§2 ch4: Investigation Response
The primary purpose of the Division's response to any CA/N Investigation is to establish children's safety and well-being. Once established, the focus of the interviewing process in a CA/N Investigation should be:
- To objectively and fairly ascertain the truth; in other words, to collect enough information about the allegations to conclude by a preponderance of evidence whether or not a child was the victim of child abuse or neglect
- To gather sufficient information to complete a thorough family-centered assessment of the family's strengths, needs and presenting elements of risk and
- To take appropriate action based upon the information gathered.
Interviewing is an essential component of the investigative process utilized by the Children's Service Worker to establish children's safety, collect evidence, and complete a thorough assessment of the family system.
Although children's safety and well-being is paramount, staff should respect the rights and roles of parents, whether custodial or non-custodial, and ensure they are provided notice at the earliest possible opportunity.
Staff should consider the following points as they would relate to the interviewing process during the CA/N Investigation:
- Best practice for CA/N investigations involves:
- Minimizing the number of interviews a child has to undergo
- Making certain investigative interviews are conducted by competent or forensically trained interviewers who create a clear record and,
- Assessing whether an in-depth interview is appropriate at the point of initial contact with an alleged victim child, or if it would be more appropriate to make arrangements for a forensic interview through a Child Advocacy Center (CAC),
- As required by §210.145 RSMo, staff should immediately notify law enforcement and request their co-investigation.
- Staff should work with law enforcement and other members of the multidisciplinary team to develop a plan whereby all of the following should be interviewed with regard to the CA/N Investigation:
- All children
- All household parents/caretakers
- Non-resident parents, when possible
- Essential collateral contacts
- All witnesses
- Experts/Professionals or others with information pertinent to the case and,
- All alleged perpetrators, unless they specifically decline to be interviewed.
It is essential that Children's Service Workers offer the opportunity to all alleged perpetrators to be interviewed and to submit any information they wish to provide so they have a full and fair opportunity for their side of the story to be considered.
Staff should seek out and attempt to speak with whomever they need to in order to obtain pertinent information. However, staff should use professional judgment in the selection of information sources as it would pertain to such things as children's safety and witness credibility. While doing so, staff should disclose the minimum necessary information in order to complete these interviews, subject to protected health information.
- During the interviewing process, staff should ascertain all facts relating to each element of the definitions of “abuse” and/or “neglect” and assess the safety of the child and whether the child is at risk for abuse or neglect. Children’s Service Workers should ascertain:
- Who was involved?
- Who may have witnessed the alleged abuse/neglect?
- What actually happened?
- How did it happen?
- Has it happened before, or is it chronic in nature?
- When did it happen? What is the timeline of events?
- Where did it take place?
- What reasons were given by those involved for the alleged abuse or neglect?
- Could the abuse or neglect have happened some other way or by accident?
- Can anyone corroborate statements given by those primarily involved in the case?
- What are the child-specific vulnerabilities?
- What are the parent/caretaker's protective capacities?
- Is there impending danger to any child in the home?
- There are laws regarding notification to parents and/or legal guardians that apply to Division personnel when interviewing any children, whether they are an alleged victim, household member or a witness.
Pursuant to §210.145 RSMo, if the parents of the child are not the alleged perpetrators, a parent of the child must be notified prior to the child being interviewed by the Children’s Division. If a child is in immediate danger, law enforcement must be immediately contacted. The duty to notify a parent holds true regardless of whether the report is an investigation or assessment and regardless of whether the allegations are for abuse or neglect. The term "parent" with regard to the statute includes a mother, father, and/or legal guardian. The term “parent” with regard to the statute does not include a step-mother, step-father, paramour, grandparent, or other relative with physical custody, or a person with power of attorney.
Staff should attempt to notify the custodial parent to fulfill these statutory requirements. However, if the custodial parent cannot be notified, it may be necessary to notify the non-custodial parent in order to assure safety within timeframes. Staff must document all attempts to notify a parent, such as telephone calls, mail correspondence, home visits, etc.
Although not mandatory, it is best practice to for staff to notify the custodial parent prior to interviewing the child when the non-custodial parent is the alleged perpetrator.
Notice to a parent or legal guardian should include:
- Providing The Description of the Investigation Process, CS-24, as written notice to the parent or legal guardian; or
- Providing initial notice through oral communication with a parent or legal guardian if it is deemed necessary to ensure children’s safety within required timeframes; and
- Informing the parent or legal guardian that the Division must directly observe and/or interview their child(ren) in conjunction with a reported concern.
