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Once a referral is accepted as a report alleging child abuse or neglect, CPS initiates an investigation of the alleged incident or pursues an alternative response.
In general, investigations determine whether or not the child was maltreated-or is at risk of maltreatment-and determine appropriate interventions. Alternative responses may focus on an assessment of the family’s needs and the prevention of possible future maltreatment, rather than making a formal determination of maltreatment and referring the case to law enforcement.
Regardless of which type of response the agency uses for a specific report, it must decide if further action is necessary to protect the child.
CPS makes a decision after screening referrals and the followup investigation and makes a ” report.” Data are provided on the sources of reports, the CPS response time, and the dispositions or findings of investigations is the primary information contained in these reports.
Screening of Referrals
Professionals submitted more than one-half (55.8%) of the reports (figure 2-1). “Professional” indicates that the report source came into contact with the alleged victim as part of the reporter’s occupation. State laws, including Colorado’s, requires most professionals to notify CPS agencies of suspected maltreatment.
The categories of professionals include educators, legal and law enforcement personnel, social services personnel, medical personnel, mental health personnel, child daycare providers, and foster care providers.
The three most common sources of reports from professionals are educational personnel, legal or law enforcement personnel and social services personnel
Nonprofessional report sources submitted the remaining sources of reports. These included parents, other relatives, friends and neighbors, alleged victims, alleged perpetrators, anonymous callers, and “other” sources. Anonymous “other” sources and other relatives are the largest groups of nonprofessional reporters. “Other” sources may include clergy members, sports coaches, camp counselors, bystanders, volunteers, and foster siblings.
Response Time from Report to Investigation
Most States have time standards for initiating the investigation of reports and monitor whether these commence within the required time standards. While some States have one time frame for responding to reports, many States establish priorities based on the information received from the report source. Of the States that establish priorities, many specify a high-priority response as within 1 hour or within 24 hours. Lower priority responses range from 24 hours to 14 days.6
Because CPS agencies receive reports of varying degrees of urgency, average response times reflect the types of reports that are received, as well as the ability of workers to meet the time standards. Based on data from 26 States, the median response time from report to investigation was 48 hours or approximately 2 days. The average response time for these States was 97 hours or approximately 4 days.7
CPS agencies assign a finding-also called a disposition-to a report after the circumstances are investigated and a determination is made as to the likelihood that maltreatment occurred or that the child is at risk of maltreatment.
Colorado has establishes it’s own specific disposition terminology.
What follows is the form actually used to do a “Safety Assessment” after a report of suspected child abuse:
Summarize the results of each assessment area to determine threat of harm:
1. Extent of Maltreatment
2. Surrounding Circumstances of Maltreatment
3. Child Functioning
4. Adult Functioning
5. General Parenting Practices
6. Disciplinary Parenting Practices
Select “yes” for all safety concerns present. When determining if a safety concern is present, review the definition for each safety concern. To select a safety concern, the following criteria must be present:
” Specific and Observable threat
” Out-of control
” Child is vulnerable to the threat of harm
” Likely to occur if not controlled.
” Potential of moderate to severe harm.
Below each safety concern marked “yes”, describe the behaviors, conditions and/or family circumstance associated with the safety concern. If one or more safety concerns is selected, complete Safety Conclusion to determine if additional sections are required to be completed.
1. Caregiver(s) in the home is out of control and/or violent
2. Caregiver(s) describes or acts toward the child(ren) in predominately negative terms and/or has unrealistic expectations likely to cause moderate to severe harm.
3. Caregiver(s) has caused harm to the child or has made a credible threat of harm.
4. Caregiver(s)’ explanations of injuries present are unconvincing.
5. The caregiver refuses access to the child or there is reason to believe the family will flee.
6. Caregiver(s) is unwilling or unable to meet the child’s immediate needs for food, clothing and shelter.
7. Caregiver(s) is unwilling or unable to meet the child’s significant medical or mental health care needs.
8. Caregiver(s) has not or is unable to provide sufficient supervision to protect the child from potentially moderate to severe harm.
9. Child is fearful of caregiver(s), other family members, or other people living in, or having access to, the home.
10. Child’s physical living conditions endanger the child’s immediate health and safety.
11. Caregiver(s) alleged or observed substance use may seriously affect ability to supervise, protect, or care for the child.
12. Child sexual abuse is suspected and circumstances suggest that child safety and/or emotional safety is of immediate concern.
13. Caregiver(s) alleged or observed emotional instability or developmental delay seriously affects his or her ability to supervise, protect, or care for the child.
14. Domestic violence exists in the home and places child in danger of physical and/or emotional harm.
15. Caregiver(s) has previously abused or neglected a child or is suspected of such, and the severity of the past maltreatment or caregiver’s response to previous intervention suggests the child may be unsafe.
