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Child Protective Services is a statewide program designed to protect children while helping families. Each local department of social services has the legal responsibility to investigate all reports of child abuse and neglect, where the health and welfare of children may be endangered by the actions or inactions of parents or other adults responsible for the children's care or by any household or family member.

How does my name become known to Child Protective Services?
In Maryland, the Child Abuse and Neglect Law requires that any health practitioner (doctor, nurse, etc.), police officer, educator or human service worker who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect, shall report such cases to the local department or appropriate law enforcement agency. All other citizens who have reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect are also required to make reports.

Can I find out who reported me?
The local departments of social services do not release the names of persons who make reports without a court order directing them to do so. In most cases, reports are made by persons and professionals who believe the child and family are truly in need of help.

What right does a social worker have to come to my home?
The Child Abuse and Neglect Law (*5-701 to 5-715 of the Maryland Family Law Code Annotated) requires that a social worker make prompt investigations of alleged child abuse or child neglect situations.

The Law says: Promptly after receiving a report of suspected abuse or neglect, the local department or the appropriate law enforcement agency, or both, if jointly agreed on, shall make a thorough investigation to protect the welfare of the children. Within 24 hours after receiving a report of suspected abuse and within 5 days after receiving a report of suspected neglect or suspected mental injury, the local department or appropriate law enforcement agency shall: see the child; attempt to have an on-site interview with the child's caretaker; decide on the safety of the child, wherever the child is, and of other children in the household; and decide on the safety of other children in the care or custody of the alleged abuser or neglector.

According to the law, the investigation shall include: a determination of the nature, extent and cause of the abuse or neglect, if any; and, if the suspected abuse or neglect is verified, a determination of the identity of the person or persons responsible for the abuse or neglect; a determination of the name, age, and condition of any other child in the household; an evaluation of the parents and the home environment; a determination of any other pertinent facts or matters; and a determination of any needed services.

What will the social worker do?
The social worker and/or the law enforcement officer will visit your home to find out whether or not children in your care are being mistreated and how to help your family.

Sometimes children will be examined to see if the report is true or false. You and your family members will be asked questions. What you say is very important, because it helps in making a fair decision. If court action is needed, your statements will be included in the presentation to the judge.

What happens if the report is untrue?
If no neglect or abuse is found, the case is closed in Child Protective Services. If you want help with other problems, you will be referred to another service.

What happens if the report is true?
If, based on the investigation, it is decided that abuse or neglect of your children has occurred, or that your children are at risk of future harm, then your family may be given a social worker to help you solve the problems that place your children at risk of harm.

If emergency medical treatment is necessary, the worker can take your children to a doctor, hospital or clinic for examination and treatment without your permission.

Workers and families should cooperate to develop a treatment plan together to solve problems. This may include referring you and your family to specialized counseling, homemaker services, day care or to other resources you may not know about.

Will the social worker take my children?
The social worker and/or law enforcement officer must make a decision about the safety of your children. If there is a threat of immediate danger or problems that are too serious to solve with the children in the home, the worker can take the children into custody to have them stay in an emergency shelter home. If the worker removes your child without your written permission, there will be a court hearing. You have the right to have your lawyer at all court hearings and you should tell the judge why you think your children should not have been taken from you. Your children will have their own lawyer present at all hearings.

The social worker does not want to remove children from their parents, and will try to keep them with you whenever that is possible. If your children do have to live elsewhere for a while, you will be told the reasons and what you must do to get them back.

What will happen if I receive a check, food stamps, or medical assistance?
Child Protective Services workers are not the same workers who decide whether you can get AFDC, food stamps or a medical card. However, if a child is taken out of your home as a result of an investigation, your eligibility for food stamps, AFDC or medical card for the child can be affected. You and the Protective Services worker are required to report changes in your family unit to your eligibility worker.

What does a Child Protective Services worker do?
A Child Protective Services worker does many thing. First, a worker investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. When there are indications that abuse or neglect has occurred, a worker tries to determine whether children are at significant risk of further harm. Then, a worker will identify problems that contribute to child abuse or neglect and visit regularly to help family members cope with these problems. A worker may also suggest services such as counseling for parents.

What happens if I do not want a social worker?
If you are unable to reach a mutual agreement about issues to be resolved, the worker who investigated the report will make a decision about referring your situation to a judge to decide what should be done. The worker will explain your situation to the judge. The judge may, then, order you to work with the agency to remedy the identified problems.

Ongoing services will not be offered if the worker assesses that there is little risk that your children will be abused or neglected and that their basic needs are being met.

What can I do if I have a complaint?
Whenever you have a complaint or a problem, the first person to talk to is your social worker. An open discussion will often settle the matter. If you and your social worker cannot settle the problem, ask to speak to your social worker's supervisor.

FCDSS: 301-600-2464
After Hours: 301-600-2464

FCDSS is a local agency of the Maryland Department of Human Resources.