General Timeline of Child Protective Services (CPS) Action

From Report Received to Case Closure

What West Virginia Parents Need to Know

The statewide Child Abuse Defense Attorneys at Isner Law Office protect West Virginia parents’ Constitutional rights, including the right to safely raise their children according to their own religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds, dietary, educational, and personal preferences in the best interest of the child. We are pleased to present a general overview of what a parent can expect when a concerned family member, neighbor, school official, or other individual takes it upon themself to make a report of child abuse or neglect in West Virginia.


Knowledge Is Power

Protect Your Family and Your Parental Rights In WV

Although each case is different, one thing remains true: if Child Protective Services (CPS) shows up, whether you believe you are guilty or not, you should NOT speak to them until you have contacted a trusted child abuse defense attorney. You have the right to legal representation of your own choosing at all stages of contact with CPS.

Isner Law Office helps families throughout West Virginia understand how CPS operates, as well as parent rights and grandparent rights when dealing with CPS. We are here to provide the answers you need, as well as legal representation in courts statewide to protect your rights.

A General Timeline of CPS Action

CPS accepts reports of known and suspected child abuse and neglect and intervenes at the homes of these children 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When a report is received and CPS is notified, the following is expected to occur:

Report Filing

A report is accepted and cross-filed internally within all DHHR entities by the names of all children in the home, the family, and any person substantiated as being an abuser or neglecter.


CPS investigates the report. This includes locating and interviewing the child, the child’s family, environment, and other relevant parties.

Face-to-Face Interview

Within 14 days, CPS will locate the child and conduct an in-person interview with the child or children involved in the report.

Present Danger or Imminent Danger Interview

When allegations include serious physical abuse, present danger, or imminent danger to the physical well-being of a child, contact is made immediately.

Dismissal of Case or Protection Plan

If no concern is found, the report is dismissed, but the report remains on file. When a concern is found, a Protection Plan is put in place, which may include any action CPS determines necessary for the health or safety of the child, such as involvement of law enforcement officers, immediate removal of the child from the home, safety planning, placement of the child with a family member, in foster care or a state institution, mandatory programs and services for the family or party involved, and/or court action which may include termination of parental rights in some cases.

Child Custody

When an allegation of abuse involves a child with a pending custody case, the court may refer the allegation to CPS and demand a written report according to the relevant timeline of that court. When CPS determines that court action is recommended in the best interests of the child, CPS will begin legal proceedings immediately.

Six Steps of CPS Action

When a cause is found to intervene, which typically follows every report alleging known or suspected child abuse, child neglect, and child endangerment, CPS involvement includes the following:

1. Intake Assessment

0-14 Days

Intake of the child begins immediately, or within 14 days when a report of child abuse or neglect is received by CPS.

0 to 24 Hours – PRESENT DANGER

An intake assessment must occur within 0-24 hours if the child may be in Present Danger due to specific maltreatment, child, parent, and/or family-related dangers (including multiple injuries, face/head injuries, serious injury, numerous victims, life-threatening living arrangements, unexplained injuries, the bizarre parental viewpoint of child, extended unsupervised periods, a child in need of medical attention, fearful/anxious child, intoxicated, dangerous, or out of control parent unable to provide care, failure to perform parental responsibilities, presence of family violence (D-LAG indicators), and/or a report indicating that the family is transient or may flee/hide the child.

0 to 72 Hours – IMMINENT DANGER

An intake assessment must occur within 0-72 hours if the child may be in Imminent Danger due to specific maltreatment (including non-accidental trauma, a pattern of abuse, nutritional deprivation, abandonment, inadequate medical treatment, substantial emotional injury, sale or attempted sale of a child, alcohol, drug, or controlled substance abuse posing an imminent risk to health or safety, serious physical abuse, and/or allegation indicating impending danger).

0 to 14 Days – ALL OTHERS

All other allegations of child abuse or neglect are investigated within 14 days.

