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Child Protective Services Program
Our HOTLINE is a HELP Line ... We all need help taking care of our children. If you're concerned about a child's well-being, or want to report or discuss a possible abuse or neglect situation, or want advice, counseling, resources or help, please call:
Child Protective Services/Abuse Hotlines
|LOCAL||City of Chesapeake's Child Protective Services Hotline: 757-382-2020|
|STATE||Virginia State Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-552-7096 (After hours, weekends, holidays)|
Abuse and neglect of children affects many people in the community. The abused or neglected child is the primary victim. Such maltreatment may lead to a variety of problems and disorders that may follow the child into adulthood.
The abusive or neglectful parents or caretakers suffer as well. Most of them do not want to hurt children but may be repeating the abusive behavior they experienced as children or may not have the skills needed for the very tough job of parent. Other family members, especially brothers and sisters of abused children, may exhibit emotional and behavioral problems as well, even though they are not the primary targets of abuse.
Finally, communities as a whole suffer. As abusive and neglectful acts touch lives in ever-widening circles, the potential for harm to the "fabric" of the community increases.
How do you recognize abuse and neglect?
The most commonly recognized types of abuse and neglect are physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and sexual abuse or exploitation. Signs of abuse and neglect include:
- A child with repeated injuries such as bruises, welts, or burns
- A child who is withdrawn, angry, depressed, aggressive
- A child who exhibits extremes in behavior, such as being excessively aggressive or being overly compliant; being afraid to go with a caretaker or clinging and not wanting to separate
- A child who is inadequately dressed for the weather, is malnourished, physically dirty, tired, or unsupervised; or is not receiving needed medical treatment
- A child who shows signs of or reports sexual abuse or has a sexually transmitted disease.
Anyone may report a concern about the health or safety of a child to:
Division of Social Services
VA Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Any identifying information about the person reporting will remain confidential unless otherwise ordered by the court. Persons reporting in good faith are, by law, immune from civil or criminal liability.
When a complaint is made what happens?
- A Child Protective Services supervisor will determine if the complaint should be investigated or assigned as a family assessment. The state of Virginia has mandated two separate tracks for child abuse and neglect reports. The determination is made by the supervisor based on criteria collected.
- If the situation warrants an investigation or assessment, the CPS worker will make contact with the child, the non-abusive parent/caretaker and the alleged abuser and others having pertinent information.
What can you do?
- Learn to recognize the warning signals and indicators of child abuse and neglect.
- If you suspect abuse or neglect, contact the Child Protective Services Hotline at 757-382-2020
- Encourage schools to provide classes in parenting education for students and parents.
- Request a speaker or in-service training through Child Protective Services – 757-382-2251
- Learn about becoming a foster parent through the Division of Social Services – 757-382-2246 or 757-382-2258
- Start or join community efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect, especially during April, Child Abuse Prevention Month.
- If you see a parent abusing a child in public, approach and say something like, "Looks like you're having a rough day. Is there anything I can do to help?"
- If you are in a store and a child is in danger, offer assistance. For example, if the child has been left unattended in a cart, stand by the child until the parent returns.
- If you are concerned about the physical safety of the child, alert the store manager.
Child Protective Services Family Assessment
What happens during a Family Assessment?
In most cases, the CPS social worker and family members work together to complete a child safety and family needs assessment. Meeting with the CPS social worker provides an opportunity for you, as a parent, to share your concerns and perspectives on how to raise your child/children, to identify family needs, to ask questions, and to obtain immediate feedback.
If you elect not to participate in a family assessment, the CPS social worker will proceed with conducting a child safety assessment, as required by Virginia law. The CPS social worker will provide you with written feedback concerning your child/children’s safety and related needs, including recommended services.
During a family assessment, the CPS social worker will:
- Conduct an initial safety assessment and develop a safety plan for the child, if needed.
- Talk face to face with you, your children and others who may live with you or with extended family and other family supports.
- Look for signs of injury, abuse, or neglect.
- Observe your home’s environment.
- Check for prior reports of abuse or neglect, complete a risk assessment with your family and determine what services, if any, are needed to prevent future abuse or neglect.
- Request your assistance in identifying other individuals who may be able to help your family if services are needed to keep your child/children safe.
- Arrange for services to support your family.
If your family needs services, the CPS social worker will offer to develop a service plan with you, and link you to available community resources such as family counseling, parent support groups, substance abuse services, children’s programs, child care, etc.
You may also choose to decline services for your family that are offered as a result of the family assessment. The case will be closed if there is no threat to your child/children’s safety. If your child/children’s safety is compromised, the CPS social worker will consider petitioning the court to require additional services to ensure the safety of your child/children.
Child Sexual Abuse
How should one react to a child's report of molestation?
Children rarely make up abuse stories. Never deny what a child is telling you. Such a response adds to a child's anxiety when it is vital that he or she feel protected. It is helpful to be supportive and say something like, "It took a lot of courage for you to tell this. This is not your fault. You are not to blame. We care about you, and we're going to see that this person doesn't hurt you again."
After the child has told you, what next?
Listen to what the child has to say. Do not try to "turn off" the talking or act as if it makes you uncomfortable. If you do this, you may inhibit the child's disclosure. Do not ask questions or put the child on the spot.
The social worker from Child Protective Services is trained to get the information needed. It is best to keep the number of people the child must talk to at a minimum.
