What are child protective services?
Child Protective Services (CP S) is a child welfare (CW) service that
focuses on protecting children from harm. The Oklahoma Department
of Human Services (OKDHS) is responsible for providing child
protective services. The goal of providing these services is to help
families through difficulties that may cause their children to be unsafe.
OKDHS child welfare specialists (CWS) are required by law to respond
to reports of child abuse and neglect. When a report of abuse or neglect
is received the CWS contacts the family to determine whether abuse or
neglect occurred and if the children in the family are safe.
How does OKDHS Child Welfare get my name?
Oklahoma law requires every person to report suspected child abuse
or neglect to OKDHS when the reporting party believes a child has
been abused or neglected by someone responsible for the child's care.
The name of the person who reports child abuse or neglect is confidential
by law and that is why you cannot be told who made the report.
Reports of child abuse or neglect may be made anonymously. Even if
not reporting child abuse or neglect, anyone can call 0 KD HS Child
Welfare to ask for help.
What happens after Child Welfare receives a
report of suspected child abuse or neglect?
Under Oklahoma law, OKDHS Child Welfare must determine how to
respond to a report of suspected child abuse or neglect. A child welfare
specialist is assigned when it is necessary conduct an assessment or
investigation of the reported allegations. The CWS initiates contact with
each child named in the report and talks to members of the household,
family, and others as necessary to complete the assessment or investigation.
What is the difference between an assessment and
An assessment is conducted when the referral concerns abuse or neglect
that is not a serious and immediate safety threat. The assessment process
includes separate and joint discussions with all family members and may
include information gained from other sources to determine what
actions or interventions may be needed to help you keep your child safe.
The assessment process gives family members a chance to provide
information about what they believe will help the family. Other people
are contacted as necessary for additional information to assist the CWS
in the safety decision about your child. When your family needs services,
you will be provided information about where you can obtain services
in your area and any services that OKDHS can provide.
An investigation is conducted when the referral concerns suspected
child abuse or neglect that is serious, could be dangerous, or when there
have been previous reports of abuse or neglect. During an investigation,
the child welfare specialist talks separately with you and your child,
when your child is old enough. If your child is non-verbal, the child will
be observed for any injuries. This review is conducted with another
During the assessment or investigation, the CWS may need to check
your child for injuries and you may be asked to have your child seen by a
doctor. The CWS also talks with other people who know you and your
child to find out more about your family. This is done as carefully as
possible so that your privacy is protected.
Whether an assessment or investigation is conducted, the main goal of
the CWS is to make sure your child is safe and that you receive any help
you may need to keep your child safe. You can talk with the CWS about
any family problems. Together you may be able to decide what changes
need to be made and set up a plan for making these changes.
Your family is encouraged to accept any needed services. If you do not
want voluntary services you may refuse to accept them. OKDHS may
contact you within sixty days of case closure to determine if younav
accessed services related to child safety.
What happens after the
assessment or the investigation?
All completed assessment and investigation reports are given to the
appropriate district attorney.
There are five possible conclusions or findings the child welfare
specialist can make after the investigation is completed.
Ruled Out - This finding is made when the child welfare specialist
determines that no child abuse or neglect has occurred.
Unsubstantiated-Services recommended - This finding is made
when there is insufficient evidence of child abuse or neglect or
insufficient evidence to determine if there has been child abuse or
neglect but it is determined the family could benefit from prevention
and intervention-related services.
Substantiated-Services recommended - This finding is made when there
is some evidence of child abuse or neglect but it appears the family is
willing to accept recommended services on a voluntary basis without the
need for court intervention.
Substantiated-Court intervention recommended - This finding is
made when there is evidence of serious child abuse or neglect and,
because the child's health, safety, or welfare is threatened, court
intervention is recommended.
Reasonable exercise of Parental Discipline - This finding is made when
OKDHS determines the reported incident was the result of reasonable,
age-appropriate, parental discipline that occurred without injury to
the child. When this finding is made, all records of the referral and
investigation are expunged.
What happens after an assessment or investigation
report is provided to the district attorney?