The Intake Assessment

An initial safety Intake Assessment includes investigating:

The Reporter

The person making the allegation is probed for information, analyzed, and the exact words used in the allegation are recorded. Information collected includes:

-Reporter’s name & relationship to the family

-Why the report is being made

-The source of information

-Any actions the reporter suggests should occur

-Name and contact information for biological parents who are not subjects of the report

-Names and contact information of other people with information regarding the child or family

The Child

CPS interviews the child face-to-face to analyze any present or impending dangers, reveal any caregiver behavior, family conditions, events, or circumstances that may indicate abuse. The following information is determined and recorded:

-General Condition & Functioning


-Emotion, State of Mind & Any Specific Fears

-Proximity to Threat

-Accessibility to Those Who Can Help & Protect

Primary Caregivers

Those who care for the child are interviewed and analyzed to determine various factors, including:

-General Functioning

-General Parenting

-General State of Mind & Emotion

-Current Location

-Community Relations


-Use of substances

-Mental Health Functioning

-Attitudes Toward & Perceptions of Child(ren)

-Previous Relevant History (including CPS history)

-Likely Response to CPS

The Family

CPS collects demographic information about the family from any available source and opens a file. This information includes:

-Domestic Violence History (including power, control, entitlement, and D-LAG indicators)

-Living Arrangements

-Household Composition

-Household Activity (including people in and out)

-Condition of Residence

-Description of Present Dangers (including a description of possible/likely emergency circumstances)

-Identification of Protective Adults Who Are or May Be Available

-Name and Contact Information of Parents Who Are Not Subject to the Allegations


Child care providers and other caregivers, abusive children, registered sex offenders, individuals on the state police child abuse and neglect registry, group residential and foster families, school personnel, religious personnel, as well as any other non-caregivers may also be investigated.

Possible Results of Intake Assessment Include:

Additional Investigations

The case is investigated until CPS believes it has enough information to make a determination.

Case Not Accepted

The case may be screened out with the dismissal of the allegation. A justification/explanation for the decision must be documented in the file. This may include:

-Dismissed as a duplicate referral

-Does not meet the operational or legal definition of abuse or neglect

-Insufficient information provided to locate family

-No children under age 18 present

-Motives & veracity of reporter


Referrals to community resources, as needed

Case Accepted

Referrals to community resources, as needed

-Alleged abuse or neglect is recorded in the file

-Case accepted with a referral for Family Functioning Assessment

“Child Protective Services must accept for assessment any report which suggests that assuming the reporter’s perceptions are true, an individual between birth and 18 years of age may have been subject to treatment which meets the definition of abuse or neglect in WV Code and CPS Policy. A reporter need not have witnessed a specific injury nor does there have to be an injury for there to be a reason to believe that parental conduct results in a threat of harm to a child which is included in the statutory definitions of an abused and neglected child.”

– Child Protective Services Policy, January 2021

2. Family Functioning Assessment

(Initial Assessment)

Following an Intake Assessment indicating abuse or neglect (see above), reports on accepted cases are sent to the Family Functioning Assessment Supervisor for assignment to a CPS Social Worker immediately, or within one working day. CPS may refer to this investigation as an Initial Assessment.

The Family Functioning Assessment

The Family Functioning Assessment is designed to collect enough in-depth information about the child and family to make decisions and take any actions CPS determines necessary. It includes:

Preparation by Caseworker

-Reviewing all available information and reports to determine the best course of action

-Developing a plan to privately interview child and secure assistance from law enforcement or any other entity required to help

-Making arrangements for a joint law enforcement/prosecuting attorney/medical examiner investigation as deemed necessary

-Referrals to WV State Police Child Abuse Unit, as deemed necessary

Initial Family Contact

A formal face-to-face contact occurs. The caseworker must:

-Display state ID

-Identify self as a Child Protective Service Social Worker from the WV Department of Health and Human Resources

-Inform the caregivers about the child abuse or neglect allegations, the reason for contact, and the process for completing the Family Functioning Assessment (unless they believe notification could compromise child safety)

-Provide notification of rights and a copy of the booklet, A Parent’s Guide to Working with Child Protective Services

-Ask if represented by legal counsel **If so, the caseworker may NOT conduct the interview without the attorney’s permission as required by the Gibson Decree.

Information Collection

The CPS caseworker will conduct individual, in-person, private interviews of the identified child, then siblings, the non-maltreating parent, maltreating parent, and any other adults in the home according to the timeline determined in the Intake Assessment. If permission to interview the child is denied, the Prosecuting/Regional Attorney will be contacted to plan to gain access to the child, which may include observing the child and interviewing the child at school or elsewhere.

