Dorchester County Dept. of Social Services

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Child Protective Services



1. What is Child Protective Services?
Child Protective services are a statewide program designed to protect children while helping parents become better parents. Each department has the legal responsibility to investigate all reports of child abuse, neglect, and mental injury, where the health and welfare of children may be endangered by the actions or inactions of parents or other adults responsible for the children’s care or by any household or family member.
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2. What is child abuse?
Maryland Family Law 5-701 states:
  1. Physical injury, not necessarily visible, of a child by a parent, other individual who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by a household or family member under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed:
  2. Any sexual abuse to a child, meaning an act or acts involving sexual molestation or exploitation, whether physical injuries are sustained or not, by a parent, or other individual who has permanent or temporary care or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by a household or family member: or
  3. Mental injury to a child, meaning the observable, identifiable and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability to function, that is caused by the act of a parent or other individual who has permanent or temporary care, or custody or responsibility for supervision of the child, or by a household or family member.

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3. What is child neglect?
  1. The failure to give proper care and attention to a child, including the leaving of a child unattended by the child’s parent, or other individual who has permanent or temporary care or custody, or responsibility for supervision of the child, under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk of harm; or
  2. Mental injury to a child, meaning the observable, identifiable and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability function, or substantial risk of mental injury that is caused by the failure to give proper care and attention to a child by the child’s parents, or other individual who has permanent or temporary care or custody, or responsibility for supervision of the child.

If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, contact the Dorchester County Department of Social Services at (410) 901-4100, request the intake unit, to discuss the situation with a social worker. If the concern about a child is after the Department is closed, please call the After Hours service of (410) 221-3246.
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4. How does my name become known to Child Protective Services?
In Maryland, the child abuse and Neglect Law requires that any health practitioner (doctor, nurse, etc.), police officer, educator or human service worker who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse, neglect or mental injury, shall report such cases to the local department or appropriate law enforcement agency. All other citizens who have reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse, neglect or metal injury are also required to make reports.
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5. Can I find out who made the report?
The name of the person who makes the reports is not released without a court order directive. In most cases professionals who have a strong belief of wanting to help a family in crisis make the reports.
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6. What right does a Child Protective service worker have to come to my home?
The child abuse and Neglect law (5-701 to 5-715 of the Maryland Family Law Code Annotated) requires that a child protective service worker make prompt investigations of alleged child abuse, child neglect, and mental injury situations. Promptly after receiving a report of suspected abuse, neglect or mental injury, the department or the appropriate law enforcement agency, or both. If jointly agreed on, shall make a thorough investigation to protect the welfare of the children. Within 24 hours of suspected abuse and within 5 days after receiving a report of suspected neglect or mental injury, investigator shall: see the child, attempt to have an on site interview with the child’s caretakers, decide on the safety of the child, wherever the child is and of other children in the care or custody of the alleged abuser.
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7. Are children always removed from the home?
The child protective service worker and/or law enforcement officer must make a decision about the safety of the children. If there is a threat of immediate danger or problems that are too serious to solve with the children in the home, the worker can take the children into custody to have them stay in an emergency shelter care home. If the worker removes the child without written permission, there will be a court hearing. Parents have the right to have a lawyer at all court hearings. The child protective services worker does not want to remove children from their parents, and will try to keep them in the home whenever that is possible.
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8. How old does my child have to be before I can allow him/her to be home alone?
The laws don’t directly address this question. However the fire code, the most commonly referred to law on this subject, states that a child under the age of 8 must be in the care of a person who is at least 13 years old. Generally it is up to the parents to use good judgment on the child’s ability and maturity to be home alone. The child should at all times know of what to do in case of an emergency. Child protective services may get involved if a child is left home alone or placed at risk of harm if the child is unable to manage on his/her own. CPS may also get involved if a babysitter or caretaker is unable to properly care for him/her. A parent is responsible for appropriate supervision of a child even when left with a babysitter. A parent should choose the substitute care provider wisely. Questions such as their ability to adequately supervise the child? Their maturity level, and are they emotionally and intellectually able to handle the job?
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9. Does child abuse and neglect happen only in the home?
Child maltreatment can occur in all types of settings. Children in day care homes and centers, schools, foster and group homes, as well as residential facilities are protected under the law in the same way that children in their own homes are protected.
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10. How do I make a referral of child abuse/ neglect?
Call the Dorchester County Department of Social Services at (410) 901-4100.
Request to speak to the Intake worker on duty. The agency is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm
After the agency has closed, please call the After Hours number of (410) 221-3246,
or law enforcement according to the jurisdiction of the incident.
The police department’s phone numbers are as follows:
Cambridge Police Department-(410) 228-3333
Dorchester County Sheriff Department-(410) 228-4242
Maryland State Police-(410)-228-3101
Hurlock Police Department-(410) 943-4020
Or call 911 in a dire emergency.

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Copyright © 2016 Dorchester County Department of Social Services.
The Department of Social Services is a local agency of the
Maryland Department of Human Resources
Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr., Governor | Boyd K. Rutherford, Lt. Governor | Lourdes R. Padilla, Secretary

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