§2 ch4: Investigation Response
4.1.5 Safety Assessment
Safety of the child(ren) in the home shall be an ongoing concern during investigations. During, or immediately following the initial visit with a family in response to a report of child abuse/neglect the worker must engage in the safety assessment and planning process.
The Safety Information Collection Tool (CD-162) will serve as a useful guide to gathering safety information needed to complete the Safety Assessment (CD-17) and if necessary to develop a Safety Plan (CD-18).
The CD-17 results in a safety decision of "safe" or "unsafe". If the safety decision is "safe", a safety plan is not required. If the safety decision is "unsafe", the worker must work with the family to develop a Safety Plan (CD-18) to control any present or impending threats of danger.
The safety assessment and any subsequent agreed upon safety plans shall be entered into the Family and Children’s Electronic System (FACES). Signatures and dates provided should be consistent between the physical and electronic records.
Assess level of family functioning.
In addition to the reported incident, the Children's Service Worker shall assess the existence of other types of abuse/neglect, including physical violence, of any other household or family member. He/she shall assess for domestic violence and the risk it poses to child and adult victim. Staff should make a careful assessment to determine whether the caregiver has sufficient protective capacity to protect the vulnerable child(ren) in the household from the physical violence. If domestic violence is occurring, provide information regarding available alternatives, i.e., community shelters or other available safe shelter, legal options, etc.
Identify active family stressors, i.e., interaction, economic, and social and determine if they are situational or of a longer duration.
The Children's Service Worker should be continually assessing the safety of the child(ren) throughout the investigative process. A safety assessment may be completed any time new information becomes available that may indicate a threat of danger to the child(ren) and the caregiver protective capacity is insufficient to control the threat. Background checks may also be necessary whenever household composition changes. For this purpose, "household" includes any persons who have significant in-home contact with the child(ren), including those who have a familial or intimate relationship with any person in the home.
The juvenile officer should be notified immediately if the parent(s) have not made satisfactory arrangements for the safety of the child(ren) and his/her physical environment. A recommendation should be made to the juvenile officer recommending protective custody, including documentation of the identified threats of danger to the vulnerable child(ren) and the caregiver's lack of capacity to protect the child(ren) from the threats. If the juvenile court issues a protective custody order, the child(ren) should be removed from the home and placed in the least restrictive, most family-like placement available.
If, during an investigation, new information comes to light, which constitutes another allegation of child abuse or neglect, that information may be included in the ongoing investigation.
The investigator shall document his/her finding on this new allegation in the record. A new hotline report does not have to be made.
126.96.36.199 Chief Investigator
Missouri law identifies the role and responsibility of a Chief Investigator in Section 210.145, RSMo. Each county must identify at least one Chief Investigator in each county CD office who is responsible for supervising staff responding to hotline reports. Each county must develop procedures to ensure the tasks listed below are completed by the Chief Investigator, or substitute, in the Chief Investigator’s absence. Substitutes might include the circuit manager, social work specialist, or other experienced supervisor.
Within 72 hours of receiving a hotline report, the Chief Investigator will review the Safety Assessment (CD-17), Safety Plan (CD-18) (if required by the CD-17), other pertinent case record documentation, and/or information contained in the Family and Children’s Electronic System (FACES). If in agreement with the CD-17 and if applicable the CD-18, the Chief Investigator will approve and date the physical copy of the CD-17 and CD-18 (if applicable) and enter approval in FACES. If the CD-18 is required, the Chief Investigator will evaluate the feasibility of the safety plan and plan to monitor the plan and if in agreement will sign and date the physical copy of the CD-18 and enter approval in FACES.
County offices must develop local protocol to ensure required information obtained for reports received after normal business hours, on weekends and holidays is made available to the Chief Investigator for review within seventy-two (72) hours of the report. Some portions of the Chief Investigator review may be conducted over the telephone in cases of emergency situations. When these situations occur, staff should document the date and time of the consultation in the case narrative in FACES. The Chief Investigator’s approval of the safety assessment and/or safety plan should also reflect the date on which they provided initial oversight.
Due to holidays, there are times when there are more than seventy-two (72) hours between business days. Staff may use their discretion on whether to complete the chief investigator consultation during non-business hours in these situations if the investigator has made contact and assured safety of the child(ren). All attempts should be made to complete the chief investigator consult prior to the holiday weekend, or if this is not feasible, completed as soon as possible following the holiday. If the investigator has been unable to make initial contact or has determined the child(ren) to be unsafe, the chief investigator consultation must still be held within seventy-two (72) hours of the report date.
Tasks of the Chief Investigator include:
- Verify the report was appropriately screened as an investigation or family assessment;
- Verify the reporter was contacted, or attempts have been made to initiate contact with the reporter, if their identity is known to the Division;
- Verify that all children in the household have been seen within appropriate timeframes, not to exceed seventy-two (72) hours of the report, unless sufficient documentation indicates the reason(s) for a delay in initial contacts;
- Verify that all family history with the Division has been considered as it relates to the hotline report and/or the overall assessment of the family;
- Verify and review the case record documentation of all contacts made to the point in the case at which the Chief Investigative review takes place;
- Verify that all reported concerns have been explored and addressed as needed;
- Verifying that any additional safety concerns presented (in addition to reported allegations) have been explored and addressed as needed;
- Ensure that co-investigative efforts have been implemented for CA/N Investigations and/or ensure that sufficient documentation is received from law enforcement if they decline to co-investigate the reported concern;
- Support Children Service Workers as they establish and maintain relations with multidisciplinary team members;
- When the report involves a child enrolled in school, ensure information regarding the status of reports is provided to the public school district liaison. Should the subject child attend a non-public school, the principal of that school should be notified of the report;
- If in agreement with the Safety Assessment (CD-17) and the Safety Plan (CD-18) (if required), the Chief Investigator, or their substitute, should enter approval in FACES.
- If the safety assessment safety decision is unsafe and a CD-18 is developed the Chief Investigator will review the CD-18 and plan for monitoring the safety plan and if in agreement will enter approval in FACES and sign and date the physical copy of the safety plan.
Local protocols must be developed to ensure supervisory coverage and accessibility to Children’s Service Workers to provide 72 hour Chief Investigator consultations and for any safety concerns which may develop during the completion of a CA/N Investigation or Family Assessment. The Chief Investigator is expected to communicate with the worker to discuss the case whenever possible or necessary, and provide guidance to the Children’s Service Worker with regard to the completion of the reported concern.
Chapter Memoranda History: (prior to 1/31/07)