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What Does CPS Look for in a Home Visit? [Checklist]

What Does CPS Look for in a Home Visit? [Checklist]

If you’re dealing with CPS, you’ve probably wondered, “What does CPS look for in a home visit?” I have been visited by CPS a few times, and it’s always stressful… but I’ve done some research and figured out what CPS is actually looking for when they visit your home.


Before we begin, I need to remind you that I am not a lawyer or social worker. I am a journalist with extensive CPS experience. I have written and reported on this topic several times in the past. If you need advice about your specific situation, I’ve aggregated a list of free legal aid help here.

Need legal advice?

Low Income Relief is staffed by researchers, not lawyers. If you need legal advice, our friends at JustAnswer may be able to help! Contact them today.


Wait – do you know your rights?!

When CPS comes knocking, you have rights. Make sure you know what they are, because this is definitely one of those things that you need to know before CPS shows up at your house.

For example, if the caseworker does not have a warrant, you do not have to let them in. You can refuse entry. You can find more information about this in our other articles, “What CPS Can and Cannot Do” and “What are my rights with Child Protective Services?


mom worries "what does CPS look for in a home visit?"

What does CPS look for in a home visit?

To find an answer to this question, we turned to federal and state publications. There are many theories surrounding this topic, but we wanted to know actual, factual truth from the source.

So, according to a variety of state and federal laws, regulations and handbooks, here is the answer to “what does CPS look for in a home visit?”

Remember, the overall goal is to determine whether or not a child is safe at home. These things are just specific benchmarks that help them make that determination.


Cleanliness was always my primary concern when CPS was called on me. However, I was repeatedly assured by caseworkers that I had nothing to worry about. They are more concerned with ensuring sanitary conditions than a sparkling clean living environment, so you can breathe easy. Life with kids is messy, and CPS knows that.

Hopefully, like me, you’ll be relieved to know that perfection is not the answer to “What does CPS look for in a home visit?”


CPS looks for human and animal feces in the home. Unfortunately, they sometimes find it.


Insect and rodent infestations are generally considered an indicator of unsanitary living conditions. This isn’t always the case, of course, but it is something that CPS will look for in a home visit.


Rotten Food

Rotten food is something that CPS caseworkers are trained to look for during a home visit.


Piles of dirty laundry are not good. Laundry piles should be avoided altogether. If you must have piles of laundry, piles of clean laundry are far preferable.


One of the answers to “What does CPS look for in a home visit?” is actually what they smell. The smell of your home can tell someone a lot about how clean it is on a regular basis. Even if it looks clean, a lingering odor can betray past negligence.


Tidiness is important. If a house is tidy, it will usually be clear of tripping or choking hazards. It will also be free of clutter that could pose a danger if a fire or other emergency were to happen.


There should not be any trash in the house. Trash is a major red flag for CPS caseworkers.


CPS will look for running, clean water because this is considered a sanitary need. They will check for flushing toilets and other functional utilities.


Safety Hazards

There are many types of safety hazards that CPS looks for in a home visit. This is probably the most important answer to “What does CPS look for in a home visit?”

Burn Hazards

Do you know the temperature of your hot water? CPS may check the temperature to ensure that your children are not in danger of scalds or burns.

Choking Hazards

Small objects left in the reach of very young children can present a choking hazard. CPS will take note of any risks that are present in your home.

Drug Paraphernalia

Any drug paraphernalia is a red flag. Second-hand smoke in the home is also something that CPS will pay attention to, especially if the children have asthma or other lung problems.

Environmental Danger

Sometimes, older and cheaper homes can be quite dangerous. Exposed wiring, broken appliances, shattered glass and even dangerous neighborhoods can pose extra risks to children. Broken outlet covers could also be a problem.

Be mindful of anything that could pose a trip hazard, fall hazard, electrical hazard, or any sort of safety hazard. CPS will take note of all these things during a home visit.

The good news is that the agency may be able to provide help fixing many of these issues. They may be able to provide funding, negotiate with landlords or provide resources to help you remedy some of these problems.

Fire Hazards

Are any doors or windows permanently blocked or closed? If so, that may pose a danger in case of a fire or other emergency. This is something that will always get a caseworker’s attention.

They will also want to know if the smoke alarms work. After all, when it comes to “What does CPS look for in a home visit?”, safety is the ultimate answer.

Guns & Weapons

If guns and other weapons are accessible to children, that’s a major problem. Weapons should be stored in a locked cabinet, out of reach and inaccessible to children. Firearms should not be loaded and ammunition should be stored in a separate location.

Chemicals & Cleaning Products

Many household cleaners, medications and home improvement products can be poisonous. They need to be stored safely out of reach of children. It is recommended to keep medications (including over-the-counter medications) in a locking cabinet.

Other safety hazards

Other general safety hazards will be searched for as well. These may include things like stairs without gates, lack of safety restraints in your vehicles, etc.


Many families are surprised to learn that when it comes to “What does CPS look for in a home visit?” the answer is always “sleeping arrangements.” Even if your complaint has nothing to do with a child’s sleeping arrangement, this issue will most likely be addressed by your caseworker.