There may be times when notifying a non-perpetrating parent would jeopardize the child’s safety or significantly hinder the investigation or assessment process. Examples include:
- Alleged abuse occurring at the time of the call
- Alleged injuries or symptoms of injuries or illness that require immediate medical care
- Allegations of a child in need of immediate psychiatric care in conjunction with a child abuse or neglect report and,
- Allegations of child sexual abuse in which the alleged perpetrator has access to the child within the next twenty-four (24) hours
Staff should always seek supervisory approval to interview the child without the permission of a parent when the alleged perpetrator is not a parent. If the decision is made to interview the child without notification due to an existing or imminent serious safety concern, staff must utilize law enforcement to facilitate contact with the child, pursuant to §210.145.6. These are situations in which, if true, emergency protective custody may be necessary to ensure the safety of the child. Staff should clearly document the reason notification did not occur and document the reasons why an interview took place without notice. If the Children’s Service Worker has failed to contact a non-perpetrating custodial parent prior to interviewing the child, the worker is expected to do so as soon as possible after the child is interviewed.
Although the statue does not make it mandatory to obtain the consent of the custodial parent prior to interviewing the child, it is best practice for staff to obtain their permission prior to interviewing the child when they are not the alleged perpetrator. Parents have the right to refuse access to their child. Staff must refrain from the use of coercion to gain access. However, notification to the non-offending, non-custodial parent may be useful when the custodial non-offending parent refuses access to the child. If all attempts to engage parents are unsuccessful and safety cannot be assured by any other means, it may be necessary to make a referral to the juvenile office.
The alleged perpetrator should not be given notice of the report until safety of the child can be assured. The term ‘report’ includes investigations and assessments. Pursuant to §210.145.6, RSMo when conducting an investigation or assessment, staff shall not call prior to a home visit or leave any documentation of any attempted visit, such as business cards, pamphlets, or other similar identifying information if there is reason to believe:
- No person is present in the home at the time of the home visit; and
- The alleged perpetrator resides in the home or the physical safety of the child may be compromised if the alleged perpetrator becomes aware of the attempted visit; or
- The alleged perpetrator will be alerted regarding the attempted visit; or
- The family has a history of domestic violence or fleeing the community
Once contact is made with the alleged perpetrator and safety is assured, staff may schedule home visits or leave notice of attempted visits.
Outside of the alleged victim and household children, informed consent must be obtained from a parent or legal guardian prior to Division personnel interviewing a child witness, unless he/she is in the legal custody of the Division.
- There may be circumstances in which another multidisciplinary team member interviews a child prior to the Division's involvement or ability to provide parental notice. Division staff may be made aware of the content of their interview with the child, but should not directly interview an alleged victim or household child unless one of the parents is notified or one of the above-listed exceptions applies to that child.
- Staff should assemble all information from interviews and other sources of evidence collected during the investigative process prior to interviewing the alleged perpetrator. Staff should discuss the facts of the case with law enforcement, and work through the co-investigative process on interviewing the alleged perpetrator when law enforcement is involved.
- Staff should explore all of the allegations as presented in the CA/N Investigation, and be aware of their relationship to any prior CA/N Investigations, Family Assessments or Non-CA/N referrals.
- Staff should be alert to discrepancies and/or changes in information presented by anyone involved in the CA/N Investigation.
Staff should document the following:
- Non-verbal observations and documentation
- Discrepancies in information and,
- The child or family's prior history with the Division
- The supervision provided by the Children's Service Supervisor, Circuit Manager and/or Regional Administrators is an essential component to ensure thoroughness in all CA/N Investigations. Chief Investigator and other supervisory consultations should be conducted and documented as needed.
22.214.171.124 Interviewing the Child(ren) Alone
Children should be interviewed alone whenever possible. Some CA/N Investigations will require the use of a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) to complete forensic interviewing and evaluation. When a CAC interview and evaluation are being conducted, staff should only complete cursory interviews in order to establish children's safety and well-being.ildren should never be interviewed within close proximity to /or in the presence of the alleged perpetrator. If Division personnel are unable to voluntarily establish a means by which to interview children outside the presence of the alleged perpetrator, they should work with law enforcement and/or the juvenile court as needed to establish children's safety and interview all alleged victim and household children.
Staff should interview the child to document the child's direct statements regarding the alleged child abuse/neglect. A detailed description of the investigative interviewing process may be referenced in the related subject below.
