Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Louisiana

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 609; 610(D)

Notwithstanding any claim of privileged communication, any mandatory reporter who has cause to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare is endangered as a result of abuse or neglect or that abuse or neglect was a contributing factor in a child's death shall submit a report.

If the initial report was in oral form by a mandatory reporter, it shall be followed by a written report within 5 days via the online mandated reporter portal of the Department of Children and Family Services, by mail to the centralized intake unit of the department at the address provided on the department website of the department, or, if necessary, to the local law enforcement agency.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 610(B)-(C)

The report shall contain the following information, if known:

  • The name, address, age, sex, and race of the child
  • The nature, extent, and cause of the child's injuries or endangered condition, including any previous known or suspected abuse of the child or the child's siblings
  • The names and addresses of the child's parents or other caregivers
  • The names and ages of all other members of the child's household
  • The name and address of the reporter
  • An account of how the child came to reporter's attention
  • Any explanation of the cause of the child's injury or condition offered by the child, the caregiver, or any other person
  • The number of times the reporter has filed a report on the child or the child's siblings
  • Any other information the reporter believes might be important or relevant

The report also shall name the person or persons who are thought to have caused or contributed to the child's condition, if known, and the report shall contain the name of such person if he or she is named by the child.

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 610(A), (E)

Reports of abuse or neglect that were a contributing factor in a child's death where the abuser is believed to be a caregiver, a person who maintains an interpersonal dating or engagement relationship with the parent or caregiver, or a person living in the same residence with the parent or caregiver as a spouse whether married or not shall be made immediately to the department through the designated State child protection reporting hotline telephone number.

The department shall report all cases of child death that involve a suspicion of abuse or neglect as a contributing factor in the child's death to the local or State law enforcement agency, the Office of the District Attorney, and the coroner.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 610(G)

If a physician has cause to believe that a newborn was exposed in utero to an unlawfully used controlled dangerous substance, the physician shall order a toxicology test upon the newborn, without the consent of the newborn's parents or guardian, to determine whether there is evidence of prenatal neglect. If the test results are positive, the physician shall issue a report, as soon as possible, in accordance with this article. If the test results are negative, all identifying information shall be obliterated if the record is retained, unless the parent approves the inclusion of identifying information. Positive test results shall not be admissible in a criminal prosecution.

If there are symptoms of withdrawal in the newborn or other observable and harmful effects in his or her physical appearance or functioning that a physician has cause to believe are due to the chronic or severe use of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy or are the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the physician shall issue a report in accordance with this article.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 610

Reports of child abuse or neglect in which the abuser is believed to be a parent or caregiver, a person who maintains an interpersonal dating or engagement relationship with the parent or caregiver, or a person living in the same residence with the parent or caregiver as a spouse, whether married or not, shall be made immediately to the department through the designated State child protection reporting hotline telephone number.

Reports in which the abuse or neglect is believed to be perpetrated by someone other than a caregiver, and the caregiver is not believed to have any responsibility for the abuse or neglect, shall be made immediately to a local or State law enforcement agency. Dual reporting to both the department through the designated State child protection reporting hotline telephone number and the local or State law enforcement agency is permitted.

In an investigation of a report of abuse or neglect allegedly committed by a person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare, the department shall determine whether the person is an active-duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces or the spouse of a member on active duty. If the department determines the person is an active-duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces or the spouse of a member on active duty, the department shall notify the U.S. Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program at the closest active-duty military installation of the investigation.

Any commercial film processor who has knowledge of or observes any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide depicting a child under age 17 in an activity that constitutes child pornography shall report immediately to the local law enforcement agency. The reporter shall provide a copy of the film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide to the agency receiving the report.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 612; Admin. Code Tit. 67, Part V, § 1301

Upon receiving a report of abuse or neglect of a child who is not in the custody of the State, the local child protection unit of the department shall promptly assign a level of risk to the child based on the information provided by the reporter.

