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Questions about Child Protective Services

ALL persons in Rhode Island are required by law (RIGL 40-11-3) to report known or suspected cases of child abuse and/or neglect to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families within 24 hours of becoming aware of such abuse/neglect.

Call the Hotline at 1-800-RI-CHILD (1-800-742-4453) to report child abuse and/or neglect!

  1. I am under investigation by Child Protective Services. What does this mean?
  2. The Child Protective Investigator has removed my child and has now told me that they are going to "exparte" my child. What does that mean?
  3. I have been indicated as a perpetrator during a Child Protective Services investigation. Can I appeal this decision?
  4. I have recently been investigated by Child Protective Services and the investigator wants to refer me to a CES Program. What does that mean?
  5. My child has been removed from my home and I have been told that I will be given visitation. What does that mean?
  6. My child won’t go to school. What can I do?
  7. My child goes to school, but he/she is not getting the education I want him/her to get. What can I do?
  8. I’m afraid that my child is using drugs and/or drinking. What can I do?
  9. My child won’t listen to me. What can I do?
  10. I sometimes get so angry that I want to hurt my child or I have hurt my child. What can I do?
  11. My child has told me that somebody has hurt them. What should I do?
  12. I have witnessed child abuse or neglect. What do I do?
  13. My child has been removed from my home and I have been told that a "petition" is going to be filed. What happens next?
  14. My family has been investigated by Child Protective Services and I have been told that the investigation has been indicated and that my case will be "opened for services". What does that mean?
  15. How will the Family Services Unit (FSU) worker assigned to my case help me correct the problems which were "indicated" by the CPS investigation?
  16. I’m having general problems with the day-to-day process of fostering children. Who can I talk to for some help?

1. I am under investigation by Child Protective Services. What does this mean?

This means that a report has been received by the Child Protective Services Hot Line alleging that you, as a parent, have been or currently are responsible for the abuse and/or neglect of your child (or children). This could mean that you have actively done something, or failed to have done something, which has caused physical and/or emotional harm to the child. It could also mean that you have or had knowledge that another individual is causing or has caused such harm to your child and you have failed to protect the child from that harm.

You should expect to be contacted by Child Protective Investigators and in some cases, the Police, who will then speak to all of the family members, including the victim, as well as other individuals involved to determine the truthfulness of the allegations.

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2. The Child Protective Investigator has removed my child and has now told me that they are going to "exparte" my child. What does that mean?

An exparte is a petition filed by the Department in the Rhode Island Family Court which alleges that a child has been abused and/or neglected by their parent or parents. It also allows the Department to maintain a child in placement beyond the time allowed by the various protective holds discussed elsewhere.

This petition must be filed and granted by a Judge prior to the expiration of any hold place upon the child. Once an exparte is granted, there will be notice given to the parent(s) of an arraignment date before the Family Court. The parent must appear at this arraignment to answer the allegations of the petition. Failure to do so may result in a default judgment being entered against one or both of the parents.

By going to Court, the parent will appear before a judge who will enter a denial of the allegations on their behalf. You may bring an attorney with you or have one appointed for you by the Court.

Your legal representative will explain to you any additional legal rights you have and will explain the Court process.

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3. I have been indicated as a perpetrator during a Child Protective Services investigation, can I appeal this decision?

You have the right to appeal. You must file an initial statement of dissatisfaction with the decision and request for hearing directly with the Department’s Hearing Officer, 101 Friendship Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02903. You can contact Department’s Hearing Officer at (401) 528-3578 to request further information as to how to proceed with the appeal process.

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4. I have recently been investigated by Child Protective Services and the investigator wants to refer me to a CES Program. What does that mean?

It is the priority of the Department to prevent the placement of children at risk through the timely provision of family-centered, home-based services.

Comprehensive Emergency Services (CES) is a system of coordinated community-based services designed to meet emergency needs of children and their families who are experiencing a crisis that threatens to disrupt the family unit. During the time you are involved in CES (60 days) you will not be assigned a DCYF social worker. However, the quality of your participation in this program will determine if you will be referred for ongoing services from DCYF.

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5. My child has been removed from my home and I have been told that I will be given visitation. What does that mean?

The Department of Children, Youth, and Families supports the belief that regular, planned contact between a child in placement and his/her family is essential for the well-being of the child, ensures continuity of the parent/child relationship, serves as a basis for improved family interaction, and promotes family reunification or other permanency planning. The Department further supports the belief that contact, if it is to be effective, must begin as soon as possible after the child is separated from his/her family.

Exceptions to this are as follows:

When the child's physical and/or emotional health is endangered;

When the primary service worker determines that the nature of the family's problems (reason for the child coming into placement) makes a delay in initial visitation necessary (e.g. severe abuse, parent in prison, etc.);

When the child is placed in a setting where a special visitation plan is a regulation of the facility/agency and an important element in the particular case plan; and

Any delay in the start of visitation must be documented in the case record and must have supervisory approval.

For further information, you should be in direct contact with the Family Services Worker assigned to your family.

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6. My child won’t go to school. What can I do?

If your child is older there are a number of drop-out prevention programs available through your local School Department.  The local School Department has the right to file a Truancy Petition  against your child.

If your child is younger and is not attending school, you as the parent need to make every effort to insure their daily attendance. You should be aware that, if the absences of your child are excessive, the local School Department has the right to file an educational neglect petition . 