Oklahoma law requires the child welfare specialist to provide a written
report to the district attorney of each assessment or investigation that
has been completed. OKDHS also refers reports of child abuse and
neglect to law enforcement. The district attorney must decide what
happens next. The district attorney may:
• decide to take no action;
• refer the information to law enforcement for further investigation;
• file a deprived petition and ask the court to become involved because
your child needs protection and your family needs to make changes
that will keep your child safe;
• file criminal charges against the person who may have abused or
neglected your child; or
• file both a deprived petition and file criminal charges.
Oklahoma law requires that OKDHS keep a permanent record of every
report investigated or assessed. This information is confidential and is
only given out in certain situations, that are specifically set forth in the
law. It is a crime to release information unless allowed by law.
How willi know what has been decided after
the assessment or investigation is completed?
You will receive a letter telling you about the findings or recommendations
that were made at the conclusion of the assessment or investigation. A
letter following a completed investigation will contain findings about
whether a child abuse or neglect allegation has been substantiated,
unsubstantiated, or ruled out along with the services recommended, if
any. The letter regarding a completed assessment will contain only
recommendations for services, but no findings.
What if I disagree with the investigation finding?
When an investigation finding is substantiated and there is no court
action, you have the right to appeal the substantiated finding. You will
receive an attachment explaining the appeal process and what to do to
request an appeal along with your finding kt~rs.
What kind of help can I get from Child Welfare?
The child welfare specialist works with you to help decide the kinds of
services that will best meet the needs of your family. Services are available
through 0 KD HS if you request them, or you may be given a referral for
services available in your local community. Services can range from help
with basic items such as food, clothing, or housing to in-home services
such as health care or homemaker assistance.
Can my child be taken away from me?
When your child needs immediate protection, a law enforcement officer
may place your child in protective custody without a court order. Also, a
judge may issue an order placing your child in the emergency custody of
OKDHS at the request of the district attorney. OKDHS focuses on child
safety and reducing trauma. If your child is removed, you will have the
opportunity to provide input about your child's needs.
What happens if my child is placed in
the legal custody of OKDHS?
If your child is placed in OKDHS legal custody, you have the right to a
hearing within the next two judicial days. "Judicial days" are days when
the court is open for business. Unless the court orders differently, the
district attorney has to decide within seven judicial days whether to
file a deprived petition.
When may I see my child?
The child welfare specialist arranges a time for you to see your child as
quickly as possible if the child is placed in the legal custody of 0 KD HS.
You are told whether your child is in a shelter, Bridge resource home, or
with another responsible person, and given information about how your
child is doing. As the parent, you may be asked to meet with the Bridge
family to educate the Bridge family about your child's routine. This
process is designed to assist your child.
What happens when the district attorney decides
court action is needed to protect my child?
The district attorney will prepare a legal document called a "deprived
petition" is filed in the district court where deprived cases are heard.
This type of court proceeding is designed to protect children, not punish
adults. The judge hears evidence and decides if your child is deprived.
A court finding that your child is deprived means there are concerns
about your child's health, safety, or welfare that make it necessary for the
court to make decisions and set conditions to assure safety for your child.
The following types of hearings may be held by a court responsible
for deprived cases:
• Emergency custody hearing: This hearing is held within two judicial
days after your child has been removed from his or her home. The
purpose of the emergency custody hearing, that may also be called a
"show cause" hearing, is for the judge to decide if your child should
be released to you or another responsible person. At the hearing, you
will receive written information about your rights and court procedures.
• Adjudicatory hearing: If the district attorney files a deprived
petition, there is another hearing held called an adjudicatory hearing.
This hearing is held whether your child is returned to you or remains
in OKDHS custody after the emergency custody hearing. This is a
hearing for a judge to decide if your child is deprived as a result of
abuse or neglect. When your child is determined to be deprived, the
court is involved in decision-making and planning for your child
until the court case is closed.
• Dispositional hearing: This is a separate hearing from the adjudicatory
hearing that can be held on the same day as the adjudicatory hearing
or at a later time. At the dispositional hearing, the judge may return
your child to you under the legal supervision of 0 KD HS or keep
your child in the temporary custody of OKDHS or another agency
or person. The court orders a plan that you have to follow before
your child can be returned to you or before the case can be closed.
