Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Colorado

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 19-3-304

A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect shall report immediately to the county Department of Human or Social Services, the local law enforcement agency, or through the child abuse reporting hotline system as set forth in § 26-5-111.

Any commercial film and photographic print processor who has knowledge of or observes, within the scope of his or her professional capacity or employment, any film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide depicting a child engaged in an act of sexual conduct shall report such fact to a local law enforcement agency immediately or as soon as practically possible by telephone and shall prepare and send a written report of it with a copy of the film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide attached within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident.

Content of Reports

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 19-3-307

Reports of known or suspected child abuse or neglect shall be made immediately to the county department, the local law enforcement agency, or through the child abuse reporting hotline system and shall be followed promptly by a written report prepared by those persons required to report.

Reports of known or suspected child abuse or must include the following information whenever possible:

  • The name, address, age, sex, and race of the child
  • The name and address of the person responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect
  • The nature and extent of the child's injuries, including any evidence of previous cases of abuse or neglect of the child or the child's siblings
  • The names and addresses of the persons responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect, if known
  • Family composition
  • The source of the report, including the name, address, and occupation of the person making the report
  • Any action taken by the reporting source
  • Any other information that might be helpful
  • The military affiliation of the individual who has custody or control of the child who is the subject of the investigation of child abuse or neglect, if such individual is a member of the armed forces or a spouse, a significant other, or family member residing in the home of the member of the armed forces. This information shall be shared with the appropriate military installation authorities pursuant to the requirements set forth in §§ 19-1-303 (2.6) and 19-1-307 (2)(w).

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 19-3-305; Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-2(7.106.1)

A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has died as a result of abuse or neglect shall report that fact immediately to a local law enforcement agency and the appropriate medical examiner. The county department shall forward a copy of such report to the State Department of Human Services.

In regulation: The county department shall assess an incident of egregious abuse or neglect against a child, a near fatality, or a child fatality in intrafamilial and institutional settings in those cases in which:

  • There is reason to know or suspect that abuse or neglect caused or contributed to the incident.
  • The cause of the incident is unknown or the information given is not consistent with the degree or type of injury and/or subsequent death.

The county department shall coordinate with law enforcement, the district attorney's office, the coroner's office, and hospitals to ensure that prompt notification is made of an incident of egregious abuse or neglect, near fatality, or fatality of a child that is suspicious for child abuse or neglect.

Assessments shall be coordinated with law enforcement. At a minimum, in cases in which there are no surviving children, the county department shall provide law enforcement and the coroner with information related to any prior involvement with the child, the family, or the person alleged to be responsible for the abuse and/or neglect.

When there are surviving or noninjured children, the county department shall assess the condition of those children and take the action necessary to ensure their protection.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 19-3-308; 26-5-111

The county department shall receive the reports of abuse or neglect.

A statewide child abuse reporting hotline system serves as a direct, immediate, and efficient route to the applicable entity responsible for accepting the report and to the applicable entity responsible for responding to an inquiry. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The State board is authorized to adopt rules, as necessary, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The type of technology that may be used, including, but not limited to, a single statewide toll-free telephone number and technologies for language translation and for communicating with people who are deaf or have hearing impairments
  • The operation of the hotline system, including the central record keeping and tracking of reports and inquiries statewide, and a requirement that the record keeping and tracking of reports and inquiries be accessible to all counties through the State's case management system
  • The standards and steps for information and referral and how an inquiry is routed to the applicable entity responsible for responding to an inquiry
  • A formal process for a county department to opt to have the State department receive reports or inquiries on behalf of the county department after hours
  • A process for a county department to opt to have another county department receive reports or inquiries on behalf of the county department after hours or on a short-term basis
  • Standardized training and certification standards for all staff prior to taking reports and inquiries
  • A consistent screening process with criteria and steps for the county department to follow in responding to a report or inquiry
  • Rules establishing a consistent decision-making process with criteria and steps for the county department to follow when deciding how to act on a report or inquiry or when to take no action on a report or inquiry

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 19-3-308; Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-2(7.103.3; 7.103.5)

The county department shall respond immediately upon receipt of any report of a known or suspected incident of intrafamilial abuse or neglect to assess the abuse involved and the appropriate response to the report. The assessment shall be in accordance with rules adopted by the State Board of Social Services to determine the risk of harm to such child and the appropriate response to such risks.

