Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Maine

Date:

Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, §§ 4011-A; 4012

A mandated reporter shall immediately report or cause a report to be made to the Department of Human Services when he or she knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected.

Any person may make a report if that person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected.

Reports regarding abuse or neglect must be made immediately by telephone to the department and must be followed by a written report within 48 hours if requested by the department.

Medical professionals, hospitals and hospital staff, school personnel, and law enforcement personnel may submit reports electronically. The department shall provide a portal through which these electronic reports may be submitted that is linked to the department's comprehensive child welfare information system.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, § 4012

The reports shall include the following information, if known:

  • The name and address of the child and the persons responsible for the child's care or custody
  • The child's age and sex
  • The nature and extent of the abuse or neglect, including a description of any injuries and the explanation given for them
  • A description of sexual abuse or exploitation, if applicable
  • Family composition
  • Any evidence of prior abuse of the child or any siblings
  • The source of report, the person making the report, his or her occupation, and contact information
  • Any action taken by the reporter, including a description of photographs or x-rays taken
  • Any other information that the reporter believes may be helpful

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, §§ 4011-A; 4004(2)(G); 4002(12)

A mandated reporter shall immediately report or cause a report to be made to the department when he or she knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a suspicious child death has occurred.

When, while acting in a professional capacity, a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a suspicious child death has been caused by a person not responsible for the child, he or she immediately shall report or cause a report to be made to the appropriate district attorney's office.

Any person may make a report if that person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that there has been a suspicious child death.

In the case of a suspicious child death, the department shall determine the following:

  • Whether abuse or neglect was a cause or factor contributing to the child's death
  • The degree of threatened harm to any other child for whom the person or persons responsible for the deceased child may be responsible now or in the future

'Suspicious child death' means the death of a child under circumstances in which there is reasonable cause to suspect that abuse or neglect was a cause of or factor contributing to the child's death.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, § 4011-B; 4004-B

A health-care provider involved in the delivery or care of an infant who he or she knows or has reasonable cause to suspect has been born affected by substance use; has withdrawal symptoms that require medical monitoring or care beyond standard newborn care, whether the prenatal exposure was to legal or illegal drugs; or has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder shall notify the department of that condition in the infant. The notification must be made in the same manner as other reports of abuse or neglect.

The department shall act to protect newborn infants identified as being affected by substance use or withdrawal symptoms of prenatal drug exposure, whether the prenatal exposure was to legal or illegal drugs, or having a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, regardless of whether the infant is abused or neglected. The department shall do the following:

  • Receive notifications of infants who may be affected by substance use, withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure, or who have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Promptly investigate notifications of infants who may be affected by substance use or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure or who have a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Determine whether the infant is affected by substance use or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure or has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • Determine whether the infant is abused or neglected and, if so, determine the degree of harm or threatened harm in each case
  • For each infant is found to be affected by substance use or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure or who has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, develop, with the assistance of any health-care provider involved in the caregiver's or the child's health care, a plan for the safe care of the infant

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, § 4011-A; CFS Pol. Man. § IV.C

Mandated reporters must submit reports to the department.

When, while acting in a professional capacity, a mandated reporter knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected by a person not responsible for the child, he or she immediately shall report or cause a report to be made to the appropriate district attorney's office.

In policy: The child protective intake unit is staffed with trained caseworkers and receives reports of suspected child abuse/neglect statewide via a toll-free number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Telephone numbers and addresses of the child protective intake unit are made widely known through publicity.

If a suspected criminal act of abuse to a child is alleged, intake staff must make a referral to the district attorney (DA) where the alleged crime occurred. This includes reports involving child death and/or serious injury, ingestion, and domestic violence homicide. In addition, reports with allegations involving physical abuse, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and child endangerment require a referral to the DA.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: CFS Pol. Man. § IV.C

The intake caseworker will review the information in the report, consult additional sources as needed, and determine whether the allegation(s) are either appropriate (meets the definition of abuse or neglect), inappropriate (does not meet the definition of abuse and neglect), involves a substance-exposed newborn or drug-affected baby with no allegations of abuse, or other.

It is intake's role and responsibility to determine whether to accept a report as appropriate for assessment and to determine response time. Intake will review and decide about the disposition of all reports within 24 hours of receipt.