Children under the age of 18 months should sleep in a crib, free of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, bumper pads and other materials.

Any bunk beds must have railings on both sides of the upper tier to prevent falls. Children who are sleeping in the top bunk should be old enough and mature enough to do so safely. Generally, no child under the age of six years old should sleep in a top bunk.

Co-Ed Roommates

CPS generally does not approve of boys and girls sharing a bedroom after the age of five years old. If there is any way to avoid that, it should be avoided.


Does the child have adequate clothing? Is their clothing clean?

Personal Possessions

As they check the child’s room, they’ll see the child’s sleeping arrangements, bedding, toys, and other possessions. These are all considered indicators of whether or not a child is well cared for.


The child must have a safe place to sleep. Generally, alternatives like closets and hallways are not considered safe bedrooms because each bedroom should have a window that can open in case of an emergency.


The kitchen plays an important role in every family’s life. It shouldn’t be a surprise that CPS takes a special interest in this space.


CPS will want to see that you have food in the house, and that the food is available to your children. The refrigerator should be clean and well-stocked. The pantry and/or cupboards should have food. There should not be a lock on the kitchen door, fridge or cupboards that would prevent the child from accessing food if the child is hungry.

They will want to make sure that there is no rotting food in the kitchen.


They will also want to make sure that there are no unsecured knives or other dangerous objects within reach of the children.


If you’re worried about “what does CPS look for in a home visit?” and you have pets, then you have a few extra things to consider.


Litter boxes, shedding fur and other pet-related messes will be a cause for concern with the caseworker. If your pet is indoors, make sure that the pet’s messes are taken care of.


CPS will want to know if your pets are well cared for. If you allow your pets to have an infestation untreated, it will reflect poorly on your caregiving.


There are some dangers that can exist outside your home, also. If you are renting an apartment, these aren’t necessarily things you need to worry about. If you’re in a home, however, we need to add these things to the list of “What does CPS look for in a home visit?”

Road Safety

If the home is located near a busy road, the yard should be adequately fenced to keep small children safe from getting into the road.

Water Features

If a pool or water feature is present, it should be fenced or gated so that younger children cannot fall in.

Don’t make these 5 mistakes with CPS!


Have too much month at the end of your money? Me too - and that's how Low Income Relief got started. I have over 20 years of professional research and writing experience. Over the years, I've worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. My work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today,,, Legal Beagle, The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), The Chronicle (Centralia, WA) and others. At Low Income Relief, I use my professional research and reporting experience to help low income families save money and make ends meet. It's been my full-time job since 2016, and it's truly an honor to serve you.


Sunday 19th of December 2021

My neighbor who lives in the downstairs unit of my apartment has me worried about his living situation. Specifically, the cleanliness of the apartment does not seem safe for his children, and there is no room for two children to be housed there long term. I am looking for advice on what I can do as a concerned party.


Friday 22nd of April 2022

@Jake, offer to clean it for them


Monday 17th of January 2022

Unfortunately, we cannot give specific legal advice. You can get low-cost legal advice online from our friends at JustAnswer, or you can look for free legal assistance in your area here.

Leslie Mahood

Sunday 3rd of October 2021

Well thought out article. I have a suprising addition. When I was visited, I had recently chosen not to replace a tv my son had broken. We had radio for entertainment and emergencies, but we sought out games, books, etc for passing time. The cos lady asked me where was my tc? I explained that there was none, and she was visibly disturbed. How do I get news? Weather? Etc? The radio was tuned to a local channel, I shrugged and pointed at the speakers. “ Well, I think you don’t have one so the kids will go next door and watch the neighbors tc and you can sleep, since you work nights.” What? Are you upset because I don’t have a babysitter? ( my oldest was 14). Or because I don’t have a tv? Or because I don’t have a tv for a babysitter? “Well, you have no call to get snippy with me,!” Says she. Roll my eyes. “ Modern kids are socially expected to have some tv time.” BS! Long story short, I had to pay my neighbors 14 year old to stay with my kids during my shifts, cuz “ kids don’t respect their own stblings, and my daughter, “ shouldn’t be expected to provide care for my sleeping children for free.” And they made me buy a stupid tv! No lie! I was a single working mom with 4 kids trying to be a family that shared and worked and communicated for our communal benefit. And they made me drop $200 on a tv and upwards of 400 a month for a kid with less interest in my family than the absent fathers to sleep on my couch so I could work. SMH!!! She also asked my wonderful kids what they would if there was an intruder during the night. They looked at each other and the bravest one said,” we’d all for run to different exits and go to the closest neighbors house, so that way the intruder couldn’t stop all four of them from accessing assistance! My kids are beilliant, I said!!! She wasn’t impressed, I said, what would I do? I don’t have a gun, I’m not a big lady? How does having me or the neighbor kid there help in that situation? She said an authority figure present would keep them from being so traumatized! What ever!!!


Monday 13th of December 2021

I’m so sorry that you are going through that. It sounds really difficult. Unfortunately, we cannot give specific legal advice. You can get low-cost legal advice online from our friends at JustAnswer, or you can look for free legal assistance in your area here.