Appropriate responses shall include, but are not limited to, screening reports that do not require further investigation, providing appropriate intervention services, pursuing reports that require further investigation, and conducting immediate investigations.<.p>

In regulation: The county department shall gather any available information and conduct an initial review. The review shall include, but not be limited to, the following actions:

  • Review the State automated case management system and any available county department files within 24 hours for the following:
    • Prior referrals and/or involvement with the alleged child victim, family, and persons alleged to be responsible for the abuse or neglect
    • Actions taken
    • Services provided to inform whether there is known or suspected abuse or neglect or serious threats of harm to a child
  • Obtain information from collateral sources such as schools, medical personnel, law enforcement agencies, or other care providers, as available and appropriate

The county department shall screen in and assign a referral for assessment if the following are true:

  • It contains specific allegations of known or suspected abuse or neglect as defined in statutes and regulations.
  • It provides sufficient information to locate the alleged victim.
  • It identifies a victim younger than age 18.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 19-3-308

The county department shall be the agency responsible for the coordination of all investigations of all reports of known or suspected incidents of intrafamilial abuse or neglect. The county department shall conduct the investigation in conjunction with the local law enforcement agency, to the extent a joint investigation is possible and deemed appropriate, and any other appropriate agency.

If a local law enforcement agency receives a report of a known or suspected incident of intrafamilial abuse or neglect, it shall attempt to contact the county department in order to refer the case for investigation.

Local law enforcement agencies shall have the responsibility for the coordination and investigation of all reports of third-party abuse or neglect by persons age 10 or older. Upon receipt of a report, if the local law enforcement agency reasonably believes that the protection and safety of a child is at risk due to an act or omission on the part of persons responsible for the child's care, that agency shall notify the county department of social services for an assessment regarding neglect or dependency. In addition, the local law enforcement agency shall refer to the county department of social services any report of third-party abuse or neglect in which the person allegedly responsible for such abuse or neglect is younger than age 10.

Upon receipt of a report, if the county department reasonably believes that an incident of abuse or neglect has occurred, it shall immediately notify the local law enforcement agency responsible for investigation of violations of criminal child abuse laws. The local law enforcement agency may conduct an investigation to determine if a violation of any criminal child abuse law has occurred.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 19-3-308; 19-3-308.3

The investigation, to the extent that is reasonably possible, shall include the following:

  • The credibility of the source of the report
  • The nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect
  • The identity of the person responsible for the abuse or neglect
  • The names and conditions of any other children living in the same place
  • The environment and the relationship of any children to the person responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect
  • All other data deemed pertinent

The investigation shall include an interview with or observance of the child who is the subject of a report of abuse or neglect. The investigation may include a visit to the child's place of residence, place of custody, or wherever the child may be located, as indicated by the report. In addition, the alleged perpetrator shall be advised as to the allegation of abuse and neglect and the circumstances surrounding such allegation and shall be afforded an opportunity to respond.

If a county department that is participating in the differential response program determines from an assessment that the known or suspected incident of intrafamilial abuse or neglect is of low or moderate risk, the county department, in lieu of performing an investigation, may refer the family to the differential response program. Participation in the program by families who are referred to the program is voluntary. For each family referred to the program, neither the State department nor a county department is required to make a finding concerning the alleged intrafamilial abuse or neglect in the family.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-2(7.103.60; 7.104.131)

The county department shall assign priority in response time using the following criteria:

  • An immediate response is required when the report indicates the following:
    • There may be present danger of moderate to severe harm.
    • The child's vulnerability or factors such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence, isolation, or risk of flight increase the need for immediate response.
  • A 3-day response is required when the report indicates the following:
    • There may be an impending danger of moderate to severe harm.
    • The alleged child victim's vulnerability and/or factors such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence, isolation, or risk of flight increase the need for intervention in the near future.
  • A 5-day response is required when a referral indicates an absence of safety concerns.

The decision of how quickly to initiate an assessment shall be based on specific reported information that is credible and that indicates whether a child may be unsafe or at risk of harm.

An assessment shall be completed within 60 calendar days of date the referral was received. The safety assessment tool shall be approved no later than 14 calendar days from the date the alleged child victim was interviewed or observed.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Code of Regs. 12 CCR 2509-1(7.000.2); 2509-2(7.104.132)

Reports may be classified as follows:

  • 'Founded': The child abuse or neglect assessment established that an incident of child abuse or neglect has occurred, by a preponderance of evidence.
  • 'Inconclusive': There was some likelihood that abuse or neglect occurred, but the child abuse or neglect assessment could not obtain the evidence necessary to make a founded report of child abuse or neglect.
  • 'Unfounded': The abuse or neglect assessment established that there is clear evidence that no incident of abuse and/or neglect occurred.

County departments shall enter a finding of founded, inconclusive, or unfounded as an outcome of all high-risk or traditional assessments in the State automated case management system no later than 60 days after the receipt of the referral.

In a family assessment response, no finding shall be made.