Child Protective Services – Department of Children and Families

child protection servicesThe State of Florida Department of Children and Families is in charge of investigating child abuse cases throughout the state. Each Florida county is slightly different but in general a report of child abuse begins a long process that may involve many state agencies into the life of the child and the life of each parent.


The entire process can begin in one of two ways. The most common way begins with a call to the Florida Child Abuse Hotline – 1-800-96-Abuse. Once a call is made to this hotline a local investigative agency must follow up within 24 hours with an investigation of the allegations. In some counties the local Sheriff runs a Child Protective Services unit that will respond. In other counties Child Protective Services is either run directly by Dept of Children and Families or CPS is provided by an outside contractor. In any case the Child Protective Investigator appears on-site and checks out the child and the home where the child lives.


The Child Protective Investigator interviews the child, the parents, and any other adults living in the home. The investigator also looks at the home, checks out the refrigerator, the garbage, and any other areas they think are important. They look for signs of abuse, drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, or any other activity that could present a danger to the child.


If the Child Protection Investigator determines there is an immediate danger to the child they may make a decision to remove the child from the home. If the child is removed – a temporary placement home will be found to keep the child safe. That temporary placement may be the other spouse, a close family member, or a relative. If no one can be found the child may be placed in foster care.


When a child is taken from parents the abuse investigator may decide to file a Petition for Dependency. That is a court document that begins a possibly long court case in Dependency Court. Dependency Court operates in parallel with Divorce and Custody Courts but is an independent process. Another term used for Dependency Court is Unified Family Court or UFC.


Once the case is in Dependency Court an initial hearing will be scheduled – to determine whether there is probable case for the abuse petition. During the hearing each parent may receive a court – appointed dependency lawyer. These attorneys may be free or may cost a minimal amount. One thing to be aware of: while court appointed dependency attorneys are experienced and hard working – they will have almost no time to meet privately with you. Because of this you will not receive the kind of service a private dependency attorney will be able to give.


Dependency court involves the creation of a case plan. Basically a case plan is a 1 year set of hoops both parents need to jump through to get their children back. During that time you can expect to be back in court approximately every 60 days for a status hearing. You will be heavily involved with, and subject to the whims and opinions of case workers during the entire case plan. The entire process is long, tiring, confusing, and places you at the direct control of many different strangers.


The Dependency Court judge has the authority to order counseling, drug testing, fines, vocational counseling, therapy, psychological tests, and more. The purpose of these services is to evaluate and rehabilitate your fitness to be a parent.


If you successfully jump through all these hoops, after a year or more, the court may decide to terminate supervision and reunite you with your children.


Dependency Attorney


An Attorney that specializes in dependency law and child protection law is a valuable ally. Unfortunately, free court appointed attorneys give the type of representation you might expect from a free service. They are overloaded, overworked, and rarely have time to do the most basic tasks – such as picking up the telephone and discussing your case strategy. That is why a private attorney is almost essential in many situations.

Florida Lawyers - free consultation


Request a Free Consultation


Need assistance with this form?

If form does not function, send inquiry to:


Free Questions

& Answers

Divorce Questions

Support Questions

Alimony Questions

Asset & Debt Questions

I recently settled a long-term divorce with Attorney Kristal Knox representing me. She was very professional, honest, and worked in my best interest at all times. She was very accessible and has wonderful office staff to support her client’s needs in a timely manner, and I highly recommend her.

