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Adult Protective Services

About APS

Adult Protective Services (APS) strive to insure the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them.

In most states, APS caseworkers are the first responders to reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults.

A vulnerable adult is defined as a person who is being mistreated or is in danger of mistreatment and who, due to age and/or disability, is unable to protect himself or herself.

Most APS programs serve both older and younger vulnerable adults. In some states, APS is responsible only for cases involving older adults (eligibility may be based on age, incapacity or vulnerability of the adult). A few APS programs serve only younger adults ages 18-59.

APS Interventions

Adult protection interventions include, but are not limited to:

  • Receiving reports of elder/vulnerable adult abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation
  • Investigating these reports
  • Assessing victim's risk
  • Assessing victim's capacity to understand his/her risk and ability to give informed consent
  • Developing case plan
  • Arranging for emergency shelter, medical care, legal assistance, and supportive services
  • Service monitoring
  • Evaluation

How the APS System Works


  • Someone suspects elder or vulnerable adult abuse, exploitation, or neglect.
  • Person calls an abuse hotline or state or local APS office to report suspicion.
  • If emergency, APS immediately forwards report to police or emergency medical staff.
  • If the report does not meet the APS target population as defined by state law, the caller will be given information and/or referral to an appropriate agency.
  • Report is assigned a priority response time based on the level of victim risk.
  • Report is assigned to APS staff for investigation.


  • APS staff makes contact with victim within state-regulated timeframe, depending on the reported urgency of the situation.
  • Caseworker assesses current victim risk factors.
  • Caseworker assesses victim's capacity to understand current risk and to give informed consent for further investigation and service provision.


  • With the consent of the victim, APS caseworker develops service plan.
  • Services may be provided directly by caseworkers, through arrangements with other community resources, or purchased by APS on a short-term, emergency basis.
  • Victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation may receive short-term services such as emergency shelter, home repair, meals, transportation, help with finanacial management, home health services, and medical and mental health services.
  • APS caseworker may continue to monitor service provision to assure that victim risk is reduced or eliminated.


  • Victims who have the capacity to understand their circumstances have the right to refuse services, regardless of the level of risk.
  • In some states, competent adults have the right to refuse an APS investigation.
  • APS caseworker may refer victim to other resources.
  • Case is closed.

Adult Protective Services Laws

All fifty states and the District of Columbia have laws in effect authorizing the provision of adult protective services (APS) in cases of elder abuse.

Adult protection laws vary widely from state to state in:

  • The age at or circumstances under which a victim is eligible to receive protective services; the definition of abuse
  • Types of abuse, neglect and exploitation that are covered
  • Classification of the abuse as criminal or civil
  • Reporting (mandatory or voluntary)
  • Investigation responsibility and procedures
  • Remedies for abuse

Some state APS laws only apply to vulnerable citizens who are living alone or with family what is called "domestic abuse". Some go further to protect individuals who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities ("institutional abuse").

Additional Links

Last Updated: September 28, 2006  Top


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