Department of Social Services
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Protective Services


Protective Services for children provides assistance to families to ensure the safety and well-being of children.

  • Protect children from further abuse and neglect.
  • Support families in accessing resources to keep children safe.
  • Keep children with their families, if safe and appropriate.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect

  • To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call 410-853-3000. If you are reporting an emergency involving child safety or abandoned children, call 911.
  • For more Information on Child Protective Services, visit Maryland Department of Human Resources.
  • For additional information on child abuse and neglect, visit Family Tree – Maryland's leading organization dedicated to improving our community by providing families with proven solutions to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Alternative Response

Alternative Response in Child Protective Services (CPS) is a new practice. It is a family-centered, solution-focused alternate to the traditional Investigative Response.

Alternative Response creates a new way for the caseworker to engage the parent to make referrals for appropriate services and help the parent identify other potential supports. In lower risk cases, child safety can be achieved by partnering with family and community; while investigation remains the appropriate response to assure child safety in higher risk cases, Baltimore County now responds to half of all CPS reports with an Alternative Response.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is child abuse and neglect?
A. Child abuse and neglect are legal terms and are defined by the Maryland Family Law Article 5-701.

"Abuse" means:

  • The physical or mental injury of a child by any parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care, custody or responsibility for supervision of a child or by any household member, under circumstances that indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed;
  • Sexual abuse of a child, whether physical injuries are sustained or not. Sexual abuse means any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member.

"Neglect" means the leaving of a child unattended or other failure to provide proper care and attention to a child by a parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child under circumstances that indicate:

  • The child's health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk of harm; or
  • Mental injury to the child or a substantial risk of mental injury.

"Mental injury" means the observable, identifiable, and substantial impairment of a child's mental or psychological ability to function.

If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, contact the Department of Social Services at 410-853-3000 to discuss the situation with someone in the Screening Unit.

Q. How old does my child have to be before I can allow her or him to be home alone?
A. According to fire code law, a child under the age of eight must be in the care of a person who is at least 13 years old. Generally, it is left up to the parent's judgment to decide whether a child who is eight or older is mature enough to be home alone. Anytime you leave your child alone, be sure the child knows what to do in the event of an emergency.

Baltimore County Department of Social Services' Child Protective Services (CPS) may become involved if a child of any age is left alone and is placed at risk of harm because he or she is unable to manage on his or her own. CPS may also become involved if your child's babysitter or caretaker is unable to properly care for your child.

Q. Do parents have the right to discipline their children as they see fit?
A. Parents have the right to discipline their children. Parents do not have the right to abuse or neglect their children.

Discipline means helping children learn right from wrong and how to succeed in life. There are many ways to discipline children. If you or someone you know has questions about discipline, wants information about community counseling services or wants information about support groups for parents, call 410-853-3000.

Q. What should I do if I see unsupervised children in my neighborhood and I am worried about their safety?
A. Call the Baltimore County Police at 911. They will make an immediate assessment of the child's safety and if necessary, the police will contact Child Protective Services at the Department of Social Services.

If you have a general concern and there is not an immediate issue of the child's safety, you can call 410-853-3000 to discuss the situation with someone in the Screening Unit. Depending on what you have observed, a child neglect investigation might result.

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Adult Services

Adult Protective Services is a program which serves persons age 18 or over who lack the physical or mental capacity to provide for their daily needs. The purpose of the program is to prevent or remedy abuse, exploitation, neglect, and self-neglect of adults who are unable to protect their own interests and are at risk of immediate harm to themselves or others.

  • Abuse is the sustaining of any physical injury by a vulnerable adult as a result of a cruel or inhumane treatment or as a result of a malicious act by any person.
  • Exploitation is any action which involves the misuse of a vulnerable adult's funds, property, or person.
  • Neglect is the willful deprivation of adequate food, clothing, medical treatment or rehabilitative therapy, shelter, or supervision from a vulnerable adult.
  • Self-Neglect is the inability of a vulnerable adult to provide for his or her physical or mental health and well-being.

Report Abuse

Report adult abuse by calling the Department of Social Services at 410-853-3000. Persons who report the need for Adult Protective Services are protected under the law, and may choose to remain anonymous.

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Family Violence Unit

You may be in an abusive relationship if the person you love does the following:

  • "Tracks" all of your time
  • Accuses you of being unfaithful frequently
  • Discourages your relationships with family and friends
  • Criticizes you for little things
  • Angers easily
  • Controls all finances and force you to account for what you spend
  • Humiliates you in front of others
  • Makes comments about your body, clothing or hairstyle
  • Destroys personal property or sentimental items
  • Threatens to hurt you or your children

Help is Available

Call the Baltimore and Carroll Counties Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence 24-Hour Hotline at 410-828-6390. A trained operator can explain what services, such as crisis intervention, referral and support are available to help you.

Do you need a Court Advocate?

Call the Family Violence Unit within the Department of Social Services at 410-853-3030.

Free Legal Advice-Protection Order

For free legal advice – Protection Order Advocacy and Representation Project (POARP), call the Baltimore County Circuit Courthouse at 410-887-3162.


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Revised June 17, 2014

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