What Happens When You Call CPS?

Don’t Avoid What You Don’t Understand

Brad Hambrick

You may have read the series of  books by C. S. Lewis called The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Magician’s Nephew, two children find themselves in the world of Charn staring at a strange bell with the inscription: 

“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger, 
Strike the bell and bide the danger, 
Or wonder, till it drives you mad, 
What would have followed if you had.”1C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series (New York: Harper Collins, 2001, 35.

In this brief poem, Lewis invites his readers to wrestle with the human response to unknown outcomes. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next in Narnia, but in this lesson we want to explore the “unknown outcome” of what happens when you call CPS. We don’t want uncertainty to be the reason we don’t take action to help an abused or neglected child. 


Let’s review what happens before you make a call to CPS. The simple standard is that you have a “reasonable suspicion” that a child is experiencing abuse or neglect. A phone call to CPS is a way to get an experienced second opinion from someone with the authority to intervene if your suspicion is potentially valid. 


When you speak to CPS, let them know you are calling to report your concerns of neglect or abuse. The case worker will begin to ask you a series of questions, from a structured interview form. A link to the North Carolina version of this structured interview can be found here: https:// www2.ncdhhs.gov/info/olm/forms/dss/dss-1402-ia.pdf. 

You should ask a social worker from your state to share the version for your area. 

The purpose of the structured interview is to ensure the conversation covers key subjects. Your goal is to answer the questions as best you can. Don’t be alarmed if your answer to some of the questions is “I don’t know.” You are simply giving CPS the information you have as a starting place for them to vet the concern. 

These forms are divided into categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, substance abuse, abandonment, etc. Don’t let it unsettle you that some of the questions explore areas that are not relevant to the situation you are reporting. CPS is just following protocol. 


After a report is received, the CPS worker you spoke with will talk to their supervisor to decide whether the report will be accepted for assessment. This means two case workers have to deem the case worthy of further investigation in order for action to be taken. Even if CPS does not accept your report for investigation, this does not mean it was wrong or unwise for you to make the report. 

As the reporter, you should know that your identity is anonymous. CPS will not reveal any identifying information about you in their investigation. However, CPS will tell the family what the allegations are and use exact phrases from their report during their interviews. 

CPS will either respond immediately, within 24 hours, or within 72 hours depending on their level of concern. CPS should send you a notice, in the form of letter, of the outcome of their case within 30 days. 

We are discussing the ideal or standard protocols for CPS. As an institution run by humans, CPS does not always operate according to its ideals any more than the church always operates according to our ideals. Don’t let frustrations with one case cause you to neglect your responsibilities with a future case. 

Be sure to get the CPS worker’s name and the case number so you can verify your report, if needed. 


When CPS begins their assessment with families, they take one of two approaches: 

  1. An investigative assessment is the response that involves a clear risk of serious harm to the child. Investigative assessments are often done in collaboration with law enforcement. 
  2. The more frequent approach CPS uses is a family assessment approach. This approach is used for lower risk situations that still merit investigation. In this approach, the first contact with the family is typically to call and schedule a time to meet with them. 

Step One: Safety Plan 

After CPS initiates a case, they typically discuss concerns with the family and put a safety plan in place. This is a signed agreement with the family about how they will ensure the safety of the child. Also at this time, CPS will attempt to connect the family with resources relevant to family’s needs. 

This is an area where the church can be an immense asset. Ask to see the safety plan, because children or student ministry leaders may need to be informed of limitations on who can pick up the children. Offer to help with childcare, supervised visitation, or other ways of ensuring family safety.

If a Child Is at Greater Risk 

When CPS finds that a child’s safety continues to remain at-risk, they can remove a child from the home. Besides the priority of keeping families together, taking children away from their parents is a complicated, expensive, and time-consuming task that CPS wants to avoid as much as possible. If a child is placed outside of their home, it is only because CPS has found the parents non-compliant with the safety plan and there is no way to guarantee the child’s safety in the home. 

CPS tries to keep children as close to their current living situation as possible; close to their current homes, in the same school, and in contact with their family. This is where church members, who are in the same community, can be of great assistance by serving as foster families.

We know this brief lesson cannot answer all the questions you have about CPS. When a child’s safety is at risk, our minds can and should race with questions. If you have more questions, invite a CPS social worker to come to a church staff meeting or volunteer training for a Q&A.

The goal of this lesson is to ensure that uncertainty about a process does not create passivity. It will never be “comfortable” when a call to CPS is needed. But at this point you should know enough to call CPS with confidence, understanding what is happening on the other end of the call. 


Contributors include Brad Hambrick, Rachael Denhollander, Mika Edmondson, Samantha Kilpatrick, Diane Langberg, Chris Moles, Andrea Munford, Karla Siu, Darby Strickland, and Leslie Vernick.

This article is an excerpt taken from Lesson 7 of the Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused curriculum (http://churchcares.com). This free, 12-lesson video curriculum and accompanying handbook is available at churchcares.com and was created to help churches be equipped to respond well in the initial stages of learning about instances of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

Brad serves as the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in  Durham, North Carolina. He also serves as Instructor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and has authored several books including Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends and God’s Attributes: Rest for Life’s Struggles.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24