How to conduct investigations?

Conducting abuse and neglect investigations

There are no federal requirements. Agencies are determining what investigations still need to be conducted in person, and how to secure adequate PPE for workers conducting in-person investigations.

How do we conduct abuse and neglect investigations amidst COVID-19?

"We remind states that there are no federal requirements that govern the procedures for conducting investigations of alleged child abuse and neglect. Instead, states are required to adhere to their own protocols and timelines for contact, safety and risk assessments, and other investigation procedures. State and local child protective services agencies should follow the guidance of state and local public health officials with respect to conducting investigations at this time, including whether caseworkers should initiate in-person contact." — Dear Child Welfare Leaders Letter, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), March 18, 2020 (source)

While there are no federal requirements around investigations of alleged child abuse and neglect, the State of Indiana provided some guidance on the matter:

"We must continue doing what we can to assess for abuse and neglect and verify the safety of the child. Just as they would with any other safety issues in the home, the intake specialists will contact the local office with information if a member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 and/or in quarantine. When you arrive to a home, if you become aware someone in the household is ill or quarantined, contact your supervisor or LOD for further direction prior to entering the home. The supervisor and/or LOD will then work with your Regional Manager and leadership at central office to determine the best way for you to proceed on a case by case basis. Thank you for what you do to serve children and families every day."

Response Times

Similarly, agencies should be looking at their state and local health officials for guidance on the procedures and precautions to take:

Is there guidance on adjusting response time for CPS calls and/or face-to-face meetings in cases that are deemed higher risk?

"Yes. We just sent out what we call a dear child welfare leaders letter to the child welfare agencies in the country addressing the issue of conducting Child Protective Service investigations where abuse or neglect have been alleged. We do not have, once again, any federal government specific requirements in our policies, regulations, or statutes around response times. When we go in on our Child and Family reviews, we're actually evaluating states on their own policies around response times. I do think, and we pointed this out in our guidance to states, that we encourage state and local Child Protective Services service agencies to work closely with their state and local health officials in regard to conducting investigations, including those situations where there's a question around initiating in-person contact or not. My biggest concern here and biggest caution, is that whatever procedures states and local agencies adopt, that they don't leave children in unsafe situations, and they take all precautions, but also take the opportunity to make sure that our children remain safe when those reports are coming in."

— Dr. Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, ACF, March 19, 2020 (source)

Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSR) Requirements

States are encouraged to make use of video conferencing:

What happens if CFSR can't be accomplished due to family safety needs or other reasons?

"We won't begin round four of the CFSR for a little while yet because we're making some modifications to the process and our hope is that when we do resume those, that we might not be able to use this particular time period, which may look a lot different than other time periods. I'll just refer back to what I've already said around the use of video conferencing as an alternative to that, which is a form of face-to-face, but it is not really face-to-face. We would encourage states to make the best use of that as they go forward right now."

— Dr. Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, ACF, March 19, 2020 (source)

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