Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Iowa

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.70

Each report made by a mandated reporter shall be made both orally and in writing. Each report made by a permissive reporter may be oral, written, or both.

The written report shall be made to the Department of Human Services within 48 hours after the oral report.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.70

The oral and written reports shall contain as much of the following information as the reporter is able to furnish:

  • The names and home addresses of the child and the child's parent(s) or other persons responsible for the child's care
  • The child's present whereabouts, if not the same as the parents' home address
  • The child's age
  • The nature and extent of the child's injuries, including any evidence of prior injury
  • The name, age, and condition of other children in the same home
  • Any other information which the person making the report believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury to the child or the identity of the person or persons responsible for the injury or in providing assistance to the child
  • The name and address of the person making the report

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.77(2)

If a health practitioner discovers in a child physical or behavioral symptoms of the effects of exposure to cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, methamphetamine, or other illegal drugs or combinations or derivatives thereof, that were not prescribed by a health practitioner, or if the health practitioner has determined through examination of the natural mother of the child that the child was exposed in utero, the health practitioner may perform or cause to be performed a medically relevant test, as defined in § 232.73, on the child. The practitioner shall report any positive results of such a test on the child to the department. The department shall begin an assessment pursuant to § 232.71B upon receipt of such a report. A positive test result obtained prior to the birth of a child shall not be used for the criminal prosecution of a parent for acts and omissions resulting in intrauterine exposure of the child to an illegal drug.

If a health practitioner involved in the delivery or care of a newborn or infant discovers in the newborn or infant physical or behavioral symptoms that are consistent with the effects of prenatal drug exposure or a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the health practitioner shall report such information to the department in a manner prescribed by rule of the department.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.70; Admin. Code § 441-175.22

The oral report shall be made by telephone or otherwise to the Department of Human Services. If the person making the report has reason to believe that immediate protection for the child is advisable, that person also shall make an oral report to an appropriate law enforcement agency.

In regulation: Reports of child abuse shall be received by the department, central abuse registry, or child abuse hotline.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann, Stat. § 232.70; Admin. Code §§ 441-175.22; 175.24

Upon receipt of a report, the department shall do all the following:

  • Immediately determine whether the report constitutes an allegation of child abuse as defined in § 232.68
  • Notify the appropriate county attorney of the receipt of the report

If a report would be determined to constitute an allegation of child abuse as defined under § 232.68(2)(a)(3) or (5), except that the suspected abuse resulted from the acts or omissions of a person other than a person responsible for the care of the child, the department shall refer the report to the appropriate law enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the allegation. The department shall refer the report orally as soon as practicable and in writing within 72 hours of receiving the report.

In regulation: Any report that alleges child abuse shall be accepted for assessment. Reports that do not meet the legal definition of child abuse shall become rejected intakes. The primary purpose of intake is to obtain available and pertinent information regarding an allegation of child abuse and determine whether a report of child abuse becomes a case or a rejected intake.

To result in a case, the report of child abuse must include some information to indicate all the following:

  • The alleged victim of child abuse is a child.
  • The alleged perpetrator of child abuse is:
    • A caregiver
    • A person who resides in a home with the child if the allegation is sexual abuse
    • A person who engages in or allows child sex trafficking
  • The alleged incident falls within the definition of child abuse.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.71B

If the department determines a report alleges child abuse, it shall conduct either a child abuse assessment or a family assessment.

The department shall apply protocols, developed with the local child protection assistance team, to prioritize the actions taken in response to a child abuse assessment and shall work jointly with child protection assistance teams and law enforcement agencies in performing assessment and investigative processes for child abuse assessments in which a criminal act harming a child is alleged. The county attorney and appropriate law enforcement agencies also shall take any other lawful action that may be necessary or advisable for the protection of the child.

If a report is determined not to constitute a child abuse allegation or if the child abuse report is accepted but assessed under the family assessment, but a criminal act harming a child is alleged, the department shall immediately refer the matter to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

In each county or multicounty area in which more than 50 child abuse reports are made per year, the department shall establish a multidisciplinary team, as defined in § 235A.13(8). Upon the department's request, a multidisciplinary team shall assist the department in the assessment, diagnosis, and disposition of a child abuse assessment.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.71B

The primary purpose of either the child abuse assessment or the family assessment shall be the protection of the child named in the report. The secondary purpose of either type of assessment shall be to engage the child's family in services to enhance family strengths and to address needs.

A child abuse assessment or family assessment shall include the following:

  • A safety assessment and risk assessment
  • An evaluation of the home environment

In addition, a child abuse assessment shall include the following:

  • Identification of the nature, extent, and cause of the injuries, if any, to the child
  • Identification of the person or persons responsible for the alleged child abuse
  • A description of the name, age, and condition of other children in the same home as the child named in the report
  • An interview of the person alleged to have committed the child abuse, if the person's identity and location are known

An assessment also may include the following:

  • A visit to the child's home to interview or observe the child
  • A visit to the child's school
  • Criminal history data on any person believed to be responsible for a child's injury
  • A physical examination

Upon completion of the assessment, the department shall make a written report that shall include the following:

  • The information required for the risk and safety assessments
  • The strengths and needs of the child and the child's parent, home, and family
  • The services available from the department and informal and formal services and other support available in the community to address the strengths and needs identified in the assessment
  • A description of the child's condition, identification of the injury or risk to which the child was exposed, the circumstances which led to the injury or risk to the child, and the identity of any person alleged to be responsible for the injury or risk to the child

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.71B

If the department determines a report constitutes a child abuse allegation, the department shall promptly commence either a child abuse assessment within 24 hours of receiving the report or a family assessment within 72 hours of receiving the report, as follows:

  • Upon acceptance of a report of child abuse, the department shall commence a child abuse assessment when the report alleges child abuse that also alleges imminent danger, death, or injury to a child.
  • Upon acceptance of a report of child abuse, the department shall commence a family assessment when the report alleges child abuse but does not allege imminent danger, death, or injury to a child.

A written child abuse assessment report shall be completed within 20 business days of the receipt of the child abuse report. A written family assessment report shall be completed within 10 business days of the receipt of the child abuse report.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 232.71D; Admin. Code § 441-175.26

Except as otherwise provided below, if the department issues a finding that the alleged child abuse meets the definition of child abuse, the names of the child and the alleged perpetrator of the alleged child abuse and any other child abuse information shall be placed in the central registry as a case of founded child abuse.

Cases to which any of the following circumstances apply shall not be placed on the central registry:

  • A finding of physical abuse in which the department has determined the injury resulting from the abuse was minor, isolated, and unlikely to reoccur.
  • A finding of abuse by failure to provide adequate supervision or by failure to provide adequate clothing, in which the department has determined the risk to the child's health and welfare from the abuse was minor, isolated, and unlikely to reoccur.

In regulation: A child abuse assessment report shall include a statement of determination of whether the allegation of child abuse was founded, confirmed but not placed on the central abuse registry, or not confirmed. The statement shall include a rationale for placing or not placing the case on the central abuse registry.