California is an outstanding state in which to raise children. There are beautiful natural reserves to explore, state-of-the-art public and private schools and universities, and numerous economic opportunities so that parents can have the financial means to support their families. While all families strive to do what’s right, no one family is completely functional.

Sometimes, family issues that run deep can bubble to the surface, resulting in conflict and misunderstanding. In such cases, there may be bystanders that do not understand the context of what they are observing. They may notify child protective services of what they see. Child Protective Services, or CPS, is a government agency in California that is focused on protecting the well-being of children in the domestic setting.

If child protective services is tipped off by one or more reports of child abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, they will start an investigation. If your family is going through a CPS case, and is unsure about what to expect, the attorneys at My SoCal Lawyers can explain the process so that you can be fully aware of how to protect your rights as a parent.

How It Works: The California CPS Process

The California child protection services process is initiated when someone calls CPS to report an alleged incidence of child abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. The CPS process in California is composed of the following stages:

  • The reporting. When someone suspects that the well-being of a child is at threat in the domestic sphere, they will notify CPS. This can be an educator, relative, caregiver, or anyone who observes child abuse or neglect and is worried about the situation.
  • An initial probing. After CPS gets a report, they will look into the family and the situation. They will collect information and interview everyone involved to discern the urgency of the situation.
  • Further investigation. After the initial probing, if the results show that a further investigation needs to be carried out, then CPS will conduct more interviews and get more concrete evidence, such as medical documents.
  • In this stage, CPS workers will put together all the evidence that they collected and determine whether the claims made against the guardians have any substantial grounds. Based on this, they will develop a plan.
  • Case planning. Case planning is based on the outcome of substantiation. If it is confirmed that the child is not living in an environment conducive to their mental and physical well-being, CPS will make a case plan for the family. This might involve classes for the parent to improve themselves, addiction therapy, and/or services to support the family.
  • Monitoring from CPS. To ensure that the agreement from the case plan is being followed, CPS will check in with the family to watch the progress that they have made and make sure that they are following the rules.
  • The case is closed. If case monitoring shows that all concerns have been dealt with in a meaningful way, and that the children are no longer at risk of harm, then the case might be closed. It can also be closed if the child is moved out of the household or guardianship is changed.

CPS processes are extremely complex and will be different depending on the specifics of a case. It’s important to hire an experienced CPS lawyer who can help walk you through the process if you are dealing with the aftermath of a report.


Q: What Is CPS Allowed to Do in California?

A: Child protective services can insert themselves into an instance where guardians in a family have been accused of neglect, abuse, or mistreatment of their children. State law in California governs what CPS specifically can and can’t do. Typically, CPS can:

  • Conduct interviews with family members, including children.
  • Carry out home assessments.
  • Take the child out of the home if it is deemed necessary.
  • Begin legal processes.
  • Provide resources and support.

Q: How Long Does the California CPS Process Last?

A: The time that a California CPS process might last will be dependent on the particulars of the case involved, and there is no official time duration provided because it can vary so much. For instance, if a case is particularly complex, the parents are not cooperating, and the court has to get involved, then the CPS process could last over a year. However, if there are optimal resources, the case is simple, and all parties involved are cooperative, then it could only last a few weeks to months.

Q: How Long Will My California CPS Case Be on My Record?

A: If the accusations involved in your California CPS case against you are found to be baseless and untrue, then there will likely be no long-term consequences for your record. On the other hand, if the accusations are found to be true, then they may be on your record for the long term. If the allegations are on your record for the long term, typically, only people who are allowed to access your record, like police, the court system, and specific organizations who work with children, will be able to see your case.

Q: Can I Break a California CPS Safety Plan?

A: CPS creates a safety plan under a voluntary agreement with families who have been under investigation, so family members must continue to follow it. If you are feeling that circumstances have come up in which you would like to change some provisions of the safety plan, it’s important to talk with your CPS worker. Breaking the rules without authorization can lead to CPS deeming your household unfit for a child, leading to potential legal action against you.

Standing Up for Your Family: California Family Lawyers Who Can Represent You

If you are still feeling unsure about how you can prepare yourself and your family for a CPS investigation, and the associated legal proceedings, then the child neglect lawyers at My SoCal Lawyers can help. We have years of experience working on CPS cases by gathering the evidence, collecting appropriate paperwork, and arguing in court to convince them to rule in favor of the family. Contact our legal team today to learn more about the CPS process and how you can work to defend yourself and your family.