For all safety concerns marked “yes”, describe the behaviors or conditions and/or family circumstance associated with the safety concern. If one or more safety concerns is selected, complete Safety Conclusion, which will determine if additional tabs are required to be completed.
Safety Assessment Conclusion
NO Safety Concerns are identified. There are no children likely to be in danger of severe harm. No further safety action is necessary. If checked, stop here.
One or more safety concerns is identified. Proceed to Caregiver Protective Capacity Determination
Caregiver Protective Capacity Determination
Indicate whether a caregiver(s), including extended family member, has the capacity and is/are willing to manage identified safety concerns and assure child safety.
Caregiver protective capacities and family actions address all safety concerns. The child(ren) is/are determined to be SAFE. No further safety intervention is necessary. If checked, stop here after providing justification regarding how the caregiver protective capacities and family actions will address safety concerns:
Caregiver protective capacities and family actions do not address all safety concerns. The child(ren) is/are determined to be UNSAFE. Further safety intervention is necessary to manage safety concerns. Proceed to Safety Intervention Analysis.
Safety Intervention Analysis
Analyze and document whether:
1. home environment is stable enough to support an in-home safety plan
2. caregiver(s) is/are willing to accept and cooperate with an in-home safety plan
3. resources accessible, and the level of effort is available to sufficiently control safety concerns without reliance on the person responsible for the safety concerns.
Alternative Response Nonvictim: A conclusion that the child was not identified as a victim when a response other than investigation was provided.
Alternative Response Victim: A conclusion that the child was identified as a victim when a response other than investigation was provided.
Indicated: An investigation disposition that concludes that maltreatment could not be substantiated under State law or policy, but there was reason to suspect that the child may have been maltreated or was at risk of maltreatment. This is applicable only to States that distinguish between substantiated and indicated dispositions.
Substantiated: A type of investigation disposition that concludes that the allegation of maltreatment or risk of maltreatment was supported or founded by State law or State policy.
Unsubstantiated: A type of investigation disposition that determines that there was not sufficient evidence under State law to conclude or suspect that the child was maltreated or at risk of being maltreated.
Dispositions of reports are based on the activities of the CPS workers who assess the allegations that children in the household were maltreated. In many instances, allegations of more than one type of maltreatment are made regarding more than one child in the household.
The report disposition is the most serious finding related to all allegations for all children. For example, if an allegation of neglect was substantiated for one child, an allegation of physical abuse was unsubstantiated for the same child, and an allegation of physical abuse for a second child was unsubstantiated, the report would be considered to be substantiated. In the same example, counts of children by disposition would result in one child with a substantiated allegation, and two children with unsubstantiated allegations.
Nationally, More than one-quarter of investigations resulted in a disposition of substantiated (25.7%), indicated (3.0%), or alternative response victim (0.1%), meaning that at least one child involved in each of these investigations was found to be a victim (figure 2-2).
However, more than one-half (60.7%) of investigations led to a finding that the alleged maltreatment was unsubstantiated. In addition, 5.1 percent were considered as reports that received an alternative response that did not find any victims, 3.8 percent had “other” dispositions, and 1.7 percent were either closed without a finding or the disposition was unknown. “Other” dispositions include classifications by States that did not match any of the standard dispositions. States are receiving technical assistance to correctly assign dispositions.
Keys to Responding to CPS and Law Enforcement Investigations
More often than not, individuals make a serious mistake when confronted by the police or a Child Protective Services officer regarding allegations of committing a sex crime by talking to the police or CPS worker.
The accused doesn’t think the matter is serious or that the allegations are credible so they freely discuss the allegations without first consulting with a skilled criminal defense attorney. It should be understood the police and/or CPS worker are present to investigate allegations of a very serious crime and are not there to be your friend and help you. Law enforcement officers take all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously, and will use deception in the hope of getting an individual to make an incriminating statement or illicit a confession which can significantly undermine the ability to defend against any potential charges.
Whether you think the allegations or charges are baseless or not, the best course of action is to not talk to anyone, especially the police. An individual should politely decline any request to give a statement or attend a police interview until the individual has had the opportunity to speak to an experienced sex crimes lawyer about how to proceed.
Many individuals are under the mistaken belief that if they contact an attorney before talking to the police, that will make them look guilty or that they have something to hide. Nothing could be further from the truth. An individual suspected of committing a serious crime contacts an sex crimes attorney to protect his or her rights and to ensure that a full, fair, and thorough investigation is conducted by the police.
Each day many innocent people are unjustly convicted because of a shoddy police investigation, mistakes made by CPS, prosecutors or inadequately skilled defense counsel. Don’t let yourself become a tragic statistic.
Contact a the Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm for the defense of child abuse or alleged sex crimes…. We will provide a free confidential consultation to explain how we may help.