What CPS Caseworkers Want You To Know

What CPS Caseworkers Want You To Know

Have you ever wondered what the front-line professionals in protecting our children — CPS caseworkers — would like mandated reporters to know before calling the Child Abuse Hotline? We asked our casework teams, “What is the one thing you’d like mandated reporters to know about CPS and its

role?” Here are some of their answers.


Child Protective Services is responsible for investigating reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. Caseworkers assess the safety of children listed in reports, and provide services to the family. Home visits, observations, interviews, and a review of the available evidence are considered to either support or refute allegations in a report.

Julie Nichols, Administrative Caseworker at Monroe County Child and Family Services, emphasized that, “We are not here to catch people doing something wrong. Our goal is to gather information to help us determine how we can assist families in continuing to keep their children safe.”

What CPS workers want you to know is that their authority is quite limited—determination of child abuse or neglect is based on legal criteria, and evidence is a key component in deciding if a case is indicated or unfounded.

Nichols added, “It’s important to make the distinction between a minimal degree of care—which is the minimum legal standard all parents must meet in the care of their children—and actual child neglect.”


CPS is always available if you have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused or neglected. However, a CPS social worker can’t intervene in cases that could be described as poor choices in parenting, which do not constitute abuse or neglect. It’s important to recognize the difference between a situation that makes us uncomfortable and one that requires CPS intervention.

What CPS workers want you to consider before making a report:

  • Is your concern a matter of opinion or truly a safety issue?

For instance, while processed foods aren’t a healthy diet, feeding them to your children isn’t neglect. On the other hand, not providing food—or not providing enough food—is a sign of

neglect. Dirty fingernails are not considered neglect, but bruises may be a sign of abuse. In addition, if the situation involves custody issues or other matters handled by family court, caseworkers are not legally authorized to step in, unless there is also reasonable cause to suspect neglect or abuse.

  •  Have you asked questions for clarification?

When safe to do so, don’t be afraid to ask questions and offer support to a parent or guardian first, before making a report. As long as a child is not in immediate or impending danger, and sexual abuse is not alleged, questions can provide clarification on the what, where, who and how often of a situation. If you know CPS Is already involved with a family, reach out directly to the caseworker if you have more information.

  • Do you know the difference between a service referral and an investigation?

Before making a report, consider if the family could benefit from services or some additional support. There are many community level resources available to families with risk issues. Reports should only be made when there is reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused

or maltreated. When you call the Child Abuse Hotline, a report is filed. Reports lead to investigations and are not intended to be service referrals. However, CPS can and does provide

information to families about useful services and encourages their participation when appropriate. Keep in mind, however, that CPS can’t mandate a family to accept services—only a

judge has the authority to make participation mandatory.

Related Links: 


Primary and Secondary Prevention

We all have a role in keeping children safe. As a mandated reporter, you are tasked with primary prevention, to identify children in need of protection and families in need of support.

CPS caseworkers are tasked with secondary prevention, to ensure a child’s safety once a report has been made to avoid further abuse or neglect.

Working together, we can keep children safe.


Where Can I Find More Information About Child Advocacy Groups?

There are many organizations with websites that focus on the prevention of child abuse and neglect as well as the reporting of cases in which abuse and neglect have occurred. The following lists some of the major organizations, their mission, and website address.

Bivona Child Advocacy Center


Bivona Child Advocacy Center delivers excellence in child abuse response, healing, and prevention through collaborative service, awareness, education, and leadership.

Office of Child Abuse and Neglect 

US Department of Health & Human Services

Description: The Federal ‘one-stop’ information resource for child welfare, child abuse and neglect, and adoption, including print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and toolkits for improving child welfare practice as well as resources for families.

New York State Sex Offender Registry


The Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) was signed into law in 1995. This law requires sex offenders to register with the State and provides information to the public about certain sex offenders living in their communities. This website provides a 900 number to access the sex offender registry in NYS and will link to similar registries in other states.

Bright Futures Center for Pediatric Education in Growth and Development, Behavior and Adolescent Health


This site features more than 25 self-contained educational modules covering important topics including child abuse and neglect. This site has very good case studies in abuse and neglect of children and adolescents.

Bright Futures Distribution Center


Bright Futures in Practice, Volume I. Mental Health Practice Guide and Volume II. Mental Health Tool Kit was produced by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of HRSA, DHHS in 2002.

Description: Contains guidelines and tools that primary health care providers can use for prevention of mental health problems in children and adolescents–including child abuse and neglect.

Prevent Child Abuse America


Description: A national organization that has launched a new campaign: A Child is Helpless – You Are Not. This campaign educates the public about what people can do to prevent child abuse and neglect before it starts.

Prevent Child Abuse New York


This website provides materials focused on the prevention of child abuse, which includes a Guide for Mandated Reporters in New York State.



Description: ChildAbuse.com is a one-stop Internet resource for information on child abuse and related issues. This site was created to support, inform, and encourage those dealing with any aspect of child abuse in a positive and non-threatening environment. The website posts information about child abuse, legislation, and events and training. The site offers links and an electronic newsletter.

Healthy Families America — HFA


HFA is a national program of Prevent Child Abuse America which has three goals: to promote positive parenting, to encourage child health and development, and to prevent child abuse and neglect.

University-Based Sites:

MINCAVA: Minnesota Center Against Violence & Abuse School of Social Work, University of Minnesota


Description: MINCAVA’s mission is to support research, education, and access to information related to violence. The website provides articles, fact sheets, and very extensive links to other child abuse and missing children websites.

Child Abuse Prevention Network Cornell University


Description: This Network is part of Cornell University’s extensive web resources. Cornell is home to a number of programs concerning children, including the Cornell University Family Life Development Center and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. This is a site for professionals in the field of child abuse and neglect.

National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health (NCEMCH) Georgetown University


Description: The NCEMCH is located at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The Center provides advocacy for children and information about child abuse and neglect, including its Bright Futures Center.

View all previous newsletters in the archive.