Child Protective Services

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Child Protective Services (CPS) Focus

Child Protective Services (CPS) is the first step to ensure the safety and permanency of children who are reported as being abused or neglected. The focus of CPS is on protecting the child from harm or risk of harm and to make it safe for the child to live with the parent or caretaker. The CPS worker assesses family functioning and identifies strengths and risks in the home. As part of the assessment to ensure that the home is safe for the child(ren), the CPS worker and family will develop a plan to address any problems that have been identified.

CPS Agencies Respond to Reports of Abuse or Neglect of Children Under the Age of Eighteen

CPS agencies respond to reports of abuse or neglect of children under the age of eighteen. Abuse or neglect complaints are defined in statute, and include mental injury, physical injury, sexual abuse and exploitation, negligent treatment or maltreatment, and excessive corporal punishment. Referrals are also made to community-based services to assist families to prevent their entry into the child welfare system. Clark County Department of Family Services receives fifty percent of the referrals to CPS agencies, thirty-two percent are received by Washoe County Department of Social Services and the balance are received by DCFS agencies.

Nevada Child Protective Service Agencies Conduct Activities in Preventing, Investigating, and Treating Child Abuse and Neglect

In accordance with Chapters 432 and 432B of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), and Nevada’s Regulations for the Protection of Children From Abuse and Neglect (NAC 432B).


Intake is the first stage of the child protective services (CPS) process and is one of the most important decision-making points in the child protection system. It is the point at which reports of suspected child abuse and neglect are received. Information gathered by caseworkers is used to make decisions regarding safety (e.g., Is the child at risk of imminent harm?), risk (e.g., What is the likelihood that maltreatment will occur sometime in the future?), and the type of CPS response required. At intake, caseworkers also perform a critical public relations function by responding professionally and sensitively to the concerns raised by community professionals and citizens, and by clarifying the role of the agency regarding referrals of suspected abuse or neglect. Referrals are accepted from all sources, and each report is treated as a potential case of child maltreatment.


Upon receiving a referral, the intake worker attempts to gather as much information as possible about each family member, the family as a whole, and the nature, extent, severity, and chronicity of the alleged child maltreatment. Once the initial intake information is collected, the caseworker conducts a check of agency records and the Central Registry to determine any past reports or contact with the family. Then the caseworkers must collect and analyze the information and determine if it meets the criteria outlined in Statute regarding the definition of child abuse and neglect and the requirements for response. CPS prioritizes the investigation response time based on a number of factors including the nature of the allegations and the age of the child. The response times are immediate, within twenty-four hours, forty-eight hours, seventy-two hours, or ten days. The average response time for CPS agencies in Nevada is at the 90th percentile level.

Case Findings

Upon completion of the investigation of a report of abuse or neglect, a determination of the case findings are made based on whether there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is abused or neglected or threatened with abuse or neglect. The findings are classified as “Substantiated,” meaning that a report made pursuant to NRS 432B.220 was investigated and that credible evidence of the abuse or neglect exists. “Unsubstantiated” means that a report made pursuant to NRS 432B.220 was investigated and that no credible evidence of the abuse or neglect exists. The type of abuse categories include: neglect, medical neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, and sexual abuse.

Repeat Maltreatment

Of the substantiated reports received, re-abuse in the form of another substantiated report will occur in some cases. Repeat maltreatment occurs when interventions with the family have not been successful in preventing subsequent victimization. The standard for recurrence of maltreatment has been established by the Federal Children’s Bureau. The standard states that for all children who were victims of substantiated child abuse and/or neglect during the first six months of the year, that 6.1% or fewer should have another report within six months. Nevada’s rate was at 7.6% during calendar year 2003.

Community-Based Child Protection Initiatives

Over the past 10 years, promising, community-based child protection initiatives have been implemented that broadened the base of responsibility for supporting families and protecting children. Initially, model programs evolved from targeting intervention activities in high-risk neighborhoods and rebuilding a sense of community toward empowering individual families by teaching and mentoring, building on strengths, and respecting cultural diversity. More recent child welfare reforms have focused on a more flexible and differential response for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect, including the diversion of low and moderate-risk families to community-based services. Nevada was one of the first States to support the flexible response to community-based services.

Because child abuse and neglect are complex and multidimensional, CPS alone cannot effectively intervene in the lives of maltreated children and their families. A coordinated effort that involves a broad range of community agencies and professionals is essential for effective child protection.