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Child Protective Services

Child protective services is the part of DHS that responds to child abuse reports. CPS-trained caseworkers across the state listen to reports of abuse, assess the situations and prepare service plans to assist children and families. CPS staff work closely with law enforcement agencies and other members of multidisciplinary teams in each county to assess child abuse reports.

CPS and law enforcement agencies have a shared legal responsibility for taking child abuse reports and responding to them. The Oregon Child Abuse reporting Law, ORS 419B.005 to 419B.05D, was enacted in 1971 and has been updated several times. The law was designed to provide early identification and protection of children who have been abused.

CPS or law enforcement intervene when a caregiver abuses or neglects a child. When assessing abuse allegations, DHS and law enforcement always consider that an accident or illness may have caused a child’s injury.


For each call CPS receives, the process begins with screening. Information is the foundation of safety assessment.

Every report is handled by a CPS-trained worker who will make an initial determination of whether a report meets the guidelines that require DHS to conduct an assessment of the family.

Reports fall into one of four categories:

  • Information only
  • Referral to other services
  • Not a situation that is child abuse or neglect
  • Possible child abuse or neglect
Those reports that are possible abuse are further analyzed to determine whether an immediate response is needed.

Safety assessment

In many cases after screening, a worker with CPS training will conduct a safety assessment. The worker will talk to the child, the child’s caregivers, which may include family members, and others involved with the child such as teachers or medical professionals.

After an assessment is completed, the information is reviewed to determine if the referral is founded, unfounded or unable to determine.

If a child has been abused or neglected, CPS and law enforcement staff decide, with family help if possible, whether the child can be safely left at home. DHS and law enforcement have the authority to remove a child from home if he is in immediate danger of abuse. A court order also can authorize DHS or law enforcement to place a child in protective custody. Less than 10 percent of total child abuse reports resulted in a child being removed from home and placed in relative or substitute care.

A process for determining the safety of the child takes into account type of abuse, the age of the child, family history, protective capacity of the family and the potential for re-abuse.

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Safety plans

When a child’s safety can be assured, the child should stay at home with his family. In order for child to remain in the home, the abusing caregiver may be asked to move out or the family may be provided with intensive family counseling and other services.

When child safety cannot be assured in the home, an out-of-home safety plan is developed. When this is necessary, DHS will first consider whether a relative can provide safety.

When a child is placed in substitute care, the case is reviewed by the juvenile court within 24 judicial hours. The court then decides, based on the child’s safety, whether the child should be returned home or remain in custody.

A caseworker will discuss concerns and potential solutions with the family and work with them to develop a service plan acceptable to both DHS and the family. The plan builds on the family's strengths to meet a child's need for safety and attachment. This may be done in a family meeting. The intent of a service plan is to increase the capacity of the parents to ensure the future safety and well being of their child. In most cases, DHS believes the best way to protect a child is by strengthening their parents’ ability to take care of them. Families may be referred to programs provided by DHS or families may be referred to services provided by other organizations in the community.

For example, parent trainers can help parents establish fair, consistent rules for family behavior. Other options might be homemaker services, respite day care, mental health services. Services may be provided to a family voluntarily for by court order.


DHS does not prosecute abusive parents. Only a district attorney can prosecute a crime. District attorneys receive reports of possible criminal behavior from law enforcement officers.

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Risk assessment

When planning services for families, it is important to look at what has already happened, and what may happen to the child in the future. Risk assessment is a process that considers a number of factors to determine the risk of future abuse to a child. For example, risk assessment involves looking at the family’s strengths and needs, taking into account what resources are available to the family such as extended family members and members of faith groups, who can help.

Citizen Review Board

In addition to reviews by the courts and the Oregon Legislature, a child’s case is also reviewed by Citizen Review Boards, which are set up in each county. Board members are appointed by a Circuit Court Judge and make recommendations to the court about the case, including:

  • Whether DHS made a reasonable effort to keep the child safely at home before removal
  • Whether substitute care should be continued.
  • Compliance with the service plan
  • Whether reasonable efforts have been made to reunite the child with parents.
The CPS worker will close the child safety plan when identified safety threats have been eliminated, the parent or caregiver protective capacity can manage identified safety threats, or another permanent plan has been established for the safety of the child.

Multidisciplinary teams

District attorneys are required to convene multidisciplinary teams to review child abuse cases. There are teams working in every county in Oregon. By legal mandate, they develop protocols to ensure the coordination of child abuse investigations. Child abuse is not just a DHS issue. The best way to protect children and strengthen families is through coordination of community services, including law enforcement, medical professionals, school officials and the district attorney.

Addiction Recovery Teams

Addiction Recovery Teams (ART teams) provide coordinated multi-disciplinary services to substance abusing families referred to child protective services using a short-term crisis intervention model. Each team consists of an alcohol and drug counselor, an outreach worker and a social service specialist. They are also linked with resource providers in local communities and other DHS agencies.

The ART teams focus on family strengths and building the clean and sober support networks of clients to assist them with their efforts to sustain recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Team members assist clients with the initial response to their addiction, assessment, and referral to treatment as well as relapse prevention.

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CPS caseworkers must complete a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of child abuse, including:

  • symptoms of abuse
  • how to screen incoming reports of abuse
  • how to assess the future safety of a child
  • how to conduct an assessment of the family
  • how to interview victims, witnesses and alleged abusers
  • when to ask for law enforcement assistance
  • how to decide if abuse has actually occurred
  • how to decide on appropriate services and write a service plan
  • when to close a case
In addition, all CPS supervisors and caseworkers are offered several days of in-service training to continually upgrade their knowledge and skill.

Cultural awareness is a part of DHS staff training. This includes information on specific cultural practices that may be mistakenly labeled abuse. It also teaches staff to be aware of their own cultural biases and to recognize the strength each of us draws from our cultural heritage.

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