The department shall set priorities for case response and allocate staff resources to cases identified by reporters as presenting immediate substantial risk of harm to children.

In regulation: Reports will be assigned for investigation when the circumstances of the report indicate the reporter has cause to believe either of the following:

  • That substantial risk of harm to the child is present and the child's physical, mental, or emotional health is seriously endangered as a result
  • That abuse or neglect already has occurred

Reports of abuse and/or neglect that provide first-hand information of an injury; of evidence of an injury to a child, such as personal observation, a photograph, names of witnesses, or medical reports; or police reports, which cause a reporter to believe that a child has been injured or is at substantial risk of injury through the action or inaction of the child's caregiver will be investigated.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ch. C. Art. 610(E)

All reports made to any law enforcement agency involving abuse or neglect in which the child's parent or caregiver, a person who maintains an interpersonal dating or engagement relationship with the parent or caregiver, or a person living in the same residence with the parent or caregiver as a spouse, whether married or not, is believed responsible shall be promptly communicated to the department in accordance with a written working agreement developed between the local law enforcement agency and child protection unit.

The department shall promptly communicate abuse or neglect cases not involving a parent, caregiver, or occupant of the household to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Reports involving a felony-grade crime against a child shall be promptly communicated to the appropriate law enforcement authorities as part of the interagency protocols for multidisciplinary investigations of child abuse and neglect.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 612

The investigation shall include a preliminary investigation as to the nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect and the identity of the person responsible for the child's condition. The preliminary investigation shall include an inquiry as to whether there is reason to know that the child is an Indian child. This investigation shall include an interview with the child and his or her parents or other caregiver and shall include consideration of all available medical information provided to the department pertaining to the child's condition. The preliminary investigation also shall include an immediate assessment of any existing visitation or custody order or agreement involving the alleged perpetrator and the child.

In lieu of an investigation, reports of low levels of risk may be assessed promptly through interviews with the family to identify needs and a match to available community resources. If, during this assessment, it is determined that a child is at immediate substantial risk of harm, the local child protection unit shall promptly conduct in an intensive investigation.

During the investigation of a report from a health-care practitioner of physical abuse of a child who is not in custody of the State, at the request and expense of the child's parent, the department shall provide copies of all medical information pertaining to the child's condition or treatment obtained during the investigation to a board-certified child abuse pediatrician to conduct an independent review of the information. Any resulting report shall be provided to the department and to the child's parent and shall be utilized in the department's on-going assessment of risk and to determine what action may be necessary to protect the health and safety of the child.

Upon determination that there is reason to believe that the child has been abused or neglected, the local child protection unit shall conduct a more intensive investigation.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 612; Admin. Code Tit. 67, Part V, § 1301

Reports of high and intermediate levels of risk shall be investigated promptly.

In regulation: Reports classified as presenting low risk of immediate substantial harm will be assigned a response time of 24 hours up to 5 calendar days from the date the report was received.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ch. Code Art. 615

After investigation, the local child protection unit shall make one of the following determinations:

  • The child appears to be a child in need of care and immediate removal is necessary for his or her protection from further abuse or neglect.
  • The report appears to be justified in that there is evidence of child abuse or neglect, and the following apply:
    • A protective order or safety plan order would eliminate the need for removal of the child to protect the child from further abuse, in which case it may apply for a temporary restraining order, protective order, or safety plan order.
    • All pertinent information shall be reported to the district attorney as soon as possible, but in no case more than 30 days after the determination is made.
  • The report is inconclusive in that the evidence tends to support a finding of abuse or neglect, but there is not enough information to confirm a justified report.
  • The report does not appear justified as the evidence does not support a finding of child abuse or neglect.
  • The investigation indicates the report appears to be false and that the reporter knowingly made a false report, in which case all pertinent information shall be forwarded to the district attorney for a determination of whether the evidence supports a finding of a false public report.