"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." ~D. Thompson
1. Child Protection Services (CPS)-In this blog, this refers to the agency which investigates reports/alligations of child abuse or neglect. This agency also provides ongoing services to family who have been found guilty (substatiated) of abuse or neglect of a child.  Services may also be provided by what is referred to in some states as 'family in need of services' (FENSA) which is provided if the parent volunteers to participate. This is only done in cases where the family is found not guilty (unsubstatiated).

2. Substantiation/Substantiated-In simple terms, this is used to say that the investigator (a CPS worker) found enough evidence to support the report of abuse or neglect.  This is based on preponderance of evidence rather than 'beyond a shadow of a doubt'.  This decision is made by the investigator who is an employee of CPS/The Cabinet for Families and Children (this may differ in name from state to state) and generally must have the approval of the supervisor.

3. Preponderance of evidence-This is when a worker (or civil court) finds enough evidence to support the finding of guilt which is referred to as 'substantiation'.  In other words, from observation and interviews of parents, children or other individuals (school officials, doctors, etc.), the worker has what they believe to be enough evidence to justify a finding of guilt.

4.  Unsubstantiated-This is the opposite of #2.  In other words, the investigator did not find enough evidence to indicate that the family or individual who was reported for abuse or neglect was guilty.  So the case was unsubstantiated.  

Additional Points on these introductory definitions
  • A finding of guilt/substatiation is separate from a conviction in family court, civil court or any other court responsible for making decisions on removals and other child-related decisions.
  • A substantiation for child abuse/neglect does not show up on a criminal check in most cases BUT it does mean that if you apply for a job and the employer runs a full background check which is fairly common, this finding by the Child Protection Services agency can show up.  You are 'in the system' once a finding of guilt/substantiation has been entered.  This means that if you are apply for a nurse job, a daycare job, a counseling job, a university job or any other job involving any vulnerable population, you will be unable to work at the job you have applied for.  To my knowledge this is true in most states.  This is also something you are typically not informed of in the findings of the case.  Keep in mind that once a case goes to court, different rules apply.
  • When an investigation is concluded, by law, you are to be notified of the finding and have the right to appeal the decision.   


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    The author is an educator and has extensive dealings with child protection services. She is knowledgable of the laws and policies and hopes to impart some wisdom and information that can assist and elicit change. Please note that none of the information or advice should be a substitute for independent research and/or seeking out legal counsel.


    January 2014