The Child Welfare System and Addiction in Nevada

The State of Nevada rules parents “unfit” for parenting if you use drugs or alcohol. Learn more about how the NV Child Welfare works. We describe what the process looks like here.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: This article provides an overview of child welfare systems in Nevada. It explains what happens when abuse or neglect are reported in combination with substance use. Review how the process is directed by the NV State Child Welfare Agency. Plus, learn about state laws that protect children. More below.


Why Did They Take My Child?

If you are using drugs or drinking while your kids are in your care, the State of Nevada can find you “unfit” to properly care for your child. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol can mean that you cannot provide proper:

  • Care
  • Control
  • Supervision

Further, parents who are high or drunk have problems providing adequate food, education, shelter, medical care, or other care a child needs for his/her well-being. This is considered child neglect.

Child Protective Services, or CPS, is a state run agency set up through law. The Nevada Revised Statutes, Chapter 432B outlines CPS duties. Mainly, the Nevada State CPS is in charge of investigating reports of suspected child abuse and neglect.

If it’s determined that you’ve been using drugs or drinking in the presence of your children, you could lose legal custody of your kids. They might be placed in foster care or even adopted by another family. [1]

You need to know what to expect and what steps to take if you’re are involved in a child protective service case. Using drugs or drinking doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means you need professional help. Reach out and let us help you. We can discus treatment options together.  Call us today and be connected with American Addiction Centers. Or, continue reading to learn more about the procedure of the Child Welfare system in Nevada.

Who Has Reported Me?

Anyone in the state of Nevada can report a parent to the local child welfare agency or to the police. If you suspect that a parent neglecting is drinking or using drugs, your call can help a child. The identity of the person making the report is kept confidential. NRS 432B.260 does not allow the child welfare agency to release the name of the person who reported the abuse and neglect concerns. [3]

1. Nevada’s CPS hotlines:

  • Clark County: 1-702- 399-0081
  • Washoe County: 1-755-784-8600
  • All other counties: 1-800-992-5757

2. Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453

3. Your local police department

In the State of Nevada, there are professionals who are obligated by the State law NRS432B.220 to report their suspicions. [2] Mandated reporters are required to make a report immediately to a CPS or law enforcement agency. A report must be made within 24 hours after there is a reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected. There are penalties for mandated reporters when a report is not received within the time limit NRS 432B.240. [4] Mandatory reporters include:

  • Athletic trainer
  • Attorneys, under certain circumstances
  • Christian Science practitioner
  • Counselors, therapists, and other mental health
  • Foster care and child care employees
  • Hospital administration and personnel
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Medical examiners or coroners
  • Members of the clergy ,religious healers
  • Optometrist
  • Persons who maintain youth shelters or foster homes
  • Physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers
  • Probation officers
  • Schools employees
  • Social workers
  • Volunteer referral abuse service

What Happens When I’m Reported?

STEP 1. Intake. Intake is the first stage of the child protective service process and is one of the most important decision-making points in the child protection system. It is the point at which reports of suspected child abuse and neglect are received. Information gathered by caseworkers is used to make decisions regarding safety, risk, and the type of CPS response required. Referrals in Nevada are accepted from all sources, and each report is treated as a potential case of child maltreatment.

STEP 2. Investigation. Upon receiving a referral, the intake worker attempts to gather as much information as possible about each family member, the family as a whole, and the nature, extent and severity, of the alleged child maltreatment. Once the initial intake information is collected, the caseworker conducts a check of agency records and the Central Registry to determine any past reports or contact with the family. Then, the caseworkers must collect and analyze the information and determine if it meets the criteria outlined in Statute regarding the definition of child abuse and neglect and the requirements for response.

STEP 3. Prioritization and Response. Nevada State CPS prioritizes the investigation response time based on a number of factors including the nature of the allegations and the age of the child. The response times are either immediate, within 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, or 10 days. The average response time for CPS agencies in Nevada is at the 90th percentile level.

STEP 4. Case Determination. Upon completion of the investigation of a report of abuse or neglect, a determination of the case findings are made based on whether there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is abused or neglected or threatened with abuse or neglect. The case manager will assess whether the child is safe or unsafe, and if the child or family is in need of services. S/he will review what changes need to happen for the child to be safe at home. If the case manager determines that abuse or neglect did not occur, the report is “unsubstantiated.” If the case manager determines that abuse or neglect has occurred, the report is “substantiated.” You have the right to appeal a substantiation. [5]

What Happens Next?

Within 45 days of beginning the assessment, the case manager must decide if abuse or neglect has occurred. If the case manager finds that your child is unsafe, the case manager will work with you to establish a safety plan and services will be provided to assist in reducing any safety threats that exist. If a safety plan cannot be made, the case manager will talk with your family to:

  • Find a temporary safe place for your child to stay with relatives.
  • Place your child in foster care.
  • Arrange for you to see your child.
  • Arrange services for your child and family.