Intake staff are responsible for determining the following:

  • Whether to screen in a report
  • Which abuse type(s) are alleged: sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, or other
  • What the response priority should be
  • If the case is not appropriate for assessment, whether risk factors indicate the need to refer the family to prevention services or community intervention programs

The intake caseworker determines if a report involves these initial criteria:

  • A child under age 18
  • An allegation of abuse or neglect
  • A caregiver as the subject of the allegation
  • A child who resides in Maine or abuse occurring in Maine

If initial criteria are not met, the intake caseworker will screen out the report and explore whether additional risk factors are present.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, § 4004

The department shall act to protect abused and neglected children and children in circumstances that present a substantial risk of abuse and neglect to prevent further abuse and neglect, to enhance the welfare of these children and their families, and to preserve family life wherever possible. The department shall do the following:

  • Receive reports of abuse and neglect and suspicious child deaths
  • Promptly investigate all abuse and neglect cases and suspicious child deaths coming to its attention
  • Establish and maintain a policy that requires, to the greatest extent possible under applicable Federal and State confidentiality laws, that caseworkers receive information throughout the time the department is involved with a family and child directly from any agencies, facilities, or persons involved with or providing services to the family and child to do the following:
    • Coordinate adequate access to resources for a family and child
    • Inform the ongoing risk and safety assessment of the child

An investigation under this paragraph is subject to and may not interfere with the authority and responsibility of the attorney general to investigate and prosecute homicides.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: CFS Pol. Man. § IV.D

Staff must follow investigation procedures to ensure that all allegations are assessed through family engagement, contact with the referent, forensic interviews with critical case members, and corroboration of facts with those that have information regarding the safety of the child.

Child interviews must be completed at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) when there are allegations of child sexual abuse. To meet response timeframes, the child may be interviewed in consultation with law enforcement if the CAC is unable to complete the interview within the required time.

If the report identifies the family is part of a federally recognized Tribe in Maine, the Tribe must be notified within 24 hours to determine if they want to participate in the investigation.

The following activities must be completed within the assigned response timeframe:

  • All initial interviews with the child
  • If a child is nonverbal, a physical observation of the child
  • All interviews with adult critical case members, including the following:
    • Any person under age 18 alleged to have been abused and/or neglected or found in the home where abuse and/or neglect is alleged to have occurred
    • Any parent/caregiver, custodian, or person responsible for the child in or out of the home, when the child has been found to be a victim of child abuse and/or neglect
    • Any adult in a caregiver role who has been reported to be abusing or neglecting a child
  • Separate interviews with each parent/caregiver, unless doing so would increase the likelihood of potential harm to the child or an adult parent/caregiver (e.g., reports involving domestic violence)
  • A home visit where each child primarily resides and the home where the allegations were alleged to have occurred to determine if the environment is safe

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: CFS Pol. Man. §§ IV.C; IV.D

Reports that are appropriate for referral are assigned a response time by central intake and reviewed by the intake supervisor. If it appears that a child is in immediate risk of serious immediate harm, a 24-hour response is required, and the intake worker shall contact the intake supervisor (or standby staff after hours) immediately. All other appropriate reports will be completed by the intake worker and submitted to the intake supervisor for approval by the end of the intake worker's shift.

Before making a recommendation to the intake supervisor, intake workers must consider factors that could either result in an increased or decreased response time. Factors increasing a response time indicate a 24-hour response is needed. Factors decreasing response time requires that a response occurs within 72 hours. When multiple factors are present, factors that increase response time supersede factors decreasing response time. Factors to consider are as follows:

  • Factors increasing response time include the following:
    • Law enforcement requests an immediate response.
    • Forensic considerations would be compromised by slower response.
    • There is reason to believe the family may flee.
    • There has been a prior child death in the household due to abuse or neglect.
  • Factors decreasing response time include the following:
    • Child safety requires a strategically slower response (e.g., the value of coordinating multiagency response outweighs the need for immediate response).
    • The child is in an alternative safe environment.
    • The alleged incident occurred more than 6 months ago.

The investigation must be completed within 35 days.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 22, § 4004; CFS Pol.Man. § IV.D-1

The department shall determine in each case whether a child has been harmed and the degree of harm or threatened harm by a person responsible for the care of that child by deciding whether allegations are unsubstantiated, indicated, or substantiated. Each allegation must be considered separately and may result in a combination of findings.

In policy: Reports may be classified as follows:

  • An 'indicated' finding means that facts and information gathered during an assessment or investigation support a decision that a person responsible for a child has, by a preponderance of evidence, subjected that child to low or moderate severity abuse and/or neglect.
  • A 'substantiated' finding means that facts and information gathered during an assessment or investigation support a decision that a person responsible for a child has, by a preponderance of evidence, subjected that child to specific high severity abuse and/or neglect thus causing the child to be in danger.
  • An 'unsubstantiated' finding means that facts and information gathered during an assessment or investigation support a decision that a person responsible for a child has not, by a preponderance of evidence, subjected that child to specific abuse and/or neglect.