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The Structure of Virginia Child Protective Services

Holding Hands

Child protective services (CPS) is an organization that handles the reports of, investigations into, and determinations of the fate of children who are in “immediate and apparent danger.” The job of defending children from dangerous scenarios is an important one, but many people know very little about the inner workings of CPS. In this blog, JRLaw hopes to shine a light on this organization in hopes that people get a better grasp of how it functions within society.

Who Runs CPS?

Social service institutions are run nationwide, but did you know that social service programs are managed by individual states? Therefore, while social service programs all aim to provide the same service, the way they strategize and implement their plans may look different.

For example, in our state of Virginia, the social service program is county-run, while a majority of states (37 to be exact) are state-run. State-run programs receive their funding through state taxes, decide regulations for CPS on a state-wide level, and have a state-wide policy for who can work in CPS. However, county-run CPS systems decide regulations, hiring policies, and enforcement procedures on a county-to-county basis.

The Virginia Department of Social Services has a head commissioner, Duke Storen. Duke helps counties make decisions about administrative policies, but this job looks incredibly different from other state social service departments. For example, the California Department of Social Services is run by a director, Will Lightbourne.

A director has more power than a commissioner, as a director directs a program while a commissioner oversees a program. With this in mind, we can say that social services in Virginia are run by a group of people, whereas one person runs the social services in California. 

Comparing State and County CPS Programs

The benefits of county-run CPS systems, when compared to state-run CPS systems (per a national report found here), include:

  • Staff are more likely to perform various CPS roles (therefore, staff may have a better grasp of the process at large).
  • County-run CPS systems are more likely to offer the following services to families in the CPS system: dental exams, transportation, tutoring, financial planning, child care, and employment services.
  • Initial CPS call reports are more likely to go to a person than an answering machine.
  • Initial CPS reports are more likely to be accepted.
  • CPS services are more likely to take a variety of cases.

 The negatives of county-run CPS systems when compared to state-run CPS systems include:

  • Agencies are less likely to run a criminal background check on the alleged perpetrator.
  • Agencies are less likely to use standardized assessments during investigations.
  • Agencies are less likely to have specialists that work in one CPS role.
  • Agencies are less likely to take lead responsibility for situations of physical abuse.
  • Agencies are more likely to change rules and regulations frequently.

Finding Your County’s Social Service Department

There are over 100 different county social service departments in Virginia. This page has a list of all of the different county departments throughout the state. Some of the departments have personal websites where you can learn about the processes and people they staff; other departments do not have websites and only have a phone and fax number. Even the discrepancy in website ownership shows that the social service “experience” will look different from county to county.

With all the differences in processes between counties, it’s important to realize that the CPS system is by no means perfect. Families who have no reason to be investigated will be investigated, and children will be taken from homes due to misunderstandings. All that to say the CPS system makes mistakes, but JRLaw can protect you from the fallout.

Is your local CPS department investigating your family? Call (757) 447-0080 now for a free consultation.

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