After that first report of child abuse or neglect is made to CPS, CPS decides whether or not to investigate the allegations. An investigation ends with an administrative finding, determinations made by an administrative agency (CPS) rather than one made by a court (Judge). According to appendix 2224-B, investigations typically culminate in one of four administrative findings: ruled out, unable to determine, administrative closure, or reason to believe.
When an investigation is closed and the disposition is “ruled out,” this simply means that whatever abuse or neglect that was alleged probably did not occur. Most likely, children will be returned home (if they were ever removed) and CPS will step out of the lives of the children and parents involved. Although having allegations ruled out makes it seem like the whole incident is over, beware: it may come back to haunt you.
Sometimes, investigations are closed with the disposition that CPS was “unable to determine” whether the alleged abuse or neglect occurred. This determination means that the alleged abuse or neglect may or may not have happened; CPS simply does not have enough evidence to decide one way or the other. Again, it is likely that children will be returned home and CPS will leave the family alone. CPS may request that family members participate in services (see section 3000).
The third type of administrative finding is called an “administrative closure.” Although there may be other situations that bring about an administratively closed investigation, this occurs most often when the family moves before an investigation can be completed. CPS reports generally do not transfer state-to-state and CPS doesn’t often track a family.
The last type of finding at the end of an investigation is “reason to believe.” When this administrative finding is made, it typically means that CPS feels that they have enough evidence to support the conclusion that the alleged abuse or neglect occurred. Usually, when an allegation is designated “reason to believe,” the case does not end for quite some time. The family members are asked or ordered to participate in services, the children may not be returned to the home right away, or the children may never be allowed to return home, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse or neglect.
It is important to know what finding was made in your CPS investigation because the finding dictates the course of the case from that point forward.