Video Reveals CPS Critical Flaw

A new video from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) reveals a fundamental problem with Child Protective Services (CPS).

When CPS gets a call, their first move is to send an investigator to look around. This “first-responder” role is often portrayed as social work: a stranger stepping in to help needy families.

In reality, the investigator must observe the family and home around them, gathering evidence and separating possible abuse victims from potentially dangerous homes.

Social work— providing aid to the needy— is a far cry from this kind of evidence-based decision making, which is more closely in line with law enforcement.

More importantly, “social workers” often argue in court that as “service providers” they are not subject to the Fourth Amendment, which protects families from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” We have long argued that is not the case. They are investigators who must have a warrant based on probable cause before raiding a home or taking a child.

Good Ideas

Last week, AEI released a new video that highlights this problem with the child welfare system and encourages changes in how one sees the investigator’s role. And we couldn’t agree more with their suggestions.

“To improve our child welfare system, we have to improve the recruitment of the people working in it,” says AEI Resident Fellow Naomi Schaeffer Riley in the one-minute video.

Far too often, agents are not equipped to investigate and must rely on personal bias and “gut” instinct instead. It’s damaging to families and can be heart-wrenching to those who thought they were getting into social work.

The video cites a national study showing a 30% turnover rate at CPS, with some agencies experiencing turnover rates as high as 65%. No wonder the employees leave so fast, if agencies are hiring the wrong people to begin with.

As a solution, Riley suggests, “We should consider recruiting applicants for CPS who are interested in law enforcement, not just social work.”

A Good Fit

Obviously, a carpenter will be miserable in a computer programming job, just as a computer programmer won’t like reroofing your house. But with both in the right place your roof won’t leak and your computer application will serve its intended purpose.

Having the right people in the job—people trained in investigations—will reduce the number of unnecessary removals. That’s because an investigator will follow a process of deduction and not break families apart without hard evidence.

This highlights one reason we’re working in Congress right now to guide pending changes to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This bill, which funds and determines how CPS works in the states, must include basic privacy protections for families and recognize these agents not as “warm fuzzy” service providers, but for the investigators they are.

It’s a change that can save families.  Eliminating unnecessary trauma to children while lowering caseloads for investigators sounds like a win-win to me.

We are preparing to launch a major grassroots effort regarding CAPTA coming up in July, and it would be wonderful to add as many voices as possible to stand with us.

So watch the one-minute AEI video here, then share it with your family and friends. Urge them to sign up at for more updates and to join our efforts to amend CAPTA and protect parental rights.


Michael Ramey

Executive Director