Whether one has been accused of committing child abuse or neglect or is reporting it, the government agency that will take the leading role in the case is often called “child protective services” (CPS). If you’re unfamiliar with these agencies, here’s what to know about how they operate and what to expect when dealing with one.

Every state has established a CPS system to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect. If needed, the agency intervenes to ensure the child is in a safe environment. In most states, CPS is centralized, or administered by the state. Ohio, however, is one of nine states where these services are overseen by the state but administered at the county level.

PCSAs in Ohio

CPS agencies in Ohio are called “public children services agencies” (PCSAs). Ohio is divided into 88 counties, and each county has a PCSA. By law, the PCSA must evaluate and investigate reports of child abuse and neglect. These reports typically come in through hotlines operated by county PCSAs or the state.

Although anyone can report child abuse and neglect in Ohio — family members, friends, or neighbors — the law mandates certain professionals to report it. Among them are attorneys, healthcare professionals, licensed psychologists, speech pathologists, coroners, teachers, social workers, police officers, and administrators or employees of child daycare centers. 

In most cases, the individual reporting the abuse can remain anonymous.

What Constitutes Child Abuse and Neglect?

Reports of neglect and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse can trigger PCSA investigations. Neglect cases involve abandoning a child or depriving them of food, shelter, medical care, education supervision, or clothes. Providing a child with access to or allowing exposure to illegal drugs is also considered abuse. 

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reports that in January 2024 alone, 97,003 child abuse and neglect referrals were made to PCSAs and juvenile court agencies statewide.

What Happens After the Report?

After a report is made, the PCSA will investigate the allegations. As part of the investigation, caseworkers may conduct interviews with the child and family members. Sometimes, a caseworker may visit the family’s home; however, a court order is required for such visits. Without this document, the parent or legal custodian has the right to deny entry. 

If the PCSA determines the child has suffered abuse or neglect, the case will be referred to local social service agencies or to juvenile, family, or criminal court.

PCSAs and the Courts 

PCSAs work with families to create family case plans. These plans may include an array of services aimed at reducing risk to the child and preventing future abuse or neglect. 

If a PCSA decides the home is unsafe for the child, the caseworker and the family will develop a voluntary safety plan. Should attempts to establish a plan fail, the PCSA relies on the court system to place the child with another family member or a licensed provider.

After a legal complaint has been filed against the parent or legal custodian, a hearing must take place within 72 hours. During the initial hearing, called a “shelter care hearing,” the PCSA must show reasonable cause that the child would be at risk if returned to the home. 

Under some circumstances, the parent or legal custodian will have the option to respond with a motion requesting removal from shelter care.

If the court determines that the child was abused or neglected, a dispositional hearing will be scheduled. During this hearing, a case plan is established, and temporary placement of the child is decided.

In cases in which a child can never return to their biological parents’ home, the PCSA may request that the court award permanent custody to a family member or to the agency, which will then place the child into an adoptive home.

Contact the Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers For Help Today

For any Ohioan accused of child abuse or neglect, the implications are serious — for both the child and the parent. The case may warrant hiring an attorney who understands the intricacies of CPS, Ohio PCSAs, and child abuse and neglect law.

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers give us a call today at (513) 333-0014 or visit us at our Cincinnati law office.

Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers – Cincinnati
600 Vine Street, Suite 1004
Cincinnati, OH 45202
United States