Staff should observe and document the condition of the child in relation to allegations. Staff should seek the consultation of other experts and/or professionals as needed to ascertain the full extent of injury related to child abuse/neglect. Staff may need to conduct a cursory examination of the alleged injuries to the child if the report indicates injuries from child abuse or neglect. In completing a physical examination, staff should consider:
- The age and development of the child and
- The biological sex of the child in relation to the Children's Service Worker conducting the CA/N Investigation.
Caution and good judgment should be exercised.
Division staff should work with local multidisciplinary teams to arrange for the collection of other forms of evidence as needed during the investigative process (e.g., photographic evidence of observable injuries and/or environments, radiological images, other medical tests and examinations, etc.).
126.96.36.199 The Non-Perpetrating Parent(s)
The non-perpetrating parent may also be referred to as the non-offending parent. This may include a mother, father, and/or legal guardian who was not alleged to have perpetrated any of the allegations of child abuse or neglect with regard to a reported concern. The non-perpetrating parent may physically reside in the home, reside in another home, and may include the role of a non-custodial parent.
Whenever possible, the non-perpetrating parent should be asked regarding their knowledge of the reported concern and the family system.
It is important to ask for and document information pertinent to the completion of a thorough family assessment (in addition to the investigative process) regarding all mothers, fathers, and legal guardians, including those who do not live in the child's home.
When possible, staff should obtain a mailing address and other contact information for the non-custodial parent. Staff should inform the custodial parent that the non-custodial parent will receive a CA/N Disposition Form letter, CS-21.
188.8.131.52 Contact with Household Children
The Children's Service Worker shall determine the safety of other children in the household, not otherwise identified as an alleged victim child in the report, within seventy-two (72) hours from the date of the reported concern. If staff identifies concerns of child abuse or neglect, involving a child initially reported as a non-victim/household child, staff should explore concerns as presented throughout the course of conducting the CA/N Investigation. Depending on the information ascertained, staff may need to update the role of a non-victim/household child to that of an alleged victim child in FACES. Once staff has determined the need to update a child's role in this manner, staff should complete steps as outlined above pertaining to the interview of an alleged victim child.
Staff should consider the need to interview children who do not reside in the home, such as those children who may have directly witnessed or who may have spoken directly with an alleged victim child regarding allegations of child abuse or neglect. Contact with such children may occur at any time during the CA/N Investigation.
The parental notice law applies to other household children and children who reside outside of the home. It applies to the Division even if the child has been interviewed by other multidisciplinary team members.
Staff shall contact and interview as many collaterals (which may include witnesses to the allegations presented in the CA/N Investigation) as is reasonably necessary to conduct a thorough, complete investigation. At a minimum, however, staff is required to make at least one collateral contact for all CA/N Investigations. Staff should follow the evidence as it develops, which may lead staff to contact multiple collateral contacts during the course of any CA/N Investigation. Collateral contacts shall be with someone other than the reporter or household members.
Staff should consider the importance of making contact with individuals who may have first-hand information regarding the alleged child abuse or neglect or prior knowledge of the family. Collateral contacts play a vital role in the CA/N Investigation. The information provided by collateral contacts may verify information pertinent to the Division's determination, which is not otherwise accessible from the family or others involved in the CA/N Investigation. Therefore, it is imperative for staff to obtain and document all collateral contacts by their full name and work/home mailing address and/or telephone number.
Collateral contacts may include, but are not limited to:
- Individuals with first-hand information regarding the allegations of child abuse or neglect
- Individuals with prior knowledge of the family who have directly observed family functioning
- School professionals/School liaison (teacher, counselor, principal, school nurse)
- Parent's as Teachers coordinator
- Physician or other health care professional
- Neighbor and/or
- Extended family member(s) not in the household
Collateral contacts may be able to provide staff with information pertaining to, but not limited to, the following:
- A witness to the alleged child abuse/neglect or other material evidence
- A historical understanding of the family
- The location or contact information for the family if the family is not home
- Children's safety, health and well-being
- Parenting/discipline techniques
- Parent/child interaction
- Household conditions
- Additional household members
- Changes in child's/parent's behavior
- Current/potential supports for the family; and
- Validity of the abuse or neglect allegations
Staff should seek out and attempt to speak with whomever they need to in order to obtain pertinent information. Collateral contacts include face to face contact, phone contact, and e-mail correspondence. When corresponding via e-mail to individuals not employed by the State of Missouri, staff should encrypt all outgoing messages which contain protected health and identifying information. In addition, staff should communicate with collateral contacts using the initials of the individual being discussed to ensure privacy and ask the collateral contact to do the same. Staff should use professional judgment in the selection of information sources as it would pertain to children's safety and witness credibility. While doing so, staff should disclose the minimum necessary information in order to complete these interviews, subject to protected health information.