Thank the child for telling and mention that it was the right thing to do. You might say, "This is a problem we need help with. We have special people who can help. They know all about this kind of thing and what needs to be done."
What happens to family relationships?
Child sexual abuse affects the whole family system — parents, siblings, extended family. All family members experience diverse emotions as a result of the disclosure and intervention. Each family member experiences these emotions at many times and in many ways. It is important for family members to receive therapeutic intervention, which is often a lengthy process.
The therapist selected should have experience working with sexual abuse victims, their families, CPS caseworkers and the court system. The CPS worker can refer to a therapist, treatment center or support groups — all helpful resources.
What is the role of Child Protective Services?
The safety of the children is the paramount responsibility of the Child Protective Services social worker, who intervenes in whatever way is necessary to ensure the child's safety and to prevent further harm from abuse or neglect. Protecting the child, validating the sexual abuse, and seeing to the safety of other possible victims, such as siblings or friends, are stressful issues that the family must address. The social worker helps plan and provide services to:
- Enhance every family's ability to provide proper care and nurturance for their children within their own home, community and culture,
- Prevent separation of the child from the family whenever possible,
- Preserve and rehabilitate the family,
- Provide a stable, permanent alternative placement as quickly as possible for every child who cannot return home,
- Reunify children with families as quickly as possible.
- NOTE: The following signs and symptoms do not necessarily signify that a child has been sexually abused. They may indicate that the child is in trouble in some way and point to other issues which need to be addressed. If you are in doubt about what to do, seek professional guidance through the Child Abuse Hotline, a Community Mental Health Center, or a private therapist.
What are the signs and indicators of sexual abuse of children?
What are the family indicators of sexual abuse of children?
- Gross overcrowding in home – insufficient sleeping space
- Alcoholism, substance abuse
- Isolation of family, enforced isolation of child
- Child given excessive adult responsibility ("parentified" child)
- Unusually severe conflict with parents over dating, dressing, friends
- "No talk" rules in families
- Lack of privacy, nudity, inappropriate dress
- Intense conflict between parents
- Overly strict or, conversely, chaotic "anything goes" home
- Denial that there is a problem
How You Can Help
If I think a child is being abused or neglected, what should I do?
If you're concerned about a child's well being — or if you would like advice, counseling, resources or help for yourself or others — call the City of Chesapeake Child Protective Services at: 757-382-2020. You may give your name or remain anonymous, if you wish.
If I give my name, will it be released to anyone?
If you choose to leave your name, it will be kept confidential.
What happens when I call the Hotline?
You'll be connected to a CPS Hotline social worker who will ask questions to help us determine if the situation you're reporting requires further attention. The information will be passed to a Child Protective Service supervisor who determines if further attention is needed. If so, a CPS social worker will respond to the situation.
Will the child be removed from the home?
A child is removed from the home ONLY as a last resort. As defined in Virginia law, this would be when there is "imminent threat to the life or health of the child." In such cases, CPS social workers do not act alone. They must have court approval to remove a child from a parent's custody. Usually, approval occurs before the child is removed, however, in extreme emergencies, the court may approve after the removal.
The Child Protective Services social worker will schedule with you and your family members a Family Partnership Meeting in high and very high risk situations provide a voice to the family of what services are needed in order to decrease the risk of further abuse and neglect of the child and siblings. The Family Partnership Meeting is scheduled in emergency situations where possible and at specific points in time to establish the service plan and review the plan and progress of the family.
What happens to a child when he or she is removed from the home?
Every attempt is made to place the child with family members or relatives. If that is not possible, the child is placed in a temporary foster home.
Does CPS become involved in child custody or visitation disputes?
Child Protective Services becomes involved ONLY when there is a legitimate complaint that a child is a victim of abuse or neglect by the child's caretaker (parent, guardian, etc.).
At what age can a child be left alone and for how long?
Virginia state statutes do not set a specific age after which a child legally can stay alone. Age alone is not a very good indicator of a child's maturity level. Some very mature 10-year-olds may be ready for self-care while some 15-year-olds may not be ready due to emotional problems or behavioral difficulties. In determining whether a child is capable of being left alone and whether a parent is providing adequate supervision in such situations, child protective services (CPS) will assess several areas. These areas include:
- A Child's Level of Maturity. CPS will want to assess whether the child is physically capable of taking care of himself; is mentally capable of recognizing and avoiding danger and making sound decisions; is emotionally ready to be alone; knows what to do and whom to call if an emergency arises; and has special physical, emotional, or behavioral problems that make it unwise to leave be left alone. It is important to note that a child who can take care of him/herself may not be ready to care for younger children.
- Accessibility of Those Responsible for the Child. CPS will want to determine the location and proximity of the parents, whether they can be reached by phone and can get home quickly if needed, and whether the child knows the parents' location and how to reach them.
- The Situation. CPS will want to assess the time of day and length of time the children are left alone; the safety of the home or neighborhood; whether the parents have arranged for nearby adults to be available in case a problem arises; and whether there is a family history of child abuse or neglect.
- It is also helpful to have this Safety Plan including parent’s phone numbers, the arranged neighbor’s name, address and phone numbers and other pertinent information written down and posted somewhere visible in the home.
Child Protective Services Ongoing Services
Families that have findings for abuse and neglect are referred to the CPS Ongoing Services Team for continued service needs. The social worker will schedule a Family Partnership Meeting to establish the needed services to assist the family and to prevent further abuse and neglect. The family and their support system are encouraged to fully participate in these meetings.