Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Delaware

Date: November 2021

Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, §§ 903; 904

Any person, agency, organization, or entity who knows or in good faith suspects child abuse or neglect shall make a report in accordance with § 904 of this title. In addition to and not in lieu of reporting to the Division of Family Services, any such person also may give oral or written notification of that knowledge or suspicion to any police officer who is in the presence of such person for the purpose of rendering assistance to the child in question or investigating the cause of the child's injuries or condition.

Any report of child abuse or neglect required to be made under this chapter must be made by contacting the child abuse and neglect report line for the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families. An immediate oral report must be made by telephone or otherwise.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, §§ 904; 906

Contents of any written report must be in accordance with rules and regulations of the division. When a written report is made, the division will contact the reporter within 48 hours to ensure that full information has been received and to obtain additional information, medical records, or both.

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 906

The law enforcement agency investigating a report of child abuse or neglect shall notify the Department of Justice upon receipt of a report of death or serious physical injury of a child.

The department and the Department of Justice shall ensure that every case involving the death or near death of a child due to abuse or neglect is reported to the Child Protection Accountability Commission and every case involving the death of a child to the Child Death Review Commission.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 903B

The health-care provider who is involved in the delivery or care of an infant with prenatal substance exposure shall make a notification to the division by contacting the division report line. A notification made under this section is not to be construed to constitute a report of child abuse or neglect unless risk factors are present that would jeopardize the safety and well-being of the infant.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, §§ 904; 905; 906

Any report required by the reporting laws must be made to the Division of Child Protective Services in the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families. The division will maintain a 24-hour toll-free telephone line for accepting reports. Although reports may be made anonymously, the division shall, in all cases, after obtaining relevant information regarding alleged abuse or neglect, request the name and address of any person making a report. When a written report is made by a mandatory reporter, the division shall contact the reporter within 48 hours of receipt of the report in order to ensure that full information has been received and to obtain any additional information or medical records, or both, that may be pertinent.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, §§ 905; 906

Upon receipt of a report, the division shall check the internal information system to determine whether previous reports have been made regarding actual or suspected abuse or neglect of the subject child, any siblings, family members, or the alleged perpetrator. Relevant information obtained from the internal information system also must be forwarded to the appropriate department staff.

The division shall forward reports to the appropriate division staff, who shall determine, through the use of protocols developed by the division, whether an investigation or the family assessment and services approach should be used to respond to the allegation. The protocols for making this determination shall be developed by the division and shall give priority to ensuring the well-being and safety of the child.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 906

The division may investigate any report but shall investigate all reports that involve the commission or attempt to commit a crime against a child by a person responsible for the care, custody, and control of the child. The division will contact the Delaware Department of Justice and the appropriate law enforcement agency and provide the agency with a detailed description of the report. The law enforcement agency will assist the division with the investigation and promptly conduct its own criminal investigation and keep the division regularly apprised of the status and findings of its investigation.

Multidisciplinary services shall be used whenever possible when conducting the investigation or family assessment and services approach, including the services of law enforcement agencies, the medical community, and other agencies, both public and private.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 906

The department shall investigate a multidisciplinary case that involves intrafamilial or institutional child abuse or neglect, human trafficking of a child, or death of a child who is age 3 or younger that appears to be sudden, unexpected, and unexplained. The department may investigate any other report.

The department also shall do the following:

  • At a minimum, complete the following tasks:
    • Investigate the nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect
    • Collect evidence
    • Identify the alleged perpetrator
    • Determine the names and condition of other children and adults in the home
    • Assess the home environment, the relationship of the subject child to the parents or other persons responsible for the child's care, and any indication of incidents of physical violence against any household members
    • Perform background checks on all adults in the home
    • Gather other pertinent information
  • In the family assessment and services approach, assess service needs of the family from information gathered from the family and other sources
  • Commence an immediate investigation if at any time during the family assessment and services approach the department determines that an investigation is required or is otherwise appropriate
  • Conduct a family assessment and services approach on reports initially referred for an investigation, if it is determined that a complete investigation is not required
  • Coordinate with the multidisciplinary team to secure forensic interviews and medical examinations, where applicable, and to conduct interviews while considering the criminal investigation together with the department's statutory duties to promptly assess child safety

Absent good cause, children who are age 3 through 12 and all suspected child victims of human trafficking shall be interviewed in a children's advocacy center.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

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

Classification of Reports

Citation: Code of Regs. CDR 9-300-304

The case finding may indicate that it is substantiated or unsubstantiated. A person who has been substantiated for abuse or neglect must be entered on the child protection registry at one of four designated child protection levels related to the risk of future harm to children:

  • Child Protection Level I: Low risk
  • Child Protection Level II: Moderate risk
  • Child Protection Level III: High risk
  • Child Protection Level IV: Highest risk

If the division determines from its investigation not to substantiate the person for abuse or neglect, the person may not be entered on the child protection registry for that reported incident.