to a therapist, not providing enough food, or frequent and unexplained absences from school.
- Improper Supervision – not providing supervision appropriate to age and maturity level of a child. Examples include: a young or immature child left alone for long periods of time or not stopping known sexual abuse of a child.
- Inappropriate Discipline – Harsh physical discipline that does not reach the level of abuse. Examples include multiple bruises or injuries or repeat injuries.
- Hazardous environment – Creating unsafe living conditions for a child. Examples include: leaving dangerous substances in areas that are easy for young children to get and driving drunk with a child in the car.
Who Reported Me?
The people or person who reported you cannot be shared with you.
What Happens Next?
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 ensure 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. If abuse or neglect was found, your family may be referred to In-Home services and asked to participate in a family meeting, called Child & Family Team meeting, to make a plan. Usually, the social worker, his/her Supervisor, a staff person responsible for running the meeting (called a Facilitator), the family and child (if appropriate), and support people of the family attend. At the meeting, the social worker will explain their decision and the reason for referring to In Home Services. Often, a new social worker will be introduced to help the families with the new services. Parents are encouraged to bring people to the meeting who support them and their children, such as relatives, friends, neighbors, church members, teachers, coaches, and partners. If the other parent is not living in the home, he/she will be invited to the meeting and to participate in the plan.
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 you to consider placing your 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 you and connect you with needed supports and services, they can choose to request that the court remove children from the home if you fail to follow through with the plan to ensure your children’s safety. A child will, then, be taken into Foster Care.
Parents involved with child welfare have rights:
- You have a right to privacy with few exceptions.
- You must receive copies of assessments, plans and requests to the court (called petitions) to remove your children.
- You will receive legal assistance; if Wake County Health & Human Services files a petition to remove your children from your home, a lawyer will be appointed to you.
- A helpful handbook for parents for more information
How Can I Keep My Family Safe?
Research has shown that there are things parents can do to prevent child abuse and neglect, known as the 5 Protective Factors:
- Learn to cope well with everyday stresses,
- Give children love and affection and be consistent,
- Learn about the usual development of children to have reasonable expectations,
- Meet the basic needs (food, clothing, housing, healthcare) for yourself and your child, and
- Lean on positive friends and family to help.
Life with a new baby is a special time for parents, siblings and other family members. While caring for a newborn is rewarding, it can also be hectic and exhausting.
Wake County offers a number of programs to help support newborns and the individuals caring for them.
For more information, go to Wake County Maternal & Child Health.
Where can I find Resources to Help Myself or My Family?
Wake County offers many resources for families who are in need of assistance. There are several online tools that are easy to use and search for help:
Alliance Healthcare – The government agency responsible for managing mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disability services for individuals with Medicaid or no insurance and no ability to pay. The site includes a tool to search for therapists and facilities or you can call 800-510-9132 to get an appointment, typically within 14 days of calling.
Behavioral Health Urgent Care – Provides rapid assessment of an individual’s situation, routine intervention, and referrals for follow up services much like the physical health urgent care facilities that are becoming common in our communities. Wake County Location: 319 Chapanoke Road, Suite 120, Raleigh. Saturday and evening hours available.
Crisis and Assessment Center – Alliance Crisis and Assessment Centers provide licensed clinicians to meet with you and help assess your treatment needs. You should go to a Crisis and Assessment Center if you:
- Feel you want to hurt others or yourself
- Are hearing voices or are told you are talking to yourself
- Are intoxicated and have someone to bring you safely to a Center
- Are depressed or too sad to take care of yourself or others in your care
You can walk-in at UNC Health Care (24/7) at WakeBrook, 107 Sunnybrook Road, Raleigh, or call 800-510-9132.
Wake Network of Care – A comprehensive, up-to-date Service Directory to locate needed services, organizations, and supports throughout Wake County.
Wake County Public Health Clinics – Health care for children and adults, ranging from treatment to education. Wake County's main public health clinics are in the Public Health Center located at 10 Sunnybrook Road, Raleigh (at the intersection of New Bern Avenue and Sunnybrook Road, near WakeMed). Some services provided at the Public Health Center are also provided at other locations.
I Do Not Live with my Children. What Can I Do?
All family members, and other trusted adults, are important to the safety and development of children. If your child is involved with child protective services, then you will be contacted to participate in making decisions about your child, even if you do not live in the same house.
Fathers and their relatives (called Paternal Relatives) are critically important to children. Wake County Health & Human Services recognized the need to improve outreach and involvement of fathers and their relatives in child welfare cases. We have several programs to accomplish this goal:
- One-on-One Coaching
- D.A.D.S. Support Group
- Community Education
- Information, Linkage, and Referrals to services
For more information:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you have questions about child protective services or child safety?
Frequently Asked Questions