National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts: Site Visits Report . Organization of the CPS Agency


The North Carolina Division of Social Services (DSS) is a State-supervised, county-administered system. Catawba County Department of Social Services is the child welfare office for the county. At the time of the interview, DSS had a total workforce of 300 employees — 155 in the child welfare division and 20 responsible for CPS investigations.

A social worker initiates investigations within 24 hours of the report of abuse. Investigations that involve allegations of neglect and pose no immediate risk to the child are initiated within 72 hours; however, 72 percent of these cases were initiated within 24 hours of the report.

During the investigation, the social worker completes a number of investigative tasks:

  • All children within the household are seen within 24 or 72 hours, depending upon the type of maltreatment alleged;
  • Parents and caregivers are seen on the same day as the children;
  • The alleged perpetrator is interviewed;
  • All other persons who reside in the household are interviewed;
  • A home visit takes place to determine if the environment poses any safety threat to the child;
  • A safety response is developed, in writing, with the family to assure immediate protection of the child;
  • Collateral contacts are made with any and all persons who may have information about the family (i.e. physicians, social workers, psychologists, teachers, guidance counselors, law enforcement personnel, neighbors, and extended family members);
  • Law enforcement is contacted to initiate a criminal investigation in cases where severe physical abuse or sexual abuse has occurred;
  • A risk assessment is completed to assess the likelihood of future risk of maltreatment;
  • Family dynamics and patterns of interaction are assessed;
  • The social worker determines the need for ongoing intervention services aimed at maintaining a safe permanent home or arranges temporary plans for the child’s care with a relative or other substitute care, such as a foster home, when no appropriate relative is located; and
  • The reporter is notified of the agency finding regarding whether the agency filed a petition for court intervention.

During the screening process, the intake worker consults with a supervisor who decides whether or not to refer the case for investigation. One option is to send the case to outreach services. The case would not be opened as a CPS case, but would remain inside the agency for services. These ongoing, in-home treatment cases also remain within the agency. The target date for completion of an investigation is 30 days from the receipt of the report.

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