Digging Deeper: How officials investigate cases of child neglect - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Digging Deeper: How officials investigate cases of child neglect

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BELOIT (WKOW) -- The arrest of a Beloit couple for child neglect is calling attention to the process social workers go through to investigate complaints and how neglect can take time to identify.

Authorities removed eight children from Heather and Lakeidric McCoy's home after police say they found deplorable conditions. The McCoys deny they neglected their children and say Child Protective Services should not have taken their kids. 

Social workers say ordering the removal of a child is a last resort, after determining there are no other options. 

"It's not a decision that CPS takes lightly, removing children from homes, even if they're homes that the average person has concerns about. It's very traumatic for kids to be taken away from their caretakers," said Ellen Smith, clinical associate professor at the UW-Madison School of Social Work.

Experts say most cases reported to CPS are incidents of neglect. Social workers first work to determine whether complaints are issues of neglect, before making home visits to investigate. 

CPS has been called 40 times about Heather McCoy's family since 1998, according to police. In 2010, her kids were taken after three claims were substantiated.

Neglect is chronic, according to Smith, so it can take time to get to the underlying issue. 

"We may be really concerned that there's something that we're not picking up on but in spite of our best efforts to do an assessment it's over a period of time that we find out what's really happening," she said. 

Smith says over time, parents have the right to improve their situation and get their children back through the court system.

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