Safe at School

Child Protective Services

These Frequently Asked Questions provide a brief overview of some of the issues that often come up in situations involving child protective services. However, the American Diabetes Association does not have expertise in issues relating to child protective services and is unable to provide assistance on these matters.

For further information and for legal assistance, the American Bar Association has an online resource for finding legal assistance in your state. You can also call the American Bar Association at 1-800-285-2221.

What is Child Protective Services (CPS)?

Child Protective Services (CPS) is the general name given to the particular state agency whose mission is to protect children from abuse and neglect. Each state has its own "version" of CPS.

Generally, state laws require child protective services agencies to:

  • Investigate reports that a child is at risk for abuse or neglect
  • Ensure that there is a plan in place to keep children safe
  • Provide services to families to ensure their children's safety

What is abuse?

In general, abuse is any act that results in death or serious physical or emotional harm or sexual abuse or exploitation, or presents a strong risk that serious harm is about to happen. Each state has its own legal definition of abuse.

What is neglect?

In general, neglect is the failure for a caregiver to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, supervision or medical care. Each state has its own legal definition of neglect. Some states go a step further to identify different types of neglect, such as physical neglect, educational neglect, emotional/psychological neglect or medical neglect.

How can I prevent false reports?

As a parent of a child with diabetes, you must take every step to insure that your child's diabetes is managed well. If you are having trouble providing the care your child needs, or if your child is being abused or neglected, get help immediately.

Even with the best care, your child will have good days and bad days. Communicate with your child's diabetes care team and school personnel to make sure that an individualized diabetes care plan is in place for the school day. Sometimes misunderstandings about diabetes may cause someone unfamiliar with your child's medical needs to make a report of abuse.

You should educate your child's teachers and caregivers to understand how these things may be a part of your child's daily struggle with diabetes. Some examples include:

  • bruising at injection/testing sites
  • frequent absence from school related to diabetes
  • sudden weight loss due to diabetes
  • difficulty concentrating, drowsiness or other symptoms of high or low blood sugar
  • high and low blood glucose levels due to hormones or other uncontrollable factors
  • taking extra insulin so the child can enjoy sweets or "junk food" like other children

How would CPS get a report about my child?

Anyone who might suspect that your child is being abused or neglected may call CPS to report the suspicion. Each state or local community typically has its own toll-free number and 24-hour hotline. In some states, persons who work with children and/or families are legally required to report suspected abuse or neglect (unless information is considered privileged). They are called "mandated reporters." This can include doctors, nurses, childcare workers, social workers, teachers and police.

What happens if a complaint is made?

CPS undertakes an investigation to determine whether the reported information meets the legal and agency guidelines for abuse and neglect and whether the child has been harmed or is at risk of harm. If the investigator determines that CPS needs to get involved, an investigation will take place.

If CPS responds to a report about my family, what will happen during an investigation?

First, the CPS worker will interview your child, and may do so without your consent and outside of your presence. If your child has apparent injuries, the CPS worker and a physician may examine him or her. If the CPS worker believes that your child is in danger, he or she will contact and interview you and may make arrangements for the child to stay with a relative or in a foster home if the CPS worker believes the child would not be safe in your home.

How are my rights as a parent affected or changed during an investigation?

Unless there is an emergency removal of your child from your care, you will keep all of your rights as a parent during an investigation.

Do I have to allow the CPS worker into my home?

No. You do not have to let a CPS worker into your home or answer their questions. Despite this, the CPS worker is still legally required to investigate reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. If there is reason to believe that your child is in danger and you deny access to your home and your child, the police may obtain a search warrant to enter your home and check on your child.