I've been quite frustrated by CPS, actually. As a teacher there have been times when I've reported sexual abuse that I had no question occured and nothing happened. Last year I called, the counselor called, the principal called, nothing happened. Oh, I mean, sure they probably talked to the mother, but the situation did not change and they were not following up.
See, situations like these make me think CPS is really ineffectual when it comes to dealing with criminal behavior (and that's what child abuse is: criminal behavior, not some distraught mom screaming -- or even cussing -- at her kids outside a store). I agree there's undesirable behavior that doesn't warrant jail-time, but it's not a matter for government intrusion. Those are situations where caring individuals need to befriend those families.
On the one hand, CPS seems ineffectual in dealing with criminal child abuse.On the other hand, CPS workers have power to harass families for things police wouldn't even care about, like a messy house. I think if police were the ones called for suspected child abuse, we'd see more criminal child abusers going to jail, and more children who've been victimized by these people getting the protection they need.
At the same time, we'd see lots of other people being left alone and allowed to continue their lives without harassment. Some friends of mine finally, after some months of harassment, received a letter saying CPS has closed a ridiculous case on them. My friend had been called in for letting her children, ranging in age from 7 to 3, play in the yard while she was in the house, keeping an eye on them through the window.
When the worker arrived, my friend called in her 3yo who was her only child still in the yard, and stood in the doorway to talk to the worker. He was angry that she wouldn't let him into the house; he said he needed to see the children's bedrooms and make sure she had food in the fridge (he didn't explain what that had to do with her letting them play in their own yard). She continued to (cordially) refuse him entry (similar to the experience of a pp, the caseworker seemed angry that my friend knew her rights), though she did call all her children to the door so he could look at them and see they were okay.
My friends got a lawyer who handled all communications with CPS for them. At that point, CPS wasn't able to have any direct dealings with my friends, it all had to be done through the lawyer. They did attend one or two interviews with CPS (without their children), accompanied by their lawyer, where they answered various questions. CPS kept pushing for access to the children, and my friends kept refusing. The workers were rather patronizing, saying they "could" get a warrant and force the issue, but they were trying to be "nice."
At one interview, CPS said they had a right to simply go to the children's schools, pull them out of class, and talk to them. Then they asked the names of the children's schools, and found out my friends home-schooled. They were none too happy about that, and kept saying it would be so much "easier" for my friends if they just cooperated and let them have the children for an interview -- that they could go before a judge and have something "court-ordered," etcetera.
My friends stood their ground, and it's finally over. None of the threats ever materialized. But you can bet it was still very stressful to my friends, wondering what might happen.
While I realize the pp's are right who say that calling CPS doesn't necessarily mean the kids will be taken and put in foster-care -- I agree more strongly with the pp's who say a call can result in untold trauma to the family, as it has for my friends. No, they haven't been destroyed by the call -- but they've been badly hurt.
That's why if I saw something that concerned me, I'd ask myself, "Is this criminal abuse (i.e. beating, sexual abuse, severe neglect)?" If it was, I'd call the police, not CPS. If it wasn't sufficient to warrant police intervention -- I wouldn't call anyone. I'd just see how I could be a friend to the family -- or butt out.