Identities will be verified, non-verbal children will be observed, and other observations will be documented.

Family Functioning Assessment Areas

To justify CPS decisions, the CPS caseworker must investigate, describe, document, and report:

-Presence & Nature of Any Maltreatment

-Child Functioning

-General Parenting Ability

-Parenting Discipline Approach

-Adult Functioning Daily Life Management Skills

Safety Evaluation

Any concerns about child safety will be identified and documented including:

-Observable behavior, conditions, or situations

-Child vulnerability

-Out-of-control family behavior

-Belief in imminent danger

-Severity of threat

-Presence of Present Danger

-Presence of Impending Threats

Present Danger Assessment

The home environment will be examined to determine any Present Dangers (including D-LAG indicators) in the areas of Maltreatment, Child, Parent, and Family.

Family Violence / D-LAG Indicators

In homes where family violence is actively present, a Present Danger is considered to exist based on D-LAG indicators:

-Weapons possession, access, and/or use

-Direct threats to kill

-Victim perceives perpetrator might kill them



-Intrusive coercive behaviors

-Forced sex

-Victim has left/attempting to leave the relationship

-Unemployed offender

-Victim’s child is not the perpetrator’s child

-Escalating violence

Protection Planning

If Present Danger is identified, and in some cases when not identified, a Temporary Protection Plan will be put into place the same day (before the CPS caseworker leaves the home). This is to allow time for additional interviews and investigations into the family, complete documentation, make decisions, and/or complete a more rigorous safety analysis.

Impending Threat Assessment

If any of the following 11 threats are present, it will be interpreted to mean a child is in a state of danger:

1. Living arrangements seriously endanger a child’s physical health.

2. Family does not have resources to meet basic needs.

3. One or both caregivers intend(ed) to hurt the child.

4. Child is perceived in extremely negative terms by one or both caregivers.

5. The caregiver is unwilling or unable to perform parental duties and responsibilities, which could result in serious harm to the child.

6. One or both caregivers fear they will maltreat their child and/or are requesting placement.

7. One or both caregivers lack parenting knowledge, skills, or motivation which affects child safety

8. The caregiver’s drug and/or alcohol use is pervasive and threatens child safety.

9. One or both caregivers are violent; this includes domestic violence and general violence.

10. One or both caregivers cannot control behavior.

11. Child has exceptional needs which the caregivers cannot or will not meet.

Safety Evaluation Conclusion

Based on the Family Functioning Assessment, Present Danger Assessment, and Impending Threat Assessment (regardless of whether or not abuse or neglect occurred), a determination will be made regarding whether or not the family will have a case opened for ongoing CPS.

The child(ren) will be determined to be either:

1. Safe

2. Unsafe

If SAFE and maltreatment allegations are unsubstantiated, the case will be closed. Referrals may be made to community resources, if necessary.

If SAFE, but maltreatment allegations are substantiated, a case will be opened for ongoing CPS.

If UNSAFE, a Temporary Protection Plan or Safety Plan may be implemented and a case will be opened for ongoing CPS.

Possible Results of Family Functioning Assessment Include:

The Family Functioning Assessment is designed to collect enough in-depth information about the child and family to make decisions and take any actions CPS determines necessary. It includes:

Case Closed

The case may be screened out with a determination that the child is safe and any maltreatment allegations are unsubstantiated. The case will be closed, but the file generated will remain. Referrals to optional supportive services and community resources may be offered.

Ongoing CPS Case Opened

SAFE With Substantiated Abuse

If it is determined that the child is currently safe, but the maltreatment allegations are substantiated, the abuse or neglect will be recorded and a case will be opened for Ongoing Child Protective Services.

UNSAFE With Substantiated Abuse

If it is determined that the child is currently unsafe and the maltreatment allegations are substantiated, the abuse or neglect will be recorded, a Temporary Protection Plan and/or Safety Plan will be put in place, and a case will be opened for Ongoing Child Protective Services.

Additional CPS Actions In Cases of Substantiated Abuse

Following the opening of an Ongoing CPS case, additional CPS actions may include (as applicable):

-Referral to Multi-Disciplinary Investigative Team

-Temporary Protection Plan (Present Danger)

-Safety Plan (Impending Threat)

-Case Management

-Needs Assessment

-Support Case Services Plan

Initial & ongoing investigations of a civil and criminal nature may be made related to the case.

