Child Protection Procedures
Identifying the right level of intervention for a family begins with the screening process, also called intake. This page describes the information screeners collect and how they decide whether a report of suspected child abuse requires an investigation or service referral.
Persons are required by law to report if they have reasonable cause to believe that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is an abused or maltreated child. Child protection procedures begin with a call to the Central Register.
Each local child protective service receives reports of alleged abuse or maltreatment on a twenty-four hour, seven-day-a-week basis. It is required to commence (or cause the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to commence) within twenty-four hours an appropriate investigation.
The investigator must examine the condition of the home and the environment, determine the validity of allegations, assess the degree of risk to the family and evaluate all existing children in the home and their living conditions. It also must identify services that are available to help the family prevent further harm and reduce the level of risk.
State statutes provide definitions of abuse and maltreatment that guide individuals who are mandated reporters, child protective workers and law enforcement personnel. Persons who act in good faith and report suspected abuse or maltreatment are immunized from civil liability. An integrated child protection system places the child at its centre and endorses and promotes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The law requires that local child protective services investigate reports of alleged abuse or neglect within twenty-four hours. This must include an evaluation of the environment and condition of any other children in the home.
Investigators talk to the child and family members, check records, and examine the child for signs of injury or maltreatment. They may also interview people who know the child like neighbors, teachers and police officers. They are required to contact relatives and other individuals who may be able to help the child, such as a pastor or therapist.
It is important for parents to be cooperative during the investigation because it can be very stressful. It can be helpful to work with a family attorney who handles CPS cases. They can help you understand the process and communicate with the caseworker. At the end of the investigation, the caseworker will decide if the report is indicated or unfounded. Then, a review conference is scheduled at regular intervals until the child is no longer on a Child Protection Plan.
The initial child protection conference will decide whether the threshold has been met and who should carry out the investigation – CSC and police (joint agency) or CSC alone (single agency). If you are asked, as part of this process, to reveal information about a child or their family, it is important that you do so. Child protection conferences are multi-agency meetings and must be chaired by a manager grade social worker.
If the caseworkers believe that a child is at risk of serious harm, they will recommend that it be placed on a protection plan. This may include the provision of residential care, homemakers or counselling services. The child protection conference also regularly reviews the progress made with respect to the plan.
Provide training to staff and volunteers on the identification of abuse, exploitation or neglect. This is often incorporated into other training programs that provide children and youth with the opportunity to participate in activities that educate them on their rights, personal safety techniques and steps they can take to protect themselves.
A judge may issue an order requiring that the parents stay away from the child, restrict contact with the family or keep a record of any visitation. Parents should ask for and receive a written copy of these orders so that they know exactly what the judge has ordered them to do, and their lawyer can also explain these requirements.
Anyone who has a “reasonable suspicion” that a child is being abused or neglected may report their concerns to CPS. These reports are often made by professionals, such as doctors and teachers, who are required by New York law to report any suspected abuse or neglect.
If a judge decides that a child cannot be safely returned to the parent, or if DCF believes that a parent has failed to make a good faith effort to reunify with the child, it may file a petition to terminate parental rights. This sever the legal relationship between the child and the parent(s), allowing the child to be placed for adoption or with other long-term permanency options until the child reaches the age of 18. A hearing on a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights follows a similar procedure as a Child Protection Proceeding.