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Children's Protective Services Investigation Process


CPS has 30 days to complete an investigation unless extenuating circumstances require an extension. A CPS investigation must begin within 24 hours and usually includes:

  • Face-to-face  interviews with the alleged child victim(s), the child's caretaker(s), the alleged perpetrator(s). 
  • Viewing the family's home. 
  • Reviewing any necessary documents, such as police reports, criminal history, medical reports, school reports, CPS case file, etc. 
  • Interviewing neighbors, friends, relatives or professionals that have had contact with the family. 
  • An assessment of the child's safety. 
  • An assessment of the child's future risk of abuse and/or neglect.
  • An assessment of the family's needs and strengths.

CPS investigator considers the following factors during the investigation: 

  • Are there alternative explanations to the allegations? 
  • What are the family dynamics and family circumstances? 
  • Who is making the complaint? 
  • Is there corroborating evidence? (For example, witness statements, findings during a home visit, etc.) 
  • Should there be a medical exam of the child? 
  • Does the child have an injury? If so: 
    • What is the explanation of the injury? 
    • Is that explanation feasible? 
    • Where is the injury located? 
    • Is there more than one injury at different stages of healing? 
  • What is the condition of the home? (For example, cleanliness, safety hazards, etc.) 
  • What is the condition of the child? (For example, appropriately dressed, cleanliness, etc.) 
  • Are the child's basic needs being met? 
  • Is there adequate supervision? 
  • Are the caretakers emotionally/mentally abusing the child? 

 Disposition of the CPS Investigation

Based on the review of the above factors, CPS must determine if there is a preponderance of evidence of child abuse or neglect. Preponderance of evidence means evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than evidence which is offered in opposition to it; a 51% likelihood that abuse or neglect occurred. 

Following a completed investigation, CPS will put a case in one of the following categories: 

  • Category V - Cases in which CPS is unable to locate the family, no evidence of child abuse or neglect is found or the court declines to issue an order requiring family cooperation during the investigation.
  • Category IV - Cases in which a preponderance of evidence of child abuse or neglect is not found. The department must assist the child's family in voluntarily participating in community-based services commensurate with risk level determined by the risk assessment (structured decision making tool).
  • Category III - Cases in which the department determines that there is a preponderance of evidence of child abuse or neglect and the risk assessment indicates a low or moderate risk. A referral to community-based services must be made by CPS.
  • Category II - Cases in which the department determines that there is a preponderance of evidence of child abuse or neglect and the risk assessment indicates a high or intensive risk. Services must be provided by CPS, in conjunction with community-based services.
  • Category I  - Cases in which the department determines that there is a preponderance of evidence of child abuse or neglect and a court petition is needed and/or required. Services must be provided by CPS (or foster care), in conjunction with community-based services.

When a case is placed in Category II or I, the perpetrator's name is listed on the Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry. See the Central Registry page for more information regarding central registry.

 Court Petitions

If necessary to ensure a child's safety, CPS may file a petition with the court requesting that the court order any of the following:

  • The family to cooperate with in-home services.
  • Removal of the perpetrator from the home.
  • Removal of the child from the home.

CPS cannot remove a child from the home without a court order. The court may deny the petition, including the request for removal.

 Factors Considered Prior to Requesting Removal  

Prior to making the decision to request that the court order removal of a child, the following is assessed: 

  • Is the child at  imminent risk of harm?
  • How does the caretaker view the situation? 
  • Is the caretaker cooperative? 
  • Is the caretaker asking for help? 
  • Is the caretaker capable of change? 
  • Are there alternatives to removal? 
  • Are there immediate services that can be put in place to keep the child safe in the home? Can arrangements be made for the child until those services case be put in place? 
  • Will the perpetrator leave the home? 
  • Can court orders be put in place that would keep the child safe? 

Required Petitions

Under the Child Protection Law, the MDHHS is required to file a petition with the court. MCL 722.628d(1)(e) requires MDHHS to file a petition if MDHHS determines that there is evidence of child abuse and neglect and there is a violation, involving the child, of a crime listed or described in MCL 722.628a(1)(b), (c), (d) or (f) or of child abuse in the first or second degree as prescribed in the Michigan Penal Code, MCL 750.136b.

MCL 722.637 requires MDHHS to file a petition, with a few exceptions, when MDHHS determines a preponderance of evidence exists that a child has been: 

  • Sexually abused or exploited.
  • Severely physically injured due to abuse or neglect, including abuse or neglect that results in the death of the child.
  • Exposed to or had contact with methamphetamine production. 

MCL 722.638 requires MDHHS to file a petition when MDHHS determines a preponderance of evidence of child abuse or neglect of a child or a sibling of a child that includes one or more of the following:   

  • Abandonment of a young child.
  • Criminal sexual conduct involving penetration, attempted penetration, or assault with intent to penetrate.
  • Battering, torture, or other severe physical abuse.
  • Loss of impairment of an organ or limb.
  • Life threatening injury.
  • Murder or attempted murder.

Requests for Termination of Parental Rights 

Michigan's Child Protection Law also requires MDHHS to request termination of parental rights if the parent is responsible for any of the abuse or neglect listed above (under MCL 722.638) or if the parent failed to protect the child from someone else who abuses them in the ways listed above (under MCL 722.638). 

The MDHHS must also file a petition for termination of parental rights if the parent's rights to another child were terminated in Michigan or another state and there is current cases with a finding of a preponderance of evidence of abuse or neglect. Previous termination of parental rights includes situations in which:

  • A court terminated a parents' rights because the parent abused or neglected the child.
  • A parent voluntarily releases their parental rights and the child is a temporary court ward due to abuse or neglect.

It is important to remember that MDHHS files termination petitions as required by law, but the court determines if there is grounds for termination of parental rights.