What Does Child Protective Services Do?

Child Protective Services is a part of South Carolina’s Department of Social Services established to fulfill the state’s statutory obligation to protect children from abuse or neglect within their families.  CPS provides services to children and families with the goal of helping kids remain safely with their families. In some cases, CPS may conclude that the best way to ensure a child’s safety is to temporarily remove that child from the parents’ custody in favor of a foster care setting.

Statutory Authority for Child Protective Services

Title Seven of the South Carolina Children’s Code, titled “Child Protection and Permanency,” provides the statutory authorization for CPS.  The statute begins by noting that:

  • Parents have the primary responsibility for and are the primary resource for their children; and
  • Children should have the opportunity to grow up in a family unit if at all possible.

By statute, CPS’s services are focused on preserving or reuniting the family unit. These services are available to anyone under the age of 18 believed to be harmed, or at risk of harm, by parents, guardians, or other caregivers. CPS works in collaboration with other state agencies and community organizations to meet a family’s specific needs for intervention. Services provided include a variety of remedial assistance to the family unit, including:

  • Mental health counseling;
  • Drug and alcohol abuse treatment;
  • Parenting skills; and
  • Medical services.

How Does CPS Become Involved With a Family?

Typically, CPS becomes involved with a family after a report of suspected abuse or neglect is submitted. CPS caseworkers assess each report to determine whether the allegation is valid and what type of intervention is most needed to protect the child from future harm. Caseworkers consider whether the child is at risk of future abuse or neglect, and identify the particular support services needed to enable the child to remain at home. In extreme cases, CPS may conclude that the most effective intervention is to temporarily remove the child from the home.

Mandatory Reporting Requirement

By statute, certain individuals who regularly work with or come into contact with children in a professional capacity are required to report suspected abuse and neglect. These individuals include, among others:

  • Physicians;
  • Nurses;
  • Dentists;
  • Emergency medical personnel;
  • School teachers, counsellors and administrators;
  • Social workers;
  • Foster parents;
  • Childcare workers; and
  • Law enforcement personnel.

Anyone else may report suspected cases of abuse or neglect to CPS, but is not required to.

What Constitutes Abuse or Neglect?

By statute, the following behaviors and activities can constitute abuse or neglect when engaged in by the child’s parent, guardian or other caretaker:

  • Abandonment, whereby the parent wilfully deserts a child without making adequate arrangements for the child’s continued care;
  • Inflicting physical or mental injury;
  • Engaging in activities that present a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to a child;
  • Committing, or allowing others to commit, sexual offences against a child;
  • Permitting, encouraging or condoning the child’s acts of delinquency; or
  • Failing to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, or health care.

Consult a Greenville Family Lawyer

If you have found your family involved with Child Protective Services, or you have concerns about a child in your life, an experienced family lawyer can help you find answers. Experienced Greenville family law attorneyRobert Clark of Greenville Family Law has the knowledge and compassion to guide you through your legal options. Contact Robert today for a consultation.

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