2331. Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation

Approval: Connie Lambert-Eckel, Acting Assistant Secretary

Original Date: January 31, 2016

Revised Date:  July 1, 2018

Policy Review:  July 1, 2021


A Children’s Administration (CA) Child Protective Services (CPS) or Division of Licensed Resources (DLR) CPS investigation is conducted when an intake is screened in with allegations of child abuse or neglect (CA/N) or a child is believed to be at imminent risk of harm.


This policy applies to Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) caseworkers and DLR investigators conducting CPS investigations


RCW 26.44.030  Reports, Duty and authority to make

RCW 26.44.100 Information about rights, Notification of investigation, report, and findings

RCW 26.44.185  Investigation of child sexual abuse, Revision and expansion of protocols

RCW 74.13.031  Duties of department, Child welfare services

RCW 74.14B.010  Children's services workers, Hiring and training


  1. The regional administrator (RA) or designee must:
    1. Develop CPS guidelines with the military base commander or designee for families living on-post within the region. Guidelines and procedures may include off-post families.
    2. Collaborate with the county prosecutor and CA offices to establish and maintain the county child abuse investigation protocol per RCW 26.44.185.  
  2. The DLR/CPS supervisor and investigators must follow the CA/N section of the handbook “Investigating Abuse and Neglect in State-Regulated Care” located on the CA intranet.
  3. The supervisor of the assigned DCFS caseworker must:
    1. Consult with the area administrator (AA) when there is a disagreement between supervisors about an intake screening decision or a CPS investigation identified for transfer to Family Voluntary Services (FVS).
    2. CPS Risk Only Assignment
      1. Assign CPS risk only intakes per the Case Assignment policy.
      2. If a case is already open in the office where a CPS risk only assignment belongs, assign the CPS risk only intake to the CPS Family Assessment Response (FAR), CPS investigation, FVS or Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS) caseworker who will complete the CPS investigation; including the initial face-to-face contact with the child, and safety, risk and investigative assessments.
      3. If the case is co-assigned with CPS investigations, assign the intake to the CPS investigation caseworker.
    3. Conduct monthly supervisor case reviews, review all safety plans and document the reviews in a case note associated with the case.
    4. Review investigations submitted for approval, confirm the case documentation is complete and document the review in FamLink.
    5. Close the case or transfer the case assignment to FVS or CFWS for ongoing services as applicable.
    6. Review and approve timeframe extensions entered in FamLink for investigations that remain open past 90 calendar days from the date and time of intake due to collaboration with law enforcement or prosecutor and County Child Abuse, Fatality and Criminal Investigation Protocols.
    7. Review CPS cases for a statewide CPS alert through FamLink Help Desk when reasonable efforts to locate the child have been exhausted and either:
      1. The child is believed to be in present danger or unsafe.
      2. The court has authorized pick-up of the child.
    8. If a child is believed to be unsafe and the child’s whereabouts out-of-state are known, make a CPS report in that state.
  4. The assigned caseworker must complete the following.
    1. Prior to face-to-face contact or investigative interview of a child:
      1. Review the case history, if applicable.
      2. Coordinate with local law enforcement agencies per county child abuse investigation protocol located on the CA intranet, as applicable.
      3. Follow Indian Child Welfare Chapter 1 Initial Intake Indian Child Welfare (ICW) policies when there is reason to believe that the child is or may be a member, or is the biological child of a member and eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe.
      4. Contact the referrer to ensure that the information in the intake is clear and complete, while maintaining confidentiality of case information with non-mandatory reporters. Case information may only be shared with mandated reporters as long as the information is pertinent to the CPS case.
      5. If the investigation involves a military parent or guardian, notify the Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program, per the military Memorandum of Understanding.
    2. Face-to-Face Contacts and Interviews with Children
      1. Conduct initial face-to-face (IFF) present danger assessment with the victim or identified child within the following timeframes from the date and time CA receives the intake:
        1. 24-hours for an emergent response.
        2. 72-hour for a non-emergent response.
      2. Conduct the investigative interview with the victim or identified child within ten calendar days from the date and time CA receives the intake if the interview was not already completed during the IFF.
      3. For children who are not a victim or identified child but who reside in the household, make face-to-face contact with each child to assess his or her safety and gather information to complete the safety assessment.  The safety assessment must be completed on all children no later than 30 calendar days from date of intake.
      4. Assess all children in the household for present danger. Take immediate protective action if any child is in present danger.
      5. If a victim, identified child or child residing in the household cannot be located, continue efforts to locate him or her until either the interview or safety assessment occurs or reasonable efforts to locate the child have been exhausted. Follow 2310. IFF policy and see Reasonable Efforts to locate Children or Parents on the CA intranet.
