Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - District of Columbia

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1321.02; 4-1321.03

A mandated reporter who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect of a child shall immediately report to the police department or the Child and Family Services Agency.

Each person required to make a report of a known or suspected neglected child shall do the following:

  • Immediately make an oral report of the case to the Child and Family Services Agency or the police department
  • Make a written report of the case if requested by the agency or police or if the abuse involves drug-related activity

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1321.03

The report shall include, but need not be limited to, the following information if it is known to the person making the report:

  • The name, age, sex, and address of the child, the child's siblings, other children in the home, and the parents or other persons responsible for the child's care
  • The nature and extent of the abuse or neglect and any previous abuse or neglect
  • Any other information that might be helpful
  • If the source of the report is a mandated reporter, the identity and occupation of the source, how to contact the source, and any action taken by the source concerning the child

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1321.02(d), (f)

A licensed health professional, law enforcement officer, or humane officer shall report immediately in writing to the Child and Family Services Agency when there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is abused as a result of inadequate care, control, or subsistence in the home environment due to exposure to drug-related activity.

A licensed health professional, who in his or her own professional or official capacity knows that a child under 12 months of age is diagnosed as having a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, shall immediately report or have a report made to the Child and Family Services Agency.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 4-1303.03b

The agency shall establish a single reporting line to receive reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. The single reporting line shall be maintained by the agency, with the assistance and support of the Metropolitan Police Department, and shall be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1303.03b; 4-1301.04

Upon receiving reports on the single reporting line, the agency shall do the following:

  • Review and screen the reports to collect relevant information from the source of the report
  • Transmit the reports to the entity with responsibility, or the appropriate governmental entity in another jurisdiction, for investigation or provision of services

The agency shall conduct a thorough investigation of a report of suspected child abuse or neglect to protect the health and safety of the child or children when a report involves a child fatality, suspected sex abuse, or the agency suspects a child is at imminent risk of or has experienced abuse or neglect that the agency determines to be severe.

For all other reports of suspected child abuse or neglect, the agency, directly or through a contractor or another appropriate district agency, shall conduct either a thorough investigation or a family assessment. A family's cooperation with the family assessment and its acceptance of services offered pursuant to the assessment shall be voluntary as long as there are no concerns regarding child safety.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1301.04; 4-1301.51

The agency shall conduct the investigation or family assessment. The agency may request the assistance of the Metropolitan Police Department to assist in the investigation or to ensure the safety of agency staff. As part of the full investigation, the agency must notify and coordinate with the Metropolitan Police Department when there is indication of a crime, including sexual or serious physical abuse.

Every instance of sexual abuse of a child shall be reviewed and investigated by a multidisciplinary investigation team, which shall focus first, on the needs of the child; and second, on the law enforcement, prosecution, and related civil proceedings.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1301.04; 4-1301.06

The family assessment shall include seeing the child and all other children in the household within a 5-day period. The report must not involve a child who is at imminent risk of or has experienced abuse or neglect that the agency determines to be severe; in such a case, the report shall be referred for investigation. At any time during the investigation, the director of the agency may determine it appropriate to refer the family for a family assessment and suspend the investigation.

The full investigation shall include the following:

  • Seeing the child and all other children in the household outside of the presence of the caregivers
  • Interviewing the child's caregivers
  • Speaking with the source of the report
  • Assessing the safety and risk of harm to the child from abuse or neglect in the place where the child lives
  • Deciding on the safety of the child and of other children in the household
  • Deciding on the safety of other children in the care or custody of the person or persons alleged to be abusing or neglecting the child

The investigation shall determine the following:

  • The nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect
  • If mental injury is suspected, an assessment of the suspected mental injury by a physician, a psychologist, or a licensed clinical social worker
  • The following if the suspected abuse or neglect is determined to be substantiated:
    • The identity of the person responsible for the abuse or neglect
    • The name, age, sex, and condition of the maltreated child and all other children in the home
    • The conditions in the home
    • Whether there is any child in the home whose health, safety, or welfare is at risk
    • Whether any child who is at risk should be removed from the home or can be protected by the provision of resources

The agency shall complete a final report of its findings within 5 business days after the completion of the investigation.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1301.04; 4-1301.06

The family assessment shall commence as soon as possible, but no later than 5 days after the agency's receipt of the report.

The investigation shall commence as follows:

  • Immediately upon receiving a report of suspected abuse or neglect or a referral for investigation following a family assessment indicating that the child's safety or health is in immediate danger
  • As soon as possible, and at least within 24 hours, upon receiving any report or a referral for investigation following a family assessment not involving immediate danger to the child

The initial phase of the investigation shall be completed within 24 hours of its commencement. The full investigation shall be completed no more than 30 days after receipt of the first notice of the suspected abuse or neglect.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 4-1301.04; 4-1301.02

The report of the investigation must include a finding as to whether the report of abuse or neglect is substantiated, inconclusive, or unfounded. These classifications have the following meanings:

  • A substantiated report is supported by credible evidence and is not against the weight of the evidence.
  • An inconclusive report cannot be proven to be either substantiated or unfounded.
  • An unfounded report is made maliciously or in bad faith or has no basis in fact.