CPS Case Laws: How long does a CPS (Child Protective Services) conviction stay on your record?

The work of CPS (Child Protective Services) is to investigate child abuse and neglect. Because of that, a CPS case conviction for child abuse or neglect will stay on your record for ten years after the youngest child in the report turns eighteen. Some records are permanent.

Quick take:

  • Parents have the option to choose between CPS investigations and FAR.
  • Some offenses related to abuse and neglect are not expungable in most states.
  • You may expunge your CPS record if you receive an “unfounded” letter.
  • State law determines if child abuse and neglect case records are open to the public.
  • In all states, “mandatory reporters,” including teachers and physicians, have a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse.
  • To expunge your CPS record, you must show the court that the reporter made a false statement or that the allegations against you are untrue.

What is the purpose of a CPS investigation?

A CPS investigation and FAR (Family Assessment Report aim to do the following:

CPS Investigations

  • Determine if child abuse or neglect has occurred.
  • Identify the individual responsible for the abuse, or neglect.


  • Support parents when they are in a crisis without placing blame.
  • Connect the parents with their communities.
  • Identify family needs.

How long does a CPS case stay on your record?

As mentioned, upon conviction for abuse or child neglect, the DSS (Department of Social Services) creates a record that it keeps for up to ten years after the youngest child in the report turns eighteen.

Does a CPS investigation show up on background checks?

The case does not. What shows up is your conviction. Meaning, if the family court found you guilty of abuse or neglect, the crime will show up in background checks for up to ten years.

What goes on record?

white paper folders with black tie
  • The child’s identifying information.
  • Nature and extent of injuries suffered by the child.
  • Conditions in the home.
  • Information about other children in the environment.
  • Reporter information
  • Medical records
  • Agency assessments

Are CPS records available to the public?

Yes. The district of Columbia and 37 states allow partial disclosure of CPS records if the abuse or neglect case resulted in death or near fatality. In these states, the public has access to information, including the date of the fatality or near fatality, the cause of the fatality, the offender’s relationship with the child, and a summary of previous investigations/ maltreatment reports.

Who has access to CPS records?

Access to Child abuse and neglect case records is dictated by state statutes. For example, under Colorado children’s code 19-1-307. Abuse and neglect records are not public records. The statute reads in part, quote:

“Identifying information — confidential. Except as otherwise provided in this section and section 19-1-303, reports of child abuse or neglect and the name and address of any child, family, or informant, or any other identifying information contained in such reports shall be confidential and shall not be public information.”

However, because of the “good cause exception,” the statute allows the following people to view the records:

  • Law enforcement agencies
  • The child’s physician
  • An agency that has the legal authority to care for or supervise the child.
  • Any person named in the report.
  • Parent, guardian, or legal custodian.

In Arkansas, any alleged offender or person convicted of abuse or neglect may file an investigative Request at the state’s Human Services Website.

In short, if you want access to CPS records, you should check state statutes, or consult with a family lawyer near you.

What is considered CPS abuse?

State law defines acts, and conduct that constitutes neglect or abuse. In general, these acts include:

  • Physical abuse: refers to non-accidental physical injury to a minor, including burning, kicking, biting, or any action that may result in impairment of a minor.
  • Neglect: refers to the failure of a parent or parents to provide essential needs to a child such as medical care, safety, shelter, clothing, or supervision.
  • Sexual abuse/child exploitation: refers to sexual abuse or allowing a child to engage in prostitution, the creation of child pornography, and so on.
  • Parental substance abuse: refers to acts including the use of substances that impair the caregiver’s ability to care for a child, the sale or distribution of drugs or alcohol to a child, manufacture of controlled substances in the presence of a child, and in some state’s prenatal exposure to drugs or illegal substances.
  • Abandonment: refers to failure to provide reasonable support to a minor.

Does the law require you to report abuse or neglect?

Currently, seven states require you to file a mandatory report if you have reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected.

What are “mandatory reporters?”

In states that do not require all persons suspecting child abuse to report, mandatory reporters include:

  • Physicians
  • Mental health professionals
  • Child care providers
  • Teachers and school personnel
  • Healthcare workers
  • Law enforcement officers

After making your report, CPS workers will review it then decide if an investigation is necessary. Note: the law requires CPS to keep the identity of the reporter anonymous.