Referrals may be made to law enforcement, a medical examiner, and/or a prosecuting attorney, as applicable.

Referrals may be made for court-ordered parenting classes, mental health treatment, drug and alcohol services, and other interventions.

Access will be made to supportive community services, as well as other resources as deemed necessary.

3. Safety Planning (If Necessary)

If it is determined a child is unsafe and in need of protection, the family will be required to abide by a Safety Plan. This will determine the level of CPS invasiveness in the home. If the family cannot abide by the Safety Plan, the child will be removed from the home, legal custody will be transferred to the state, and the child may be placed with a family member or other suitable individual, in an institution, foster home, or placed for adoption.

Safety Analysis

The following requirements must be met to qualify for a Safety Plan:

-Family willing to participate and cooperate

-Calm, consistent home environment

-Adequate safety services available

-Safety Plan and Services able to manage Impending Danger

-A residence is available to implement the In-Home Safety Plan

About SAMS

West Virginia uses the Safety Assessment Management System (SAMS). It claims authority based on information from the National Resource Center for Child Protective Services (NRCCPS), case decisions from the West Virginia Supreme Court, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and the Adoption and Safe Families Act, as well as materials from Action for Child Protection (Charlotte, NC & Albuquerque, NM). Notably, Action for Child Protection held the federal grant during NRCCPS’s development of SAMS for CPS. Authority is also claimed through social work standards, Council on AccreditationStandards, Chapters 48 and 49 of the Code of West Virginia, the amended consent decree under Gibson v. Ginsberg, the Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings, Rules of Practice and Procedure for Domestic Violence Proceedings, and Rules of Practice and Procedure for Family Court (US Supreme Court).

4. Ongoing CPS Case Services

When it is determined that a case will be opened for Ongoing CPS Services, an Ongoing CPS Court Order will be sought. Formal and informal safety services provided may include:

Case Management

Child Care

Child Oriented Activity

Crisis Home Management

Emergency Respite

Family Crisis Response

Financial Services

Food / Clothing Service



In-Home Health Care

Needs Assessment

Parenting Assistance

Private Transportation

Public Transportation


Routine / Emergency Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services

Routine / Emergency Medical Care

Routine / Emergency Mental Health Care

Safety Plan (Impending Threat)

Social & Emotional Support


Support Case Services Plan

Temporary Protection Plan (Present Danger)

Other Specified Services

5. Case Evaluation

A family receiving Ongoing CPS must be evaluated every 90 days from the date CPS Ongoing Case Service begins. A Family Case Plan Evaluation must:

1. Measure progress toward stated plan goals

2. Re-evaluate Impending Danger

3. Analyze Safety Plan according to the CPS Formal Safety Evaluation

4. Adjust the Safety Plan to ensure child safety in the LEAST INTRUSIVE MANNER

5. Re-evaluate status of child’s previously identified needs

6. Assess child’s current needs

7. Measure the success of identified child activities

8. Summarize progress

Case evaluation may occur more often, as needed.

6. Case Closure

When it is determined that a child is safe and protected in a permanent home, the ongoing CPS case is to be closed. Successful case closure is based on the CPS Social Worker completing two evaluations:

1. Protective Capacity Case Plan Evaluation

2. Formal Evaluation of Safety

These evaluations must determine, conclusively, that a safe home exists, that caregivers have made sufficient progress in caregiver capacity, and can adequately meet the needs of their children. The impending danger must either no longer exist or be sufficiently marginalized to a level manageable by caregiver and family. The evaluations must be reviewed and approved by a CPS Supervisor.

Formal and informal supports may remain in place following the closure of the CPS ongoing case.

Facing CPS Interrogation In West Virginia?

Contact Us - We Fight For Your Rights!

Isner Law Office offers professional legal guidance and representation you can trust. We can help protect your rights when facing allegations of child abuse, child neglect, child endangerment, and related crimes from Child Protective Services in West Virginia. Contact Isner Law Office today to schedule a consultation. We can answer all of your questions, provide legal advice, and representation in a court of law. Call Isner Law Office at (304) 636-7681.