Referrals are taken over the phone or in person by a trained staff member. The referrals come from a wide variety of sources including doctors, teachers, law enforcement, and relatives, as well as from other social service organizations.
Once a referral is received, a determination is made, based upon the information provided, if an investigation is appropriate. Once a referral is screened-in as a report, the pathway is determined.
For all reports alleging serious harm to a child or reports alleging sexual abuse of a child, Traditional Response investigations are required. Initiation must occur within one hour if imminent danger to the child appears to exist; or within twenty-four hours if imminent risk is not present at that point in time. During the investigation, information is gathered to determine whether or not child abuse, neglect, or dependency has occurred, what problems the family may be encountering, and if there currently is risk to the child’s safety, health and welfare. Law enforcement officers are frequently jointly involved in the investigation of sexual abuse cases as well as in the more serious physical abuse and neglect cases. To accurately assess a child’s safety, investigations may take up to 45 days to complete.
For other reports of low to moderate risk, Alternative Response may be the preferred pathway selection. Alternative response emphasizes creating a working partnership among families and child welfare and community agencies without comprising child safety. Initiation must still occur within one hour if imminent danger to the child appears to exist; or within twenty-four hours if imminent risk is not present. Alternative response allows caseworkers to work jointly with families to identify and use their strengths to address their concerns and to make certain that they and their children are, and can remain, safe. With alternative response, caseworkers are allowed 45 days to work with families. After which, families may voluntarily remain open beyond that timeframe through the collaborative development of a family service plan to accomplish goals identified by the family.
*See “How to Report Abuse” section for more detailed information on the investigation process*