Child Protective Investigator Job Description

Child protective investigators prevent harm to children by investigating claims of child neglect and abuse. They are excellent judges of character and must determine if future actions of abuse and neglect are likely to occur again. This is an entry-level position that requires patience and a high level of endurance in the face of hard situations. Child protective investigators work both in office settings and out in the field while they are investigating homes and families. Since Child Protective Services (CPS) is available 24/7, child protective investigators may work either day or night shifts. They report directly to supervising CPS caseworkers.


Child Protective Investigator Duties and Responsibilities

Specific job duties for child protective investigators vary based on their location and caseload. However, there are several core tasks common to all child protective investigators, such as:

Field Calls from Concerned People

Child protective investigators receive calls from people worried about children being abused. These concerned people are typically neighbors or family members. This responsibility includes writing down information and following up by creating an investigation if necessary.

Check Children for Signs of Abuse

Once an official investigation has been opened, child protective investigators are responsible for inspecting affected children for signs of child abuse. These signs can include physical injuries, even serious ones. They can also include mental and emotional trauma.

Interview People Close to the Case

To gain an understanding of the full extent of abuse, child protective investigators interview people close to the case, such as family members, school teachers, doctors, and more. These interviews are frank and to the point, and they often include discussing sensitive subjects.

Testify in Court

If the state decides to press charges against the accused abusers, child protective investigators are often required to testify in court against them. When they testify, they are responsible for presenting all information in a logical and clear manner so everyone involved in the case can understand.

Document All Investigations

Throughout the entire investigation process, child protective investigators are responsible for documenting all interaction with the child and alleged abusers, including phone calls, interviews, and in-person visits. As a part of this documentation, child protective investigators record the results of each of these interactions and the investigator’s recommended next steps.


Child Protective Investigator Skills and Qualifications

Child protective investigators are efficient and empathetic. They are often driven by their love for children and their desire to keep them safe. They are firm and authoritative, and they know how to act fast in situations that are sometimes dangerous. Employers look for tenacious candidates who are willing to do everything in their power to keep children safe. Employers also look for candidates who possess the following skills and qualifications:

  • Experience working with children – child protective investigators are most successful when they have previous experience working with children. They know how children act when under duress and can appropriately assess a child’s condition
  • Case management – child protective investigators have previous experience managing cases and other projects. They know how to logically go about each step of a process and can proceed with efficiency and urgency
  • Investigative skills – since they investigate difficult situations, child protective investigators know how to approach a situation with logical thinking and clear investigative skills. They know how to interpret certain responses and can read people well
  • Organization skills – child protective investigators are highly organized and can keep track of all their different cases simultaneously
  • Interpersonal communication skills – child protective investigators are very skilled communicators, both with adults and children. They know how to speak to and understand children who sometimes can’t fully explain what they mean, and they know how to interpret the nuances of an adult’s dialogue


Tools of the Trade

Child protective investigators use the following tools often:

  • Agency-specific case management software
  • Microsoft Office Suite (especially Word and Outlook)


Child Protective Investigator Education and Training

Child protective investigators need at least a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in human, social, or protective services. Employers often seek candidates with advanced degrees in social work with an emphasis in child care and protection.

Most states require child protective investigators to have at least two years of experience in a supervised clinical setting. Many states also require them to be Certified Children, Youth, and Family Social Workers (C-CYFSW) or Certified Advanced Children, Youth, and Family Social Workers (C-ACYFSW).

Every child protective investigator undergoes a period of on-the-job training to get caught up to speed with current and pending investigations.


Child Protective Investigator Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most child protective investigators can expect to make anywhere between $20,000 and $53,000 per year, with the median annual earnings around $34,000. With further training and experience, this salary is likely to rise. Child protective investigators also receive health benefits, paid time off, and retirement plans.

The BLS reports that child protective investigators will experience an average employment growth rate of around 16 percent over the next decade.


Helpful Resources

Read through this list of helpful resources to learn more about child protective investigators and their responsibilities:

National Association of Social Workers – NASW is the largest professional organization of social workers in the United States. The organization focuses on enhancing professional growth and providing network connections for both new and veteran social workers

Social Work Network – with just over 60,000 members, this LinkedIn group offers a great opportunity for new child protective investigators to meet other social workers and learn more about the field as a whole

Days in the Lives of Social Workers: 58 Professionals Tell Real-Life Stories from Social Work Practice – this book gives you an in-depth look at the social work industry and the types of things social workers experience on a daily basis. While a lot of the stories are sad, most of them highlight how important it is for social workers to do what they do

The A-to-Z Self-Care Handbook for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals – since child protective investigators most often work in extremely difficult situations, it’s important that they care for themselves. This book highlights the different ways social workers can care for their own mental and physical well-being


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