      6. During the investigative interview, follow the 2350. Audio Recording policy for child physical or sexual abuse interviews.
      7. Follow the 6500. Photograph Documentation policy when photographing a child’s physical condition or surroundings to document CA/N.
      8. Conduct monthly health and safety visits with children and parents if the case is open longer than 60 calendar days.
    3. In-Person Interviews of the Child's Parent or Legal Guardian, and Alleged Perpetrators
      1. Notify the child’s parents, guardian, or legal custodian:
        1. Of any CA/N allegations made against him or her at the initial point of contact, while maintaining the:
          1. Confidentiality of the person making the allegations.
          2. Safety and protection of the child.
          3. Integrity of the investigation process.
        2. When a child is taken into protective custody.
      2. Identify and verify all individuals living in the home and assess for safety threats and risk.
      3. Provide infant safety education and intervention  for all children in the household age birth to one year.
      4. Inquire about the child’s possible membership or eligibility for membership in a federally recognized tribe. Follow Indian Child Welfare Manual Chapter 3 Inquiry and Verification of Child’s Indian Status.
      5. Conduct a universal domestic violence (DV) screening at key points in a case, i.e., a new intake, case transfer, and re-assessment of safety to identify if DV is present. If DV is identified, follow the 1170. DV policy and ensure all persons (e.g., child, caregivers or alleged perpetrators) are interviewed separately, if possible.
      6. If a parent or legal guardian or subject cannot be located, continue efforts to locate him or her or until either the interview occurs, or reasonable efforts to locate the parent have been exhausted. See Guidelines for Reasonable Efforts to Locate Children or Parents on the CA intranet
    4. Safety, Risk and Investigative Assessments
      1. Complete a safety assessment within 30 calendar days from the date of the intake, and at key decision points in a case.
      2. If a safety threat is identified and cannot be managed with a safety plan, review the case with a supervisor to determine if the child should be placed in out-of-home care.
      3. Complete the Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment (SDRMA) within 60 calendar days from the date and time CA receives the intake. Services must be offered to family with a high SDMRA score, and may be offered to families with a moderately high score. Ongoing risk assessment continues throughout the life of a case from the initial CPS intake until the case is closed.
      4. Complete the Investigative Assessment (IA) on all investigations within 60 calendar days of date and time CA receives the intake.
      5. Document and submit for supervisor approval, a FamLink timeframe extension for investigations remaining open beyond 90 calendar days from the date and time CA receives the intake due to law enforcement or prosecutor collaboration.
    5. Safety Plans
      1. If a safety threat is identified, and can be controlled and managed in the home, complete a safety plan.
      2. Complete a Plan of Safe Care DSHS 15-491 with the family when a newborn is either:
        1. Identified as substance affected by a medical practitioner.
        2. Is born to a dependent youth.
    6. Consultations, Evaluations and Referrals
      1. Secure a prompt medical evaluation or treatment for a child:
        1. If indicators of serious CA/N exist.
        2. A child is three or younger with a physical abuse allegation.
        3. The alleged CA/N cannot be reasonably attributed to the explanation and a diagnostic finding would clarify the assessment of risk or determine the need for medical treatment.
        4. If the alleged neglect includes concerns that children are deprived of food, underweight, or are starved.
      2. Contact the Child Protection Medical Consultant in your region when identification or management of CA/N would be facilitated by expert medical consultation.
      3. Seek legal authority for the medical examination if the parent does not comply with the request.
      4. Contact the Washington Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if consultation is needed about prescribed or non-prescribed medications.
      5. Refer a child or youth with complex behavioral health needs for a Wraparound Intensive Services (WISe) screen per 4542. WISe policy.
      6. Make a referral to Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) services within two business days of identifying a child younger than three years old with a possible developmental delay. To refer:
        1. Contact the Family Resources Coordinator at 1-800-322-2588 or through the ESIT web site
        2. Inform the child’s parents or legal guardian of the ESIT referral, that the services are no cost to the family and:
          1. Voluntary for non-dependent children; and
          2. Mandatory for dependent children.
    7. Case Coordination and Collateral Contacts
      1. Complete a criminal history background check for emergent placement of a child with an unlicensed relative or other suitable person. A criminal background check may be requested on alleged subjects or adults related to the investigation to assess child and caseworker safety.
      2. Contact law enforcement (LE):
        1. If there is information about a crime that has been committed against a child or vulnerable adult, or the child’s welfare is endangered per 2571. Mandated Reports to Law Enforcement policy.
        2. If assistance is needed to:
          1. Assure the safety of a child or staff.
          2. Observe or preserve evidence.
          3. Determine if a child is in need of protective custody.
          4. Enforce a court order.
          5. Assist with the investigation.
      3. Consult with the supervisor if a child is unsafe and LE does not place the child into protective custody.