This plan will help you take care of the problems that caused your
child to be deprived. If you do not follow the court-ordered plan,
you could lose all rights to your child oJ;ch·ldren.
What willi have to do if my child is
If your child adjudicated deprived, you may be ordered by the court to:
• work with your child welfare specialist to plan what you must
do to work out the problems that caused the court action and to
discuss what is in the best interests of your child. This plan is called an
Individualized Service Plan (ISP);
• stay in touch with your CWS and notify him or her about any changes
such as change of address, job, income, marriage, new person living in
your home, and progress on your ISP;
• follow the orders of the court in the time required by the court;
• contribute to your child's financial support; and
• visit your child regularly at the time and place scheduled.
What are my rights?
You should ask an attorney for legal advice and a full explanation of your
rights. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may request the court appoint a
lawyer for you.
If you want copies of the law about child abuse and neglect, you may
ask an attorney to provide them, get them at your county law library, or
on the Internet. Most of the law relating to child abuse and neglect can
be found in Title lOA of the Oklahoma Statutes known as the Oklahoma
If an action is filed you have the right to review the records in the court file,
except those the court has ordered sealed. The court file will not include
the name of the person who made the report of abuse or neglect.
What are my child's rights when a deprived
petition is filed?
When a deprived petition is filed, an attorney is appointed to represent
your child and to act on behalf of your child according to your child's
Native American Heritage
The Federal and Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Acts provide Native
Americans, who are members of a Federally recognized Indian tribe or
eligible for membership certain protections. It is critical to inform
the Child Welfare Specialist of your tribal heritage, any services you
receive from a Federally recognized Indian Tribe and your child's
eligibility for Tribal enrollment. You must also inform the court of
your enrollment status.
What can I expect to happen to my child?
Placement outside the home, when necessary, is usually temporary.
It is important that your child have a permanent home. The goal is to
find ways for your child to return home quickly and live safely. When
this is not possible, there can be court action that allows the child to
have a permanent home through adoption, guardianship, or other
The best plan is made for your child when you and your child welfare
specialist work together to develop a meaningful plan that will meet
your child's needs and assist you in correcting the problems that led to
the deprived petition being filed.
The final decision regarding the child's placement in or out of the home
rests with the judge, who hears the evidence before making decisions.
What is termination of parental rights?
Termination of parental rights means the court has decided that you no
longer have legal rights to your child. The court may terminate parental
rights in certain situations, such as when a parent fails to correct the
conditions that led to the child being found deprived, when the parent
fails to appear at scheduled court hearings, or when the court makes
other legal findings based on the seriousness of the abuse or neglect.
Sometimes parents decide it is in their child's best interests to voluntar-ily
give up their parental rights. This, of course, is a serious step and
should be given careful consideration before a decision is made. Parents
should discuss this with their attorney and the child welfare specialist.
What can I do if I feel I have not been treated
fairly by the child welfare specialist?
If you feel that you are not being treated fairly by the child welfare
specialist assigned to your case, or that the CWS is not following
oKD HS policy, an open talk with the CWS may take care of the
situation. When you and the CWS cannot work out the problem, you
may talk with the assigned supervisor. If you are not satisfied with the
supervisor's response, you may talk with the OKDHS county director.
In case you feel the county staff has treated you unfairly, you may
contact the area director's office or the Division of Children and
In certain situations, you may request an administrative fair hearing by
contacting the local 0 KD HS county office. The fair hearing process is
designed to make sure your rights are protected and you receive certain
services from OKDHS.
A grievance procedure is available to resolve issues regarding your child.
You may file a grievance on behalf of your child.
Neither the fair hearing process nor the grievance procedure applies to
rulings by the court. You may obtain information regarding both of these
procedures from your local OKDHS Child Welfare Servo s office.
Child Welfare Specialist:
Phone number ---.-.-- ----
Name _ _ _
Address .. ...__
Other important numbers:
------- - ----
Children and Family Services Division:
Phone number ----,-----.:...' ..--
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