In North Carolina, state law requires people to report their concerns to the Department of Social Services if they suspect child abuse or neglect. As a parent, this can be upsetting, as well as frightening. You may wonder what would cause someone to suspect you of mistreatment or worry that the state will take your child away. Therefore, it is important for you to understand what to expect from the process if you have been reported for suspected child abuse.

According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, child abuse occurs when a parent, guardian or caretaker intentionally or not accidentally causes a child serious physical injury or allows another to do so; creates substantial risk for serious physical injury not resulting from an accident; employs grossly inappropriate or cruel discipline; cause or allow another to cause a child significant emotional damage. Allowing or encouraging a child to commit or participate in sex crimes, as well as supporting or allowing delinquent behavior by the child that involves immoral acts also qualifies as child abuse.

Within 24-hours of receiving a report of abuse, Child Protective Services initiates an investigation. The investigation, which must be completed within 45 days of the report, takes into consideration any history with CPS, whether your child was indeed harmed, your family’s strengths and needs, and whether your family needs any services to address needs or safety issues. Should CPS determine there is insufficient evidence for a finding of abuse, unsubstantiated reports are closed.

In cases when CPS finds abuse has occurred, or there is a risk of your child suffering harm in the future, it may provide your family with in-home services to help address your needs. These services may include substance abuse assessment and treatment, mental health treatment, and parenting education or domestic violence education. If you cooperate with CPS’s recommendations and the situation can be resolved, involving the court and removing your child from your home may be unnecessary.

This post is intended only as general information and should not be viewed as legal advice.