A Parent’s Guide to Working with the Division of Children and Family Services

You have been contacted by a Child Protection Specialist because we received a report of concern about your children.

The concern we received may be related to alleged child abuse or neglect. We also reach out to families when they may be in need of services or a child may be dependent through no fault of the parent.

What can I expect from the Child Protection Specialist?

A Child Protection Specialist (CPS) will talk with you to learn more about the concern and offer support and resources if needed. In order to assess the safety, strengths, needs and risk to your children, the CPS will:

  • Explain the concerns and our process, including the steps and timeframes in the assessment
  • Engage you in a conversation and, when appropriate, ask for your consent to conduct assessment activities, such as interviewing your children and talking with others about your family.
  • Explain activities that may be conducted without your consent due to child safety concerns. Encourage you to talk about your worries and help you find solutions.
  • Help you provide safety for your child, if necessary.
  • Invite you to a Team Decision Making meeting if there are concerns for the safety of your child.

What will happen next?

If there is no need for our services, then the case is closed after we complete an assessment.

  • Most families we remain involved with work with us on a voluntary basis, with their children at home.
  • If it is determined that children are not safe in their own home, we have a Team Decision Making meeting to decide what to do.
  • You will always be included on any plan developed for your child.
  • If there are no other options to keep your child safe, the CPS does have an obligation to ask Juvenile Court for custody.
  • If the agency engages the court to help keep your child safe, you will be notified of this and your rights (link to Rights section) will be explained to you at a hearing.
  • We work with parents to safely return their child to their care as quickly as possible.

What can my Child Protection Specialist do to help me?

The CPS will talk with you about what supports you might need and what services make the most sense for your family and situation. Some of the services the CPS can refer you to include:

  • Community Collaboratives for a variety of supports right in your neighborhood.
  • In-home or office-based therapeutic services.
  • Professional services for any number of concerns including alcohol or drug use, mental health and domestic violence.
  • Services for your children to help them grow and thrive.

If your family’s case remains open, your CPS will write a plan with you to identify the specific goal, objectives and activities. Your CPS will review your family’s progress with you and help you achieve your goal.



What is a Staffing?

A TDM (Team Decision Making) meeting or Staffing is conducted by public child welfare agencies to discuss family risk factors, child safety issues, and caregiver protective capacities. In this strength-based meeting, a trained facilitator leads the meeting and makes sure everyone has a chance to share their ideas.

When is a Staffing held?

A Staffing is held when the assigned worker and supervisor:

  • Have child safety concerns and want to talk about ways to protect or keep a child safe
  • Have placement concerns and want to talk about keeping or changing a child’s placement
  • Want to talk about permanency plans like reunification with family, legal custody to relatives, adoption by relative or others, independent living, or any other ideas for the child’s future  

What happens at a Staffing?

* A trained facilitator goes over the ground rules, guides the meeting, and helps all participants have a voice in the meeting. 

  • The parents and/or the assigned worker identify the reason for the meeting.
  • Participants are asked to identify family strengths and needs.
  • Participants share their ideas how to provide for child’s safety, permanency and well-being.
  • Participants review ideas and come up with an agreed on plan that all can support.
  • The parents have a voice in making decisions and plans.
  • The parents are encouraged to share information about their child.
  • If the child is in foster care, foster parents get a chance to discuss concerns and to identify what support they need to maintain the child in their home.
  • All participants are treated with respect and dignity by everyone in attendance.
  • The goal of the meeting is to reach agreement about a plan that protects the children and preserves or reunifies the family. 

Why have a Staffing?

Improve the decision making process. A group can be more effective in decision making than an individual.

  • Improve safety outcomes for children.
  • Recognize that families are the experts on themselves.
  • Increase cooperation and participation among families, service providers, the community, and assigned staff.
  • Decrease the length of time children stay in foster care.
  • Improve child services relationship with the broader community.
  • Link families to experts on community resources in their neighborhoods

Where are Staffings held?

The Division of Children and Family Services has locations east and west side of the county. For the specific location of your meeting, please contact your assigned worker. 

Things to Remember:

You are the expert on your family. This meeting is your opportunity to give input regarding the safety, permanency, and well- being of your child. You can invite anyone that you feel will be supportive to you in the meeting. Please let your worker know whom you are inviting. Also, if you are working with any community agencies already, please let your worker know so they can be invited to participate in the meeting. You may choose not to share personal information with some persons like relatives, caregivers, community partners or service providers.