Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Arkansas

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Code §§12-18-401; 12-18-402

A person may notify the child abuse hotline immediately if either of the following applies:

  • He or she has reasonable cause to suspect that child maltreatment has occurred or a child has died as a result of child maltreatment.
  • He or she observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in child maltreatment.

An individual listed as a mandated reporter shall notify the child abuse hotline immediately if either of the following applies:

  • He or she has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been subjected to child maltreatment, died as a result of child maltreatment, or died suddenly and unexpectedly.
  • He or she observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in child maltreatment.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 12-18-303; 12-18-606

For an investigation to commence, the report must contain sufficient information to identify and locate the child or the family.

If the alleged offender is a family member, fictive kin, or lives in the home with the alleged victim, an investigation under this chapter shall seek to determine the following:

  • The existence, cause, nature, and extent of the child maltreatment
  • The existence and extent of previous injuries
  • The identity of the person responsible for the child maltreatment
  • The names and conditions of other children in the home
  • The circumstances of the parents or caregivers of the child
  • The environment where the child resides
  • The relationship of the child or children with the parents or caregivers
  • All other pertinent data

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ann. Code §§12-18-401; 12-18-402; 12-18-103(27)

A person may notify the child abuse hotline immediately if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has died as a result of child maltreatment.

A mandated reporter shall notify the child abuse hotline immediately if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has died as a result of child maltreatment or died suddenly and unexpectedly. The term 'died suddenly and unexpectedly' means a child death that was not caused by a known disease or illness for which the child was under a physician's care at the time of death, including, without limitation, child deaths as a result of the following:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Sudden unexplained infant death
  • An accident
  • A suicide
  • A homicide
  • Other undetermined circumstance

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ann. Code § 12-18-310

All health-care providers involved in the delivery or care of infants shall do the following:

  • Contact the Department of Human Services regarding an infant born and affected by any of the following:
    • A fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
    • Maternal substance abuse resulting in prenatal drug exposure to an illegal or a legal substance
    • Withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure to an illegal or a legal substance
  • Share all pertinent information, including health information, with the department regarding an infant born and affected with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, maternal substance use, or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure to an illegal or a legal substance

The department shall accept referrals, calls, and other communications from health-care providers involved in the delivery or care of infants born and affected with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, maternal substance use, or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure to an illegal or a legal substance. The department shall develop a plan of safe care for infants affected with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, maternal substance use, or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure to an illegal or a legal substance.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 12-18-301

The child abuse hotline, a unit established within the Department of Human Services and the Division of Arkansas State Police or their designee, shall receive and record reports under this chapter. The Child Abuse Hotline shall be staffed 24 hours per day and shall have statewide accessibility through a toll-free telephone number. All persons, whether a mandated reporter or not, may use the child abuse hotline to report child maltreatment or suspected child maltreatment.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 12-18-303; 12-18-601

The child abuse hotline shall accept a report of child maltreatment or suspected child maltreatment if the following apply:

  • The report concerns one of the following:
    • An allegation of child maltreatment or suspected child maltreatment, that if found to be true, would constitute child maltreatment as defined under this chapter
    • The death of a child who died suddenly and unexpectedly
    • The death of a child reported by a coroner or county sheriff under § 20-15-502
  • Sufficient identifying information is provided to identify and locate the child or the child's family.
  • The child or the child's family is present in Arkansas or the incident occurred in Arkansas.

The department and the State police may develop and implement triage procedures for accepting and documenting child maltreatment reports for a child not at risk of imminent harm.

The department shall assess the safety of a child upon the receipt of an accepted child maltreatment report. The assessment shall include each underlying issue or additional child maltreatment concern that may not have been identified in the original child abuse hotline report.