Anonymous - Lawyer Ratingz

Jeana Vogel

Attorney Jeana Vogel

  • derek c ripley sr

    hi is it safe to put a kid with some one khow is a fole blown drunk and don’t care about the kids toni Watson don’t care she just wonts the kids four the money she don’t care about them

  • Vernon Williams

    Please look into child endangerment at 5925 fairfield ave south apt 3w,4w ,6w and 6e and (5east), and 4e and 3e…St. petersburg fl 33707…The property is manage by Hendricks Ent Ben Tubbs and Randy Hendricks and Owner is Lorraine Mary Smith of Treasure Island/

  • Tammy

    I have a question I recently had someone call CPI on me about my child and when they came I didn’t let them in my home or pee for them I did however let them take pics of my doors and let them know that my child was sneaking outside at like 3-5am and did show them I was trying to fix the problem by securing the doors better I my daughter is on ssi for mental issues dealing with ADHD and also has a behavior and psychotic distorted and has been taking meds for voices she hears and for her ticks she has I take her to the mental Heath every 3 months and do everything I can as a parent she has good grades honor roll and has no marks or bites on her at all my question is what can I expect next from CPI they said the first time they came that I would be going to court maybe when I asked then this last time they said they were talking with there lawyers to see what they were going to do next I just want to know what to expect

    • HowardIken

      If the situation becomes an extreme concern they can remove your child.

    • mandi

      My son used to do that. He could get past any child lock. Put deadbolts with keys on both sides on every door. Watch out though, my son went out a window 1 time! I eventually went to jail n was charged with child abuse

  • Talva Flowers

    My sister had her son taken from her and placed in foster care. She lives in Florida and I live in Oklahoma. Is it possible for me to get the child even though I live in another state and how can I proceed with this?

    • HowardIken

      Yes, it is possible. But the situation is complex. You must retain a private attorney to particpate in the pending case.

  • DDD

    I have a final order that my ex has denied me the right of my child through the first right of refusal, weekend visitation, knowledge and denial of activites…the list goes on and on. The child is constantly not with the other party usually with unknown sitters or the other party’s mother. My rights to my child are being clearly denied by the other party. I have witnesses, daily logs and text documentation from the other party stating the denial of the child on numerous occasion (Almost daily/weekly).
    In the final order there is a Section labeled Conflict Resolution. This states if we cannot cooperatively resolve issues or disputes over the Parenting Plan, we must first conduct mediation or other dispute methods such as Parenting Counselors or Parenting Coordinators before filing a Court Action. If the other party is clearly in contempt of the order, must we first attend Mediation? From my understanding the order is to be followed, not to be deligated by the other party that refuses to follow it’s guidelines.

    • HowardIken

      That is an interesting question. The vast majority of attorneys ignore the mediation requirement and go straight to a Motion for Contempt hearing. I tend to agree. This is not an interpretation issue – it is an issue of refusing to follow the order.

  • steve

    I just found out my child hs been removed from the mother because the boyfriend hurt my son, and living with a someone else. But 2 years prior another child was removed from her care due to having domestic issues that where so great the courts terminated her parental rights for that child but left my on in her care. I had no knowledge of any of this until cps came to my home yesterday. Please help.

    • HowardIken

      Sorry but I am not sure what the question is.

  • StressedOutMomFL

    My CPS caseworker won’t return any of my phone calls or attempts to contact her. I have to complete parenting classes by January but they have to be set up by my case worker. How can I start my classes if she’s not returning my calls?
    I am in Hillsborough County. Is there a Supervisor or a hotline that I can call? What can I do?

    • HowardIken

      I assume you are dealing with Eckerd Youth and Family Alternatives? You may want to try showing up at their office to ask for the caseworker. Sometimes that works. Otherwise all YFA workers place their superior’s phone number on their voice mail. Keep following the upward chain till you get your answer.

  • Daleth ‘Bunny’ Stafford

    I’m having trouble with my cps case manager . She has not once tried to call me since my kids were taken. When i try to call her she doesn’t answer or return any of my calls. Since this case has started my kids father and me have been in the blind the entire time. No one is keeping us informed about anything that’s been going on with our kids. It’s like if my kids have been kidnapped. I also feel like they don’t have any evidence proving that we harmed our children in anyway possible. This isn’t right how they are handling us. Someone please help me!!!

    • HowardIken

      You should have a court appointed attorney that represents your rights. Any time children are removed on a long term basis, the court appoints counsel at no cost.