Collateral contacts shall correlate with the area of concern. Staff should thoughtfully choose collateral contacts from among those people who have enough contact with the family and/or child(ren) to give pertinent information. This collateral contact should be able to address a particular concern. For example, if the CA/N report alleges an injury or medical condition, a professional health care provider, close family member or neighbor might be accessed. If there are educational concerns reported, a teacher or school official might be contacted to gather pertinent information regarding the child. If, during the Investigation or Family Assessment, the parent indicates he/she is receiving help from a friend or family member, that person may provide additional information about the family's level of functioning and potential for continued support for the family. Numerous collaterals may be needed depending on the issues identified through the investigation or family assessment. Staff may utilize a Genogram or Culturagram, such as those found in the NCFAS G+R tools, to help reveal appropriate people to use as collateral contacts.
Children's Service Supervisors must assure staff has contacted appropriate collaterals as required, and the information provided by collateral sources has been given appropriate consideration.
184.108.40.206 The Alleged Perpetrator(s)
Children's Service Workers shall offer every alleged perpetrator an opportunity to tell his/her side of the story and to submit any information that he or she wishes the investigator to consider when reaching his/her conclusions. However, alleged perpetrators are not required to speak with or provide information to investigators if they do not choose to do so. In some instances, law enforcement may assume the lead role and conduct the alleged perpetrator interview. However, the fact that law enforcement has taken a lead role does not excuse the Division from its obligation to offer the alleged perpetrator the opportunity to speak with or provide information to the Division for the Division's investigation. Staff should request the assistance of other county offices and/or law enforcement agencies as necessary. If law enforcement declines to assist in the investigation, staff should request that law enforcement agency provide a written explanation why they are declining to assist in the investigation as required by Missouri law. ( §210.145.3, RSMo.).
At the time of the Division's initial contact with the alleged perpetrator, the Children's Service Worker shall provide the alleged perpetrator with The Description of the Investigation Process (CS-24). If it is not possible to personally give the CS-24, it may be mailed to the alleged perpetrator's address of record. Staff should document the provision of this notice in the case record.
When the Children's Service Worker is responding to an investigation and the alleged perpetrator is present at the time of the initial visit, the worker shall provide the alleged perpetrator with a copy of the CS-24 at the time of the visit; and, allow the alleged perpetrator a reasonable amount of time for him/her to read the material (no longer than 5 minutes); or the worker will read the CS-24 to the alleged perpetrator. This requirement shall not apply in cases where the child faces an immediate threat or danger, or the person responding to investigating the report is or feels threatened or in danger of physical harm. (Reference: §210.183 RSMo. and §210.145.6 RSMo.)
Alleged perpetrators have the right to be represented by an attorney. If an alleged perpetrator states that he/she is represented by an attorney and wants the Division to contact him/her through this attorney, staff should respect the request. Staff should make contact with his/her attorney to arrange the interview or to provide a copy of the CS-24 to his/her attorney. Staff should ask the attorney to send a written entry of appearance and to submit a written authorization to release information signed by the alleged perpetrator before the investigator can release information about the merits of the investigation to the attorney. Upon being informed by the attorney that they are representing the alleged perpetrator, the Children's Service Worker should direct communication and correspondence to the alleged perpetrator's attorney of record in order to set up an interview. The attorney's response communication and correspondence should be documented in the case record.
The alleged perpetrator should be interviewed regarding the merits of the allegations after everyone else in the CA/N Investigation has been interviewed and after all other pertinent information has been gathered. This allows the investigator to confront him/her with the facts and evidence collected if he/she denies responsibility for the incident and abuse/neglect appears evident.
The alleged perpetrator, or their legal counsel, may provide a request to the Division to conduct follow-up interviews with witnesses or other collateral contacts suggested by the alleged perpetrator. Staff should contact witnesses or other collateral contacts at the request of the alleged perpetrator.
If the alleged perpetrator is in the custody of law enforcement, including those in the custody of the State Technical Assistance Team (STAT), and Division staff question the person about the case, it may adversely impact the criminal prosecution. Investigators should seek legal advice from Division of Legal Services (DLS) before interviewing an alleged perpetrator who is in the custody of law enforcement. Division staff should work with their multidisciplinary team to develop local protocols for interviewing alleged perpetrators who are in the custody of law enforcement including law enforcement's issuance of Miranda rights to the alleged perpetrator prior to an interview conducted with Division staff present.
Chapter Memoranda History: (prior to 1/31/07)