      4. Interview professionals and other persons who may have knowledge of the child, parent or legal guardian, or the allegations of CA/N including but not limited to:
        1. Non-custodial parents
        2. School personnel
        3. Medical providers
        4. Childcare providers
        5. Relatives
        6. Neighbors
        7. Other adults or children living in the home.
        8. Other individuals identified by the parent or caregiver
        9. Tribal social worker, law enforcement or staff
      5. Seek expert consultation and evaluation of issues that may pose a child safety threat or risk of imminent harm, e.g., housing inspector, health department or other local authority, etc.
    8. Investigating Allegations of Serious Physical and Sexual Abuse
      1. Consult with the Child Protection Medical Consultation Network (CP Med-Con) or with a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) physician:
        1. To determine if a child alleged to be sexually abused needs a medical examination.
        2. When there is an allegation of sexual abuse that includes physical injury to the child or the potential for the child to have a sexually transmitted disease.
        3. When the child is seriously injured.
        4. When there is a pattern of injury to a young child because of alleged CA/N.
      2. Ensure the physician examining the child is affiliated with the CP Med-Con or with a CAC. If a child is examined or was previously examined by a physician who is not affiliated with the CP Med-Con or a CAC, refer the case to the CP Med-Con or CA physician so he or she is aware of the current allegations, available medical information, previous injuries and indications the child has been abused or neglected in the past.
      3. Place a child in out-of-home care (except when the court has determined the child is safe to remain in the home) when he or she:
        1. Has suffered a serious non-accidental injury and a safety plan separating the child from the alleged perpetrator cannot be developed.
        2. Is a sibling of a child who has been fatally or seriously injured due to abuse or neglect and a safety plan separating the child from the alleged perpetrator cannot be developed.
        3. Has a parent or legal guardian who has been determined to be unwilling or incapable (i.e., due to mental illness or substance abuse) of supervising or protecting the child and an in-home safety plan cannot be developed to assure the supervision/protection of the child.
        4. Has been sexually abused and a safety plan cannot be developed to protect the child from the alleged perpetrator.
      4. When a safety threat is identified and a safety plan will keep a child safe in the home, the safety plan must include:
        1. Separation of the child from the person who poses the safety threat.
        2. Safety plan participants who can assist in monitoring child safety, will take action to protect the child, and agree to contact the caseworker if the child is in danger. Safety plan participants can include relatives, neighbors, and mandated reporters.
        3. A parent or legal guardian who has the capacity to understand and follow a plan.Promises by parents and caregivers cannot control safety threats.
        4. Regular contact by the caseworker with all safety plan participants.
      5. Prior to allowing contact between the alleged perpetrator and victim:
        1. Consider the psychological harm and physical safety of the child.
        2. Consult with law enforcement, treatment providers and others involved with the family.
        3. Obtain reliable supervision of the contact between the child and the person who poses the safety threat so that the threat is sufficiently monitored.
        4. Obtain supervisor approval.
    9. Additional Requirements
      1. Follow the 2559. Hospital Hold policy when a child has been placed on a Hospital Hold by a physician or hospital administrator. 
      2. Follow the 4536. Sexually Aggressive Youth (SAY) policy when investigating SAY intakes.
      3. When any child in an open case is believed to be at imminent risk of serious harm or there is a new allegation of CA/N not included in the original intake, the assigned caseworker must make a report to intake.
      4. Send a False Reporting Letter DSHS 27-070 by certified mail to any person believed to have made a false report of CA/N.
    10. Concluding an Investigation
      1. Notify all persons named in the intake as alleged perpetrators of the abuse or neglect findings, and his and her rights of review and appeal per 2559B. CPS Investigative Findings Notification policy.
      2. Inform the Washington State federally recognized tribe of the outcome of the investigation when the child meets the definition of an Indian child.
      3. The case must remain open when Family Voluntary Services (FVS) and Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS) are provided, including placement in out-of-home care through a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA) or court order.
      4. Close the case and submit to the CPS supervisor when:
        1. There is no safety threat or the safety threat has been reduced or eliminated, and the parent or legal guardian has the protective capacity to protect his or her child.
        2. There is continuing risk of CA/N which is not likely to be resolved through treatment efforts when:
          1. Further voluntary services are not available or accepted, and
          2. Court intervention is not necessary or appropriate.
        3. The family is unable to be located following the steps to locate in the “Guidelines for Reasonable Efforts to Locate Children or Parents” on the CA intranet. Complete the exception to the face-to-face contact per the 2310. IFF policy.
      5. Submit the completed case documentation to the supervisor for case closure or transfer.


Located on CA intranet: