Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF)

A Guide to Child Protective Services (CPS)

CPS Guiding Principles

  • Children need safe, strong families to succeed in life.
  • Child safety, permanency and well-being are our top priorities.
  • Families have the primary responsibility for raising their children.
  • Families should be treated with respect, valuing their strengths, their culture and their involvement in decisions that affect them and their children.
  • Prevention is paramount, and all actions should focus on improving family situations.
  • Children belong with families-their own, when safe to do so and when it is not, with a safe, permanent family as soon as possible.
  • The community must be a partner in supporting and strengthening both birth families and resource families.

Boy with magnifying glass

I. Basic Information, Receipt and Response to a CPS Report

  1. The Goal of Child Protective Services

    Child Protective Services’ primary objective is to keep children safe within their own families. CPS works cooperatively with parents to make that happen. Child Protective Services is a program that seeks to help families by strengthening the ability of parents, guardians or custodians to provide good care for their children. The program tries to balance the legal rights of parents and the needs and rights of children to live in a physically and emotionally healthful situation.

  2. Basic Information About Child Abuse And Neglect

    Sometimes parents, guardians or custodians take actions that create a danger to children in the home. Other times, parents, guardians or custodians fail to act to protect their children which can or does result in their children being abused or neglected. There are several types of abuse and neglect:

    • Physical abuse includes non-accidental physical injuries such as broken bones, bruises, burns, cut or other injuries.
    • Sexual abuse occurs when there is sexual conduct or contact with children. Using children in pornography, prostitution or other types of sexual activity is also sexual abuse.
    • Neglect exists when parents, guardians or custodians place children at unreasonable risk of harm.

  3. Categories of Abuse and Neglect

    The type of abuse occurring and the level of risk to the child determine how Child Protective Services (CPS) responds to a report. Reports of abuse and neglect are categorized as high risk, low, moderate risk and potential risk. A CPS report is defined based on ARS §8-802 as being an incoming communication to 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445) containing an allegation that:

    a person presently under the age of 18 is the subject of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment or exploitation which a parent, guardian or custodian has inflicted, may inflict, permitted another person to inflict or had reason to know another person may inflict AND contains sufficient information to locate the child.

    The following are the major categories of abuse and neglect to which CPS responds:

    1. Abuse

      As defined in A.R.S. § 8-201External Link Icon (2) means the infliction or allowing of physical injury, impairment of bodily function or disfigurement or the infliction of or allowing another person to cause serious emotional damage as evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or untoward aggressive behavior and which emotional damage is diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist and is caused by the acts or omissions of an individual having care, custody and control of a child. Abuse also includes:

      1. Inflicting or allowing sexual abuse pursuant to section 13-1404External Link Icon, sexual conduct with a minor pursuant to section 13-1405External Link Icon, sexual assault pursuant to section 13-1406External Link Icon, molestation of a child pursuant to section 13-1410External Link Icon, commercial sexual exploitation of a minor pursuant to section 13-3552External Link Icon, sexual exploitation of a minor pursuant to section 13-3553External Link Icon, incest pursuant to section 13-3608External Link Icon or child prostitution pursuant to section 13-3212External Link Icon.
      2. Physical injury that results from permitting a child to enter or remain in any structure or vehicle in which volatile, toxic or flammable chemicals are found or equipment is possessed by any person for the purpose of manufacturing a dangerous drug as defined in section 13-3401External Link Icon.
      • Physical Abuse

        Physical abuse includes the infliction or allowing the infliction of a physical injury to a child.

        Physical injury is the impairment of a physical condition and includes:

        1. skin bruising including bruising to the corners of the mouth which may indicated that the child was gagged,
        2. pressure sores,
        3. bleeding,
        4. failure to thrive or pediatric undernourishment (requires medical diagnosis),
        5. malnutrition (requires medical diagnosis),
        6. dehydration (requires medical diagnosis),
        7. burns, which may include water burns, rope burns, rug burns and other abrasions,
        8. subdural hematoma (requires medical diagnosis),
        9. soft tissue swelling, which may include bald patches where hair has been pulled out, bite demarcation, and welts such as from cords or other objects,
        10. injury to any internal organ (requires medical diagnosis), or
        11. any physical condition which imperils a child’s health or welfare.

        Physical abuse also includes inflicting or allowing the impairment of bodily function or disfigurement.

      • Sexual Abuse

        National Center for Child Abuse and Child Neglect (NCCAN) defined sexual abuse as the involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and adolescents in sexual activities that they do not fully comprehend, to which they are unable to give informed consent, or that violate the social taboos of family roles. (The Battered Child, 3rd Ed., Kempe, C. Henry and Helfer, Ray E.) Sexual Abuse is any act designed to stimulate a child sexually, or to use a child for the sexual stimulation either of the perpetrator or of another person. (NCCAN). Sexual Misuse is defined as exposure of a child to sexual stimulation inappropriate for the child's age and role in the family.

        Sexual offenses Against Children
        Arizona Revised Statutes: Definitions - The following forms of sexual abuse and misuse are included in the ARS definition of child abuse (ARS §8-201(2)):

        Sexual Abuse - ARS §13-1404 - " A person commits sexual abuse by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual contact with any person fifteen or more years of age without consent of that person or with any person who is under fifteen years of age if the sexual contact involves only the female breast."

        Sexual Conduct with a Minor - ARS §13-1405 - "A person commits sexual conduct with a minor by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person who is under eighteen years of age."

        Sexual Assault - ARS §13-1406 - "A person commits sexual assault by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person without consent of such person."

        Molestation of a Child - ARS §13-1410 - "A person commits molestation of a child by intentionally or knowingly engaging in or causing a person to engage in sexual contact, except sexual contact with the female breast, with a child under fifteen years of age."

        Additional Sexual offenses include:

        Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Minor - ARS §13-3552 - "A person commits commercial sexual exploitation of a minor by knowingly:

        1. Using, employing, persuading, enticing, inducing or coercing a minor to engage in or assist others to engage in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct for the purpose of producing any visual or print medium or live act depicting such conduct;
        2. Using, employing, persuading, enticing, inducing or coercing a minor to expose the genitals or anus or the areola or nipple of the female breast for financial or commercial gain;
        3. Permitting a minor under such person’s custody or control to engage in or assist others to engage in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct for the purpose of producing any visual or print media or live act depicting such conduct;
        4. Transporting or financing the transportation of any minor through or across the state with the intent that such minor engage in prostitution, exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct for the purpose of producing a visual or print medium or live act depicting such conduct."

        Sexual Exploitation of a Minor - ARS §13-3553 - "A person commits sexual exploitation of a minor by knowingly:

        1. Recording, filming, photographing, developing or duplicating any visual or print medium in which minors are engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct;
        2. Distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, purchasing, possessing or exchanging any visual or print medium in which minors are engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct."

        Incest - ARS §13-3608 - "Persons who are fifteen or more years of age and are within the degrees of consanguinity within which marriages are declared by law to be incestuous and void, who knowingly intermarry with each other, or who knowingly commit fornication or adultery with each other.

        Child Prostitution - ARS §13-3212 - " A person commits child prostitution by knowingly:

        1. Causing any minor to engage in prostitution;
        2. Using any minor for purposes of prostitution;
        3. Permitting a minor under such persons custody or control to engage in prostitution;
        4. Receiving any benefit for or on account of procuring or placing a minor in any place or in the charge or custody of any person for the purpose of prostitution;
        5. Receiving any benefit pursuant to an agreement to participate in the proceeds of prostitution of a minor;

        Financing, managing, supervising, controlling or owning, either alone or in association with others, prostitution activity involving a minor; Transporting or financing the transportation of any minor through or across this state with the intent that such minor engage in prostitution."

      • Emotional Abuse

        Emotional abuse is evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or improper aggressive behavior as diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist and caused by the acts or omissions of the parent or caretaker (ARS §8-201).

        Emotional maltreatment includes blaming, belittling or rejecting a child, constantly treating siblings unequally, and persistent lack of concern by the caretaker for the child's welfare. Emotional maltreatment is rarely manifest in physical signs, particularly in the normal school setting; speech disorders, lags in physical development, and failure to thrive syndrome are physical indicators of emotional maltreatment. More often it is observed through behavioral indicators, and even these indicators may not be immediately apparent.

    2. Neglect

      Neglect as defined in A.R.S. § 8-201External Link Icon (22) means:

      1. The inability or unwillingness of a parent, guardian or custodian of a child to provide that child with supervision, food, clothing, shelter or medical care if that inability or unwillingness causes unreasonable risk of harm to the child's health or welfare, except if the inability of a parent or guardian to provide services to meet the needs of a child with a disability or chronic illness is solely the result of the unavailability of reasonable services.
      2. Permitting a child to enter or remain in any structure or vehicle in which volatile, toxic or flammable chemicals are found or equipment is possessed by any person for the purposes of manufacturing a dangerous drug as defined in section 13-3401External Link Icon.
      3. Prenatal Substance Exposure to Newborn Infant (under 30 days of age) or Infant (from birth up to one year of age)
        1. Newborn Infant (under 30 days of age)

          Determination by a health professional that a newborn infant

          (under 30 days of age) was exposed prenatally to a drug or substance listed in section 13-3401External Link Icon and that this exposure was not the result of a medical treatment administered to the mother or the newborn infant by a health professional

        2. Infant (from birth up to one year of age)

          A substance exposed infant, from birth up to one year of age, who is demonstrably adversely affected by the mother's use of a dangerous drug, a narcotic drug or alcohol during pregnancy. A dangerous drug or narcotic drug has the same meaning as defined in ARS § 13-3401External Link Icon.

      4. Diagnosis by a health professional of an infant under one year of age with clinical findings consistent with) fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or fetal alcohol effects (FAE).
      5. Deliberate exposure of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian to:
        • Sexual Conduct, as defined in section 13-3551External Link Icon, means actual or simulated:
          • sexual intercourse including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same sex or opposite sex;
          • penetration of the vagina or rectum by any object except as one does as part of a recognized medical procedure;
          • sexual bestiality;
          • masturbation for the purpose of the sexual stimulation of the viewer;
          • sadomasochistic abuse for the purpose of sexual stimulation of the viewer; or
          • defecation or urination for the purpose of sexual stimulation of the viewer.
        • Sexual Contact, as defined in 13-1401External Link Icon, means any direct or indirect touching, fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast by any part of the body or by any object or causing a person to engage in such conduct.
        • Oral Sexual Contact, as defined in § 13-1401External Link Icon, means oral contact with the penis, vulva or anus.
        • Sexual Intercourse, as defined in § 13-1401External Link Icon, means penetration into the penis, vulva, or anus by any part of the body or by any object or masturbatory contact with the penis or vulva.
        • Bestiality, as defined in section 13-1411External Link Icon, means engaging in or causing another person to engage in oral sexual contact, sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an animal.
        • Explicit Sexual Materials, as defined in section 13-3507External Link Icon, means any drawing, photograph, film negative, motion picture, figure, object, novelty device, recording, transcription or any book, leaflet, pamphlet, magazine, booklet or other item, the cover or contents of which depicts human genitalia or depicts or verbally describes nudity, sexual activity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse in a way which is harmful to minors.
      6. Any of the following acts committed by the child’s parent, guardian or custodian with reckless disregard as to whether the child is physically present:
        • Sexual Contact as defined in section 13-1401External Link Icon  
        • Oral Sexual Contact as defined in section 13-1401External Link Icon  
        • Sexual Intercourse as defined in section 13-1401External Link Icon  
        • Bestiality as prescribed in section 13-1411External Link Icon

    3. Abandonment

      Is defined in ARS §8-201(1) as "the failure of the parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including the providing of normal supervision, when such failure is accompanied by an intention on the part of the parent to permit such condition to continue for an indefinite period in the future. Abandoned includes a judicial finding that a parent has made only minimal efforts to support and communicate with the child. Failure to maintain a normal parental relationship with the child without just cause for a period of six months shall constitute prima facie evidence of abandonment."

    4. Confinement

      Means the restriction of movement or confining a child to an enclosed area and/or using a threat of harm or intimidation to force a child to remain in a location or position.

      Confinement is unreasonable if, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, the confinement is such that a reasonable (ordinarily cautious) parent, guardian or custodian would not use that method of confinement. The totality of the circumstances includes consideration of the child’s age, developmental and cognitive functioning and any special needs such as mental illness, behavioral health, physical limitations, and length of confinement.

    5. Non-Sexual Exploitation

      is defined for CPS purposes to mean "the use of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian for material gain which may include forcing the child to panhandle, steal or perform other illegal activities."



  4. How Does Child Protective Services Receive Information about a Family?

    A report can be made to the CPS Statewide Toll-Free Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-767-2445, (1-888-SOS-CHILD) or law enforcement office.

    When reporting, the following information if known will be requested:

    • name, age, and gender of child and other family members
    • address, phone numbers, and/or directions to child's home
    • parents' place of employment
    • description of suspected abuse or neglect
    • current condition of the child

    If the information meets report criteria, it is categorized to the severity of the allegations; this categorization determines how quickly a response is made.

  5. Who Must Report Child Abuse?

    Any person who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of physical injury, abuse, child abuse, a reportable offense or neglect that appears to have been inflicted on the minor by other than accidental means or that is not explained by the available medical history as being accidental in nature, or who reasonably believes that there has been a denial or deprivation of necessary medical treatment or surgical care or nourishment with the intent to cause or allow the death of an infant who is protected under A.R.S. § 36-2281, shall immediately report or cause reports to be made of this information to a peace office or to Child Protective Services in the Department of Economic Security, except if the report concerns a person who does not have care, custody or control of the minor, the report shall be made to a peace office only.

    The following persons are required by law to report:

    • Any physician, physician's assistant, optometrist, dentist, osteopath, chiropractor, podiatrist, behavioral health professional, nurse, psychologist, counselor or social worker who develops the reasonable belief in the course of treating a patient.
    • Any peace officer, member of the clergy, priest or Christian Science practitioner.
    • The parent, stepparent or guardian of the minor.
    • School personnel or domestic violence victim advocates who develop the reasonable belief in the course of their employment.
    • Any other person who has responsibility for the care or treatment of the minor.

    A person making a report or providing information about a child is immune from civil or criminal liability unless such person has been charged with, or is suspected of, the abuse or neglect in question.

    A person acting with malice who either knowingly or intentionally makes a false report of child abuse and neglect or who coerces another person to make a false report is guilty of a crime. A person who knowingly and intentionally falsely accuses another of maliciously making a false report of child abuse and neglect is also guilty of a crime.

  6. When to Report?

    A report should be made when any person, who reasonably believes that a child under 18 has been abused, neglected, exploited or abandoned. A report of suspected abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment is only a request for an investigation. The person making the report does not need to prove the abuse. Investigation and validation of child abuse reports are the responsibilities of child protective service workers.

    If additional incidents of abuse occur after the initial report has been made, make another report.

  7. How Does Child Protective Services Investigate Reports of Child Abuse?

    The law requires Child Protective Services to investigate reports of suspected child abuse or neglect by a parent, guardian or custodian. To do this, the law allows CPS to talk to alleged victims and their siblings without parental permission. Often this occurs at school because it is a neutral environment. A CPS Specialist, will visit the family home to discuss the report and to talk about the family situation. The CPS Specialist will talk to all children, parents, guardians or custodians and other adults living in the home but may also speak to family members or others who may provide information. It is hoped that the family will cooperate with the CPS Specialist since that will allow the family to clarify issues of concern and allow for a more accurate investigation. After gathering information, a child and family assessment will be completed by the CPS Specialist to identify services that may assist the family.

    Parents and other individuals have the right to refuse to be interviewed by the CPS representative, to provide information and refuse services offered. However, CPS may proceed with the investigation and file a dependency petition in the juvenile court when it is necessary to protect a child.

  8. Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services

    Suspected child abuse or neglect may be reported to the police, to Child Protective Services or both. If the report concerns a person who is not the parent, guardian or custodian of the minor, the report is made to the police. In cases where the report is concerning a parent, guardian or custodian and the allegations are criminal conduct allegations, such as sex abuse, a call is made to CPS and the police. CPS will coordinate its investigations with law enforcement. Although CPS cooperates with the police, the focus of its assessment is different. CPS seeks to protect children and to maintain and stabilize families, not to arrest or prosecute parents.

  9. When a Child Needs Protection

    Few of the children who are reported to Child Protective Services are removed from their homes. In most situations where verified family problems exist, the families and CPS work together cooperatively to resolve them. However, under certain circumstances, the law does allow a police officer or a CPS Specialist to temporarily remove a child for up to 72 hours (not including weekends and holidays) for protection while the investigation takes place.

    A child may be removed for up to 12 hours for a medical or psychological evaluation. If the CPS investigation shows that the child must remain out of the home for a longer period to protect him/her from harm, CPS arranges for safe, temporary care.

  10. Safeguarding Rights

    Arizona state law gives Child Protective Services (CPS) the authority to protect and to aid children who are at risk in their own homes. These same laws provide safeguards for the rights of children and their parents. Law enforcement officers and CPS specialists may remove a child from the parents if a child is suffering or will imminently suffer abuse or neglect, or for a medical or psychological examination to determine if the child has been abused or neglected. Parents whose children have been removed from the home are given a Temporary Custody Notice within six hours. If a dependency petition is filed, parents are notified of the date, time and location court will review the temporary custody of their children. Children and parents have the right to receive services to promote timely reunification as a family.

  11. Team Decision Making Meeting

    The decision to remove a child is not made by one person. The CPS Specialist discusses each case with a supervisor. When an emergency removal of a child has occurred or the removal of a child is being considered, a Team Decision Making (TDM) Meeting is held. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the child’s safety and where they will live.

    If a child is removed from the parent, guardian or custodian’s custody or if removal of a child is being considered the following outcomes at the TDM Meeting may occur:

    • The child is returned or remains in the parent’s custody;
    • A dependency petition or In-Home Intervention is filed in the juvenile court; or
    • A voluntary foster care agreement is made.

    In certain situations, the parent, guardian or custodian and CPS may agree to place a child in voluntary foster care as an alternative to a dependency petition. This service, limited to a 90-day period, is entered into only when families are willing and able to resolve problems within the allowed time frames. Written consent of the parents as well as the child, if age 12 or older, is required.

  12. What Happens after Child Protective Services Completes the Investigation?

    After CPS completes an investigation, the parent, guardian or custodian involved will receive a letter stating whether or not the information found during the CPS investigation concludes there is reason to believe the allegations of abuse and/or neglect are true; this is referred to as either a “substantiated” or “unsubstantiated” finding. If the finding is substantiated, that means there is reason to believe the abuse/neglect did take place. An unsubstantiated finding means there was insufficient evidence to conclude the abuse or neglect took place. If the CPS Specialist is considering a substantiated finding, the parent, guardian or custodian involved will also receive a letter explaining how an appeal of the decision may be requested. This letter will also inform the parent, guardian or custodian how they can request a copy of the CPS report which contains the information reported to CPS alleging abuse and/or neglect.

    If an appeal hearing is requested, the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Protective Services Review Team (PSRT) will review all information and determine if there is enough evidence to agree with the decision made by CPS. If the PSRT disagrees with the decision made by CPS, the parent, guardian or custodian will be notified of this in writing and the allegation will not be substantiated.

    If the PSRT agrees with the CPS decision, a hearing will be scheduled for the person with the Office of Administrative Hearings. At this hearing, an Administrative Law Judge will hear all the evidence and make a decision about the allegation and the finding.

  13. What Services Are Provided Through CPS during or after an Investigation?

    The level of services provided to a family is determined on a case by case basis and/or by court determination, some services that may be provided to families involved with CPS after the initial investigation are: Day Care, Parent Aide, Medical and Psychological Examinations and Evaluations, Shelter Care, Counseling, and other administrative and support services.

  14. Voluntary Placement

    Voluntary placement is a time-limited service that may be provided for a child as an alternative for the family to keep their child safe. A case plan must be developed with the family aimed at resolving safety and/or risk factors that must be addressed in order for the child to live safely at home. Placement under a voluntary placement agreement shall be with a relative or licensed out-of-home care provider. Voluntary Placement Agreements shall not:

    • exceed 90 days;
    • be consecutive (“back-to-back”) placement agreements;
    • be utilized more than twice within 24 consecutive months, [ARS §8-806External Link Icon(C)];
    • be accepted for a child without the written, informed consent of the parent, legal guardian or legal custodian. [ARS §8-806External Link Icon(E)]
    • be accepted for a child who is age 12 or older and not developmentally disabled without the written informed consent of the child, unless the department determines that voluntary placement is clearly necessary to prevent abuse. [ ARS §8-806 External Link Icon(F)]

  15. Family Support Services

    Family Support Services work with families to ensure children’s safety while helping families solve the problems that place children at risk. These services are provided in local communities and may include: help getting necessary food, housing, clothing or medical care; substance abuse testing and treatment; counseling; child care; and parent skills training.

  16. Arizona Child Protection Laws

    Arizona’s laws about child protection are contained in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 8, Sections 2-5. These may be obtained at any county court house building, at the public library, or on-line at www.azleg.govExternal Link Icon.

  17. Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

    Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

    Below is information about how and when ICWA applies after an American Indian child is removed from the custody of a parent or a family member by state child protective services.

    What is ICWA, and why was it passed?

    The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law passed in 1978 by the United States Congress. ICWA was passed in response to public and private agencies removing high numbers of American Indian children from their homes for reasons other than child neglect or child abuse. The intent of congress under the ICWA was to "protect the best interests of American Indian children and to promote the stability and security of American Indian tribes and families." ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an American Indian child who is a member of or eligible for membership in federally recognized tribes.

    How does ICWA protect American Indian/Alaskan Native children and their families?

    When state child protective services removes an American Indian child from a parent(s) or a family member, the child's tribe and family will have an opportunity to be involved in decisions affecting services for the American Indian child. A tribe or a parent can also demand to transfer jurisdiction of the case to their own tribal court. ICWA sets out federal requirements concerning removal and placement of an American Indian child in foster or adoptive home and allow the child's tribe to intervene in the case.

    Who is covered by ICWA?

    An American Indian child who is involved in state child custody proceeding is covered by ICWA. A person may explain his or her identity as American Indian but in order for ICWA to apply, the involved child must be an American Indian child as defined by law. ICWA defines an "American Indian child" as "any unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a) a member of an American Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an American Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an American Indian tribe." Individual American Indian tribes have the right under federal law to decide eligibility, membership, or both. However, in order for ICWA to apply, the child must be a member of or eligible for membership in a federal recognized American Indian tribe.

    How do I know if my child is eligible for membership in a tribe?

    All tribes have the right to decide who is a member of their tribe, and different tribes have different requirements for eligibility. Contact the child's tribe to understand these requirements for the particular tribe in question.

    What if my child is American Indian but is not a member of a federally recognized tribe?

    ICWA would not apply to your child's case if your child does not meet the definition of an "American Indian child" outlined in the law. Other federal and state laws, however, may provide other protections, including relative placement provisions and the opportunity to be heard in a case review hearing.

    State compliance with the ICWA requirements

    A state child protective services worker must make several considerations when managing an ICWA case; such as:

    • Offering active efforts to the family (see What is meant by "active efforts")
    • Identifying a placement that fits under the ICWA preference requirement
    • Notifying the child's tribe and the child's parents of child custody proceedings
    • Working sincerely with the child's tribe and the child's parents in the child welfare system

    Your caseworker should be able to explain your rights under ICWA and any other case actions in a manner that is easy for you to understand.

    Who should you contact if you feel that your rights under ICWA are not being followed?

    You should contact an attorney, legal services or the child's tribe when you feel ICWA is not being applied correctly in your child's case. The court may order different services or a different placement if it is determined that ICWA is not being applied correctly.

    What is meant by "active efforts"? What considerations should be made in an ICWA case?

    "Active efforts" are assisting a parent or an American Indian custodian get help at an early stage of case development and provide an opportunity for the child's tribe to participate in all case planning decisions.

    States are required to provide active efforts to families, and the court will be asked to decide whether active efforts have been made. The definition of "active efforts" is left open by the ICWA to allow individual case decision be supported by state a caseworker's thorough effort to make contact with the child's tribe, extended family and find and use suitable resources that would help in keeping the family together.

    ICWA directs the state to make active efforts in every ICWA case in two areas:

    • Provide services to the family to prevent removal of an American Indian child from his or her parent or American Indian custodian;
    • Reunify an American Indian child with his or her parent or American Indian custodian after removal.

    Read the entire federal ICWA policyExternal Link Icon (25 KB PDF).

Gavel and law books

II. When the Court becomes involved in a CPS Case

  1. What happens When an In-Home Intervention is Considered?

    If the outcome of the Team Decision Making (TDM) meeting was an In-Home Intervention (IHI), the Child Protective Services (CPS) Specialist will be filing a petition with the Juvenile Dependency Court. With an In-Home Intervention, the child will continue to reside with the parent, guardian or custodian; however, CPS has temporary legal custody of the child. A court date will be scheduled, usually within 21 days. The Judge may make some legal rulings, and confirm the IHI and the services.

    An IHI usually lasts about one year. The CPS Specialist will make a recommendation to the Judge to dismiss the case when they have assessed that CPS and the Court no longer need to be involved.

    CPS Specialists are required to continually assess if the child can safely remain with the parent. The CPS Specialist, along with their supervisor, will formally evaluate child safety at least every six months; however, as family circumstances change, CPS will evaluate if the child can remain safely with the parent, guardian or custodian.

  2. What Happens When an In-Home Dependency is Considered?

    If the outcome of the Team Decision Making (TDM) meeting was an In-Home Dependency, the Child Protective Services (CPS) Specialist will be filing a petition with the Juvenile Court. With an In-Home Dependency, the child will continue to reside with the parent, guardian or custodian; however, CPS has legal custody of your children for the entire time your family is being monitored by the Court. A court date will be scheduled; usually the court date is within five to seven days.

    CPS Specialists are required to continually assess if the child can safely remain with the parent. The CPS Specialist, along with their supervisor, will formally evaluate child safety at least every six months; however, as family circumstances change, CPS will evaluate if the child can remain safely with the parent, guardian or custodian.

  3. What happens When an Out of Home Dependency is Considered?

    When the outcome of the TDM Meeting is for a child to be removed from home for protection from immediate harm, he/she is placed in a licensed foster home, shelter, other licensed facility or with a parent or relative and a petition is filed with the Juvenile Court. Verbal or written notices of the child’s removal are provided. A written notice, called a Temporary Custody Notice (TCN), CPS-1000A, states the reason for removal and the circumstances that placed the child at imminent risk of harm. The TCN will also inform the parent, guardian or custodian to immediately provide any and all information about relatives or other people who have a significant relationship with the child. The parent, guardian or custodian is requested to sign the TCN acknowledging receipt of the notice.

    The Temporary Custody Notice will include information about a Preliminary Protective Hearing, obtaining an attorney, a meeting to be held if a dependency petition is filed with the juvenile court, rights and responsibilities, services available and agencies to contact for assistance.

    If a hearing date is not known when the Temporary Custody Notice is served, CPS will give the parent, guardian or custodian notice of the date and time of the Preliminary Protective Hearingwithin 24 hours of the petition being filed. This hearing will be held within 5 to 7 days of the removal.

    Child Protective Services is required by law to make every effort to identify and notify all adult relatives of the child within 30 days of the child’s removal, of the relatives’ options to become a placement resource for the child. The notice includes the following:

    • Options available to the relative to participate in the child’s care and placement.
    • Describes the requirements to become a licensed foster home and the additional services and supports available for the child in a licensed foster care home.

    This notice is not required when the relative or person having a significant relationship with the child has a history of family or domestic violence.

    CPS Specialists are required to continually assess if the child can safely remain with the parent. The CPS Specialist, along with their supervisor, will formally evaluate child safety at least every six months; however, as family circumstances change, CPS will evaluate if the child can remain safely with the parent, guardian or custodian.

  4. How to Get a Lawyer?

    The court will appoint a lawyer to represent the parents. If they cannot afford the lawyer’s fee, the court provides legal representation without charge. Information regarding how to contact the attorney will be included on the notice of Preliminary Protective Hearing delivered by the CPS Specialist within 24 hours after the dependency petition is filed. The parents may consult with the lawyer at any time and have the lawyer represent them at all hearings concerning the children and their parental rights. Any disagreements with CPS may also be discussed with the lawyer.

    If parents have not requested an attorney before the Preliminary Protective Hearing, or Initial Dependency Hearing, they may make this request at the hearing or at any other time during court involvement.

  5. The Preliminary Protective Hearing

    When a dependency petition has been filed, a Preliminary Protective Hearing will be held within 5 to 7 days from the child’s removal. The parent, guardian or custodian must talk to their attorney before this hearing and come to a meeting called a Preliminary Protective Conference, before the hearing. Other people can come to this meeting, including relatives, witnesses, or others with whom the child might be placed. At this meeting, efforts will be made to reach an agreement about the child’s placement, services that should be provided and visitation with the child. The results of this meeting will be discussed at the hearing. At the hearing the court will make orders about the child’s placement, visitation, tasks and services to be provided.

    If the parent, guardian or custodian denies the allegation in the petition, the court may set a date for an Initial Dependency Hearing.

  6. Initial Dependency Hearing

    An Initial Dependency Hearing will be set within 21 days after the petition is filed. At this hearing the court can declare the child “dependent” or set other conferences or mediation. When a child is declared “dependent”, it basically means the court has ruled that child is in need of parental care and control and that the state of Arizona is legally responsible to provide that. At the same time, a CPS case is now filed in the courts (called a dependency) and CPS will work with the family providing services to address the issues of concern so that the family can reunify if possible.

  7. Other Hearings

    After a child has been declared dependent the court holds a review hearing at least every six months. The purpose of the review hearings is to evaluate the progress made in solving family problems. At these hearings, the court also reviews the child’s placement and decides if its continued involvement is necessary. The court is also required by law to hold a Permanency Hearing if the dependency has been in effect for at least one (1) year. The purpose of the permanency hearing is to determine if the child would be safe if returned home, or if another permanent plan, such as adoption, guardianship or long-term foster care is the most appropriate plan for the child.

  8. Case Plans & Staffings

    A case plan is required for every child and family receiving ongoing services from CPS, consistent with the requirements of federal and state law. The case plan is a document that identifies what behavioral changes are required from the parent and/or the child to address the safety threats and risk factors that caused the child to be removed from the home and/or prevent the child from living safely at home without CPS involvement.The case plan identifies the case goal for the child (permanency), services/supports to be provided to achieve the behavioral changes, person responsible, and planned date of review. The case plan also must include what services/supports will be provided to assure the child’s health, behavior, educational, and independent living needs. The case plan is written and developed with the family. If the parent is not able or willing to participate in the development of the case plan, it will be noted in the plan. The CPS Specialist must provide parents with a copy of the case plan. This proposed case plan must be a part of the report that is submitted to the court at the time of the Preliminary Protective Hearing.

    A staffing is a meeting held with parents and others who are providing services to the family to develop or review the case plan. At the first staffing the permanent case plan is developed. Parents are encouraged and expected to be involved in this planning process. Staffings also provide an opportunity for all participants to discuss progress, exchange ideas and suggestions, and to work together cooperatively to resolve family problems. Regular staffings are scheduled at least every six months to discuss case progress.

  9. Foster Care Review Board

    When a child is placed outside his/her own home, the Foster Care review Board (FCRB) reviews the case within six months of the original date of placement and every six months after that while the child remains in out-of-home care. The function of the FCRB is to review the case plan, and progress toward its goal and objectives and to make sure the child is receiving appropriate care. The FCRB is made up of community members who are appointed by the juvenile court judge in each county. They are not employed by the Department of Economic Security or by the court. People who attend these reviews include the FCRB members, the CPS Specialist, and if appropriate, the parents, the child, and the placement and service providers. The FCRB makes recommendations to the court about individual cases but has no decision-making authority. The court considers the recommendations of the FCRB with other information such as evidence and testimony from parents, case managers and attorneys.

  10. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program

    Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)volunteers are citizens who are appointed by dependency court judges and are trained to investigate the circumstances of children who have been removed from their homes primarily due to abuse or neglect. They become a voice for foster children and help protect their rights by advocating for their best interests, their safety and permanency and by acting as “eyes and ears” for the court.

    Volunteers get to know the child by spending time with them and doing their independent assessment on the case, talking with everyone in that child's life; parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to write a report to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them. For additional information go to: www.CASAofArizona.orgExternal Link Icon  

  11. Foster Care

    All foster homes and other facilities used by CPS to provide temporary out-of-home care are licensed by the state and supervised by an assigned licensing worker. Foster parents are trained to provide care and to work with CPS and family members toward the goal of family reunification. CPS Specialist visit regularly with children and foster families to ensure that the necessary services are being provided and to monitor the child’s progress. The department will provide all children with medical and dental services, which may include updating immunizations (If the parent has concerns regarding any medical treatment the CPS Specialists must be contacted). Whenever possible, children needing protection are placed with members of their extended family. Placements with relatives may occur during the period of temporary custody or at any later time. Relatives providing such placements must agree to a background investigation, a home evaluation, and sign an agreement with CPS that specifies the conditions of placement.

  12. Services for the Family When There is Court Involvement

    The Department of Economic Security provides services to help families deal with problems and work toward the goal of family reunification. Usually, there is no charge for these services. The CPS Specialist talks with family members to decide what is needed. There are also other agencies or groups in Arizona that offer help. Services that may be suggested include:

    • Help in getting food, housing, clothing and medical care.
    • Intensive family preservation services.
    • Psychological evaluations.
    • Individual, family or relationship counseling.
    • Day care.
    • Parent aide services.
    • Parenting skills training.
    • Educational programs, job training or vocational rehabilitation.
    • Sexual assault or domestic violence counseling.
    • Drug or alcohol treatment programs.
    • Peer self-help groups.

  13. Visitation

    Visitation with children in the custody of DES is approved on a case-by-case basis. All case plans for children in out-of-home care include a Visitation Agreement which is developed by the case manager and family members. Family members include persons who are related by blood or law, are legal guardians, siblings, or adults with a meaningful relationship with the child. Family members should contact the child’s CPS Specialist to request visitation.

  14. Parent Responsibilities
    • During Child Protective Services involvement, parents are expected to:
    • Work with CPS to solve family problems.
    • Attend and participate in case staffings, FCRB reviews and court hearings.
    • Provide CPS with information about the children.
    • Keep CPS informed about changes such as a new address, telephone number, job, income, marriage, or other living changes.
    • Follow court orders.
    • Visit children regularly when they are in out-of-home placements.
    • Contribute to the cost of children’s out-of-home care.
    • Keep appointments made with CPS, attorneys, therapists and others who are working with the family.
    • Immediately provide CPS the names, type of relationship and all information you have to locate persons related to or who have a significant relationship with your child. This includes the child’s grandparents, great-grandparents, brothers or sisters of whole or half-blood, aunts, uncles and first cousins.
    • Tell CPS if you do not have enough information to locate a relative or person who has a significant relationship with the child.
    • If you do not have all of this information, immediately provide the information to CPS when you get the information.
    • Be ready to provide this information to the Juvenile Court at the Preliminary Protective Hearing.

  15. When Children Are Returned Home

    The goal of CPS is to return every child who has been removed to a safe and permanent home. The agency helps parents in solving problems and making a safe living situation for their children. Although the CPS Specialist may recommend that a child return home, the court makes the final determination about when the child is returned. CPS works diligently with families to reunify them as quickly as possible and usually continues to provide needed services for some period after family reunification has occurred.

CPS Quick Links Programs for Children in Foster Care More Information





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