The department shall work with families related to an accepted child maltreatment report to remedy the conditions or issues that resulted in the child maltreatment report.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Code § 12-18-601

If a report of child maltreatment is accepted by the child abuse hotline, an investigation shall be conducted under procedures established by the department. The procedures established by the department shall require the following:

  • Assignment of a report of child maltreatment to the department of Human Services or the State police as the investigating agency
  • Assignment of a report of child maltreatment to the State police if the report involves any of the following:
    • Severe maltreatment
    • A person, agency, corporation, or partnership that provides substitute care for a child who is in the custody of the department
    • A person, agency, corporation, or partnership that provides substitute care for a child who is in the custody of an employee of the department or another person who resides in the home of an employee of the department
  • Assignment of a report of child maltreatment that qualifies for triage procedures that are developed and implemented in lieu of an assignment for investigation by the department or the State police

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 12-18-601; 12-18-602; 12-18-605; 12-18-608

A preliminary investigation shall include a visit to the home of the alleged victim, if appropriate given the type of child maltreatment alleged and evidence from a collateral witness.

At the initial time of contact with the alleged offender, the person conducting the investigation shall advise the alleged offender of the allegations made against the alleged offender in a manner that is consistent with the laws protecting the rights of the person who made the report.

Upon initiation of the investigation, the primary focus of the investigation shall be whether the alleged offender has access to children and whether children are at risk and need to be protected.

An investigation of child maltreatment or suspected child maltreatment shall include interviews with the following:

  • The child
  • The parents, both custodial and noncustodial
  • The alleged offender if neither parent is the alleged offender
  • Current or past health-care providers when the allegation of child maltreatment was reported by a health-care provider
  • Any other relevant persons

A person investigating a child victim, sibling of a child victim, or any other children in the home or under the care of an alleged offender shall have the discretion to do the following:

  • In the child's best interests, limit the persons allowed to be present when a child is being interviewed concerning allegations of child maltreatment
  • As it relates to the integrity of the investigation, limit persons present during an interview

The interview with the child victim, siblings of a child victim, or any other children in the home shall be conducted separate and apart from the alleged offender or any representative or attorney for the alleged offender. If the age or abilities of the child victim render an interview impossible, the investigation shall include observation of the child.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Code § 12-18-602

All investigations shall begin within 72 hours. However, the investigation shall begin within 24 hours if any of the following apply:

  • The allegation is severe maltreatment, excluding an allegation of any of the following:
    • Sexual abuse, if the most recent allegation of sexual abuse was more than 1 year ago or the alleged victim does not currently have contact with the alleged offender
    • Abandonment and the child is in a facility
    • Cuts, welts, bruises, or suffocation, if the most recent allegation was more than 1 year ago and the alleged victim is in the custody of the department
    • An alleged victim who is in a facility and does not currently have contact with the alleged offender
  • The allegation is that a child has been subjected to neglect as defined in § 12-18-103(14)(B).
  • A child has died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 12-18-702

Upon completion of an investigation, the department and State police shall determine whether the allegations of child maltreatment are to be classified as follows:

  • Unsubstantiated: An unsubstantiated determination shall be entered when the allegation is not supported by a preponderance of the evidence.
  • True: A true determination shall be entered when the allegation is supported by a preponderance of the evidence.
  • True but exempted, which means that the offender's name shall not be placed in the child maltreatment central registry. This classification shall be used if any of the following apply:
    • A parent practicing his or her religious beliefs does not, for that reason alone, provide medical treatment for a child, but in lieu of treatment the child is being furnished with treatment by spiritual means alone, through prayer, in accordance with a recognized religious method of healing by an accredited practitioner.
    • The offender is an underaged juvenile offender.
    • The report was true for neglect, as defined under § 12-18-103(13)(B).
    • The offender is a juvenile who is younger than age 14 at the time of the offense.
  • Inactive: If the investigation cannot be completed because the department and the State police are unable to locate or identify the alleged offender or alleged victim, the investigation may be determined inactive if a true or unsubstantiated determination cannot be established without interviewing the alleged offender or alleged victim.

An investigation of a report of child maltreatment that is closed under § 12-18-601 shall be documented as administratively closed without a determination of whether the allegation is unsubstantiated, true, true but exempt, or inactive.