Go to the police before Child Protective Services

Unfortunately, CPS agencies don’t do a great job at protecting children.  The advocacy group Justice for Children specifically recommends that you go to the police first before CPS:

Fundamentally, most law enforcement officers are better trained to investigate crimes against children than a CPS caseworker. Importantly, since the focus of law enforcement is to bring the perpetrator to the bar of justice, they cannot make their case unless they collect the evidence needed by a prosecutor and protect their “Complaining Witness.” On the other hand, CPS caseworkers have a very high turnover rate, inadequate training in investigation, do NOT perform a criminal investigation, and are conflicted by the opposing mandates of child protection and “family preservation.”

The JFC website contains some heartbreaking stories of children who were failed by CPS (see their founding story and their success stories):

In 1987, 2-year-old Jesse was ordered removed from a loving, foster family where he had lived since he was five months old. Although he was the youngest of the five Wheeler children in foster care, he alone was returned to his biological mother in accordance with the family preservation policy of CPS, despite knowledge by CPS and the Court that his mother had recently married a man who had been indicted for the rape of a 4-year-old.

There are many stories on Reddit of people who were failed by CPS.  One Redditor reports being sent back to her abusive situation despite being brutally raped by her stepfather’s friend.  Another reports that CPS did nothing despite her stepfather admitting to physical abuse.

When reporting child abuse to the police, it is possible that you run into a cop who does not take the issue seriously.  Cops have different opinions as to what is and isn’t abuse and some of them may be in denial of their own abuse traumas.  Try to find a police officer who cares.

If the child is not old enough to be independent, the Justice for Children website has some tips.  Get the police or CPS involved and personally follow up on the case.  If the child is old enough to be independent, there are more options available such as:

  • Minors can apply for a restraining/protective order.
  • They can move out.  They can run away to move out.
  • Youth shelter.
  • Job Corps (16+).
  • Emancipation.  This option is available in some states to teenagers who can demonstrate that they can support themselves financially, live independently, and complete their education.  Minors above a certain age (e.g. 14, 16, etc. depending on the state) can apply to legally become an adult so that their parents will not have power over them.

No child deserves to live in an abusive household.  While it may be difficult, there are various options that can be explored for getting out of an abusive household.


A guide for teenagers with abusive parents

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