Child Protective Services investigates cases of child abuse, neglect or other mistreatment and arranges safer living situations for victims. Due to the serious nature of child abuse, allegations of youth endangerment are investigated promptly and are taken very seriously. In some instances, claims of child abuse may be unfounded, however. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires that states offer caregivers a way to expunge false records.
Depending on your state, you may be able to request that your records be expunged as soon as the allegations against you have been determined unfounded. In other states, however, you may have to wait until victims or alleged victims have reached adulthood to have your records expunged.
How Does CPS Determine Which Records Are False?
Records of child abuse reports are maintained by states in central registries. Once an investigation into an allegation of abuse has been completed, the record is classified according to the case findings. Cases may be “unsubstantiated” if no evidence was found to support the allegations. This classification may be alternately named “unfounded,” “not indicated” or “unconfirmed.” Alternatively, if a case is deemed to be “substantiated,” “founded,” “indicated” or “confirmed,” a determination has been made that abuse or neglect likely occurred.
In many states, only substantiated records are maintained in a central registry. In others, however, all records are maintained, regardless of the outcome of the investigation.
How to Get a CPS Record Expunged
In the United States, 30 states offer individuals the right to request an administrative hearing to contest the results of an investigation and have a record expunged. A total of 40 states have a provision for the expunction of records. The federal government maintains a list of state statutes, defining what is permitted in that state and how to go about getting a record expunged in a particular jurisdiction. In many instances, an immediate expunction is not available.
How Long Does a CPS Case Stay on Your Record?
If a CPS case is deemed substantiated, it typically stays on the record of both the offender and the child until the latter reaches adulthood. These laws vary by state, but they err on the longer-term in an effort to more fully protect victimized children.
If a case is not substantiated, it is typically much easier to have it removed from your record. In Texas, for instance, you may expunge a CPS case as soon as the department has determined that no abuse or neglect was evident. Once this assessment has been completed, you will be informed of the same and given the opportunity to request your name be removed from the central database.
Other states handle expunction differently. In California, information on unsubstantiated allegations may be erased only after 10 years have passed and only if no other cases have been brought against the same accused individual during that time. In New York, laws are even more strict. All records are maintained in the central registry until the youngest member of the family in which abuse was alleged turns 28.