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7. My child goes to school, but they are not getting the education I want them to get. What can I do?

As a parent, you should be aware and active in the educational program which your child attends. If you are dissatisfied with this program, you will need to be in contact with your child’s teacher and the principal of the school that they attend. You should set up a meeting with them to discuss your concerns about your child’s education. If you feel that your child would benefit from educational testing, you should discuss this with the school personnel. If you feel that your child would benefit from attending a specialized school program, again, this should be discussed with school personnel. If your child is a special education student, you should also express your concerns to school personnel as to the present quality of his or her educational program.

If you remain unhappy following this meeting or series of meetings, you may want to contact one of several educational advocacy programs located throughout the state. 

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8. I’m afraid that my child is using drugs and / or drinking. What can I do?

First of all you should attempt to talk to your child about your concerns. This will probably be one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have with your child.

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9. My child won’t listen to me. What can I do?

As a parent, you need to establish appropriate rules for your child to follow and set consequences for their failure to abide by the rules. It is your job as the parent to be consistent in the enforcement of these rules and consequences. Most children respond well to structure and need to know where the "limits" are. Most children will, at some time or other, also want to test these limits. This is a normal part of growing up. 

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10. I sometimes get so angry that I want to hurt my child or I have hurt my child. What can I do?

As a parent you need to take responsibility for protecting your child from harm. If you fear that you have already been or will be a source of harm to your child, you need to take the responsibility to seek help for yourself so that this will either stop or not happen.

There are agencies within the community who can help you regain control of your emotions, help you to understand how to deal with your child and the stress of everyday life at the same time, and, above all, help you improve your ability to parent your child. In other words they can help make parenting something that is rewarding not only to you child but to you. 

If you have ever actually physically or emotionally harmed your child, you should be encouraged to self report this to The Department of Children, Youth and Families at 1-800-RI-CHILD (1-800-742-4453). If you do so, your case may be investigated and you may be opened to services.

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11. My child has told me that somebody has hurt them. What should I do?

As a parent, you need to question your child about the nature of the incident and the identity of the individual who hurt them. In doing this you should reassure your child that you are going to protect them from any future injury. You should contact your local Police Department with this information. If the individual is a stranger to you and your child, the police will handle the investigation. If this person is someone in the family who was acting as a caretaker of the child when the incident occurred, the police (or you) will need to call the Child Protective Services Hot Line at 1-800-RI-CHILD (1-800-742-4453) to report this abuse.

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12. I have witnessed child abuse or neglect. What do I do?

You are what is known as a "mandated reporter", this means, that under the law,  you must report any incidents which you suspect are abusive or neglectful. This is accomplished by calling the Child Protective Services Hot Line at 1-800-RI-CHILD (1-800-742-4453).

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13. My child has been removed from my home and I have been told that a "petition" is going to be filed. What happens next?

If your child has been removed as the result of a Child Protective Services investigation this was the result of either a 48 or 72 hour hold being placed. Legal action before the Family Court of Rhode Island will be sought if the investigation has produced a preponderance of evidence that the CPI and DCYF legal feel support the allegations under investigation and there is an imminent risk to the child should they be returned home.

Once the decision has been made to remove a child from the home, every effort will be made to locate appropriate relatives who can care for this child. If no such relatives are available, then the child will either be placed in a licensed foster home or in a shelter facility.

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14. My family has been investigated by Child Protective Services and I have been told that the investigation has been indicated and that my case will be "opened for services". What does that mean?

It means that you will shortly be hearing from a social caseworker from Intake who will take some basic information about you and your family members and open case record.

You will then have your case assigned to a Family Services Worker (FSU) who works in the regional office for the town or city where you live.

Once you have been assigned to an FSU worker, they will contact you and begin the process of assessing the problems which lead your family to become involved with the Department.

This process will involve them obtaining the current and past history of you and your family. They will need to know what, if any, services (medical, mental health, educational, substance abuse, etc.) you have or are currently receiving. You will be expected to sign a release of confidentiality which will allow the worker to communicate with these providers and obtain relevant information from them.

Depending on the nature of opening reasons associated with your family, a request may be made for you and or others in your family to receive specialized evaluations. The information obtained in these evaluations will help in pinpointing the types of services which will best meet the needs of your particular family situation.

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15. How will the Family Services Unit (FSU) worker assigned to my case, help me correct the problems which were "indicated" by the CPS investigation?

Once the preliminary phase of the assessment is completed, the FSU worker will begin to discuss with you the formulation of a case plan . This document will, for each active child, clearly present the tasks and time frame which will be expected for each of the services needed to achieve the chosen goal. (Such as Maintain in Home or Reunification)

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16. I’m having general problems with the day to day process of fostering children. Who can I talk to for some help?

Being a foster parent is not any easier that it is to be a natural parent. Everybody needs some help at some time in their lives.

If you need help or just a sympathetic ear, you should contact the worker or supervisor for child specific problems. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, you can contact the Foster parent Mentor Program and the Foster Parent Liaison for general problems/concerns or if you feel that are not getting the right answers from the DCYF line staff.

If you are a relative caretaker, providing placement services for the Department, you should also feel free to contact these individuals to get your questions answered..

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     All content © 2006 DCYF -- Last modified: May 11, 2011