What would cause CPS to remove a child

If Child Protective Services Determine that a child is in danger. The institution has the right to remove the child from your home. This may happen if there is evidence of physical violence happening in the home, careless storage of firearms and other weapons, not enough food for the child, sexual abuse, or evidence of other acts of abuse or negligence.

What happens after CPS removes a child from your home?

In 14 days, there will be a court hearing where the judge will decide if the child stays in the home, remains in CPS custody, or the court may place the child with a family member. The court may order the parent, depending on the facts presented to undergo:

  • Anger management classes
  • Drugs and alcohol rehabilitation
  • Counseling
  • Attend parenting classes

Does CPS investigation show up on background check?

It depends on who is looking. What do I mean? If the job you are applying to requires you to interact with kids, say a teacher or care provider. The potential employer has reasons to check CPS records. Remember, a CPS finding is an administrative finding, thus it will appear in background checks for at least five years even if you are appealing it.

But CPS Records are not public?

Note that Child Protective services share their findings with the BCCU (Background Check Central Unit) a section of the DSHS (Department of health and human services). Employers in the industry ask applicants to request a report from the BCCU.

That said.

After a CPS investigation, CPS will send you one of two letters. A “founded letter” means that the abuse likely happened. Whereas, an “unfounded letter” means that is less likely that the abuse happened.

What to do if you receive a “founded letter” from the CPS

A founded letter, as mentioned, means that the CPS has reason to believe that the child abuse neglect or abuse allegations are true. If that happens, you may ask the CPS to review its decisions, in writing, within thirty days. Failure to do that will make it difficult to remove the finding of the report from your record even if you are innocent. Therefore, once you get the letter, deliver your explanation within the set period. You may deliver your written explanation along with witness testimonies in person or via mail. We suggest you do it in person.

Out of this, two scenarios may result. One, the reviewer may affirm the findings. Two, the reviewer may change the findings. If the former happens, you may request a hearing.

What happens to unfounded reports?

If investigators conclude that the child has not suffered abuse or neglect. It will destroy the report, meaning it will not show up in background checks.

What is a family assessment response (FAR)?

FAR, or Family Assessment Response is an alternative to CPS investigations that seeks to find out if a parent needs help to create a safe environment for the child. CPS only does a FAR in low risk to harm cases. Note, if the parent does not cooperate with CPS, they may begin an investigation.

Remember, as a parent, you have the option to engage in FAR or choose CPS investigations. We recommend consulting with a caseworker.

Do I need a lawyer for CPS Cases?

Upon arrest for neglect or abuse, you have the right to hire a lawyer. If you cannot afford one. The court may appoint one for you.

What are the consequences of CPS conviction?

Depending on the level of abuse or neglect and state law, the court may order:

  • Prison time.
  • Termination of parental rights.
  • The DSS will keep records of the crime for up to ten years.
  • The court may issue an order disallowing you from visiting your children.
  • Conviction may affect future work and education opportunities.

Can you expunge a CPS case?

State law determines what cases are expungable or sealable and which ones are not. For example, sexual exploitation of a minor is not an expungable crime in Florida. Furthermore, in most states, you cannot expunge, or seal convictions for the following crimes:

  • Criminal sexual contact with a child.
  • False imprisonment.
  • Endangering the welfare of a child.
  • Child pornography creation, possession, and distribution.
  • Child prostitution.

Remember. As mentioned, CPS investigations may lead to convictions for child abuse or neglect. Consequently, state law determines if you can or cannot expunge abuse or negligence conviction.

How to expunge a CPS case

If CPS investigators find the claims to be unfounded. Then you qualify for CPS record expungement. How do you qualify for CPS record expungement?

  • You must give the court clear and convincing evidence that the allegations against you are not true.
  • The evidence must be in writing, and if you can, it should include witness testimony.
  • Show the court that the reporter made a false statement (false statements are punishable offenses in most states).

We recommend presenting facts to a family court attorney to figure out the best course of action.

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