In certain situations, your child may be placed outside of your care without your permission. A protective custody court hearing must be held within 72 hours excluding weekends and holidays from the time the decision was made to remove your child. You will be notified of the date, time, and location of the hearing. You must attend the hearing. At the hearing, the court decides whether your child can safely be returned to your care until the next court hearing. You will be informed of your rights at this hearing. [6]

Child Welfare Laws

There are federal requirements for each state to have laws about reporting and investigating child abuse and neglect, as mandated by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. The laws in Nevada that protect children and incorporate the federal mandates can be found under Nevada Revised Statutes, Chapter 432B. Here’s a basic review of main federal and state laws regarding child protection.

1. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act,CAPTA. This is the key federal legislation addressing child abuse and neglect. [7]

2. Protection of Children From Abuse and Neglect – CHAPTER 432B. This Law defines child abuse and neglect for NV State. The law authorizes child protection and law enforcement agencies to investigate reports of alleged child abuse and neglect. Parental substance abuse is considered neglect. The statute also outlines who is obligated to report child abuse and neglect. [8]

3. NRS 128.106 (d) Specific considerations in determining neglect by or unfitness of parent. This law states that in determining neglect by or unfitness of a parent, the court shall consider, without limitation, the following conditions which may diminish suitability as a parent: Excessive use of intoxicating liquors, controlled substances or dangerous drugs which renders the parent consistently unable to care for the child. [9]

The Courts that are In Charge?

Family matters in Nevada are resolved under the jurisdiction of the District Courts. Only Clark County has a specific Family Court Division. The Family Court helps people with divorce, annulment, child custody, visitation rights, child support, spousal support, community property division, name changes, adoption, and abuse and neglect. [10]

The Supreme Court is the state’s highest court and its primary responsibility is to review and rule on appeals from District Court cases. The court does not conduct fact-finding trials, but it rather determines if legal or procedural errors were committed during the case. The Supreme Court assigns one-third of all submitted cases to the Nevada Court of Appeals. [11]

What Happens to Parents?

If CPS’s case worker decides that a child has been neglected because of parental substance abuse, s/he will work with the parent to establish a safety plan. Services like rehab and counseling will be probably provided in order to reduce the harm caused to the child. If the parent doesn’t want services, but the child is unsafe, the case worker may ask the court to order that the parent takes part in a treatment program. It is very important for the parent to be involved in the discussion with the case worker.

What Happens to Children?

Depending on the severity of the case, children may remain at home or be removed into foster care.

In low-risk cases, children may remain in their own homes with their families. In these cases, families may receive in-home services and supports. This usually includes a combination of parent education, safety planning, counseling, and more. Families may also be connected with community services such as therapy, parent training, and support groups.

Most children in foster care are placed with relatives or foster families, but some may be placed in a group or residential setting. While a child is in foster care, he or she attends school and should receive medical care and other services as needed. Visits between parents and their children and between siblings are encouraged and supported, following a set plan. [12]

What Happens if I Drink or Use?

The goal of the NV State Child Welfare System is to reunite child with parents. But if you drink or use drugs, you need to go through  rehabilitation to make it possible. You must follow the Nevada court’s orders. This means that you’ll need to actively participate in counseling. Plus, you’ll need to make other lifestyle changes so that your child can live with you safely.

If the judge sees that you have continued to drink or use drugs and made no real effort toward reunification with your child and s/he might order that your parental rights be terminated. When this happens, the child is placed for adoption or with a legal guardian, possibly a family member.

While foster care is defined as temporary placement of the children until you get better, the termination of parental rights in permanent.

So why risk it?

Your children need you. And you deserve a better life. You can live a life without drugs or alcohol. A good treatment program can change your life forever. Are you ready to do what’s best for your family? Call us to learn more about your rehab options in the Silver State. Our admissions navigators are available day and night to talk with you. We can walk you through the process of change. You can do it!

Can I Get My Child Back?

Yes. About 3 in 5 children in foster care return home to their parents or other family members. However, before your children come home, the Nevada child welfare agency and court must be certain that:

  • You can keep your children safe.
  • You can meet your children’s needs.
  • You are prepared to be a parent.

Being involved with the child welfare system can give your family support and a chance to be stronger than before. By fully participating in your case plan and the services it includes, you can strengthen your skills to become the best parent that you can be for your children. [13]

Your Questions

Got any questions?

If you still have question and concerns about the child welfare system in Nevada, please post your comments in the section below. You can also find more information about the child welfare system in Nevada here.

Reference Source: [1] Nevada Revised Statutes: CHAPTER 432B- PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM ABUSE AND NEGLECT
[5] Nevada Department of Health & Human Services: Division of Child & Family Services
[6] Nevada Department of Health & Human Services: DCFS: Parents Guide to CPS
[7] Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
[9] Nevada Revised Statutes: CHAPTER 128 – TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS: Specific considerations in determining neglect by or unfitness of parent.
[10] Eight Judicial District Court, Clark County Nevada: Family Courts
[11] Nevada Judiciary: About the Nevada Judiciary
[12] Child Welfare Information Gateway: How the Child Welfare System Works
[13] Child Welfare: Reunification
Nevada Department of Health & Human Services: DCFS: Nevada Child Abuse and Neglect Allegation Definitions
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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