There are three level Child Protective Services (CPS) appeals. Each level of the process is designed to give the appellant a progressively more formal means to voice concerns over the disposition reached by the local social services agency in the investigation and disposition of a CPS complaint.
First Level of Appeal (informal local conference)
The first level of the appeal process is the informal local conference, which is conducted by the director of the local social services agency or his or her designee. If the results of the local conference are unsatisfactory to the appellant, he or she may, within 30 days of receiving notice of the result of the local conference, request a state level hearing. The appeal request must be made in writing and mailed to the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services in Richmond.
Second Level of Appeal (administrative or state level hearing)
The second level of appeal is the administrative hearing, or state level hearing. Administrative hearings are conducted by impartial hearing officers designated by the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. At the administrative hearing the local department has the burden to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the disposition made by the local agency was made in accordance with law and policy. The hearing officer controls the hearing, maintains order, weighs the testimony and the evidence and renders a written decision in the case. The decision is mailed to the parties after the hearing is concluded and the record is closed.
Final Level of Appeal (appeal to circuit court)
The final level of appeal is an appeal to circuit court. Only the appellant may appeal the hearing officer's decision to the circuit court. A local agency cannot appeal the hearing officer's decision, nor can the victim or the victim's parents if they were not the appellants at the administrative hearing.
An appellant has 30 days from the date of service of the hearing officer's decision (the date that the decision was received or the date that the decision was mailed, whichever occurs first) to file a written notice of appeal to circuit court with the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. Within 30 days after filing the notice appeal to circuit court with the Commissioner, the appellant must file a written petition for appeal to circuit court with the appropriate circuit court. A copy of the petition for appeal to circuit court must also be served on the Commissioner.
The circuit court review is a review of the record of the administrative hearing. The Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia will appear in circuit court to represent the position of the Child Protective Services Section in the case.