Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Maryland

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Fam. Law §§ 5-704; 5-704.1

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including any law on privileged communications, each mandated reporter acting in a professional capacity in this State who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect shall make an oral report by telephone or direct communication as soon as possible. A written report shall be made no later than 48 hours after the contact, examination, attention, or treatment that caused the individual to believe that the child had been subjected to abuse or neglect.

An individual may notify the local Department of Social Services or the appropriate law enforcement agency if the individual has reason to believe that a parent, guardian, or caregiver of a child allows the child to reside with or be in the regular presence of an individual, other than the child's parent or guardian, who is registered on the sex offender registry based on the commission of an offense against a child and, based on additional information, poses a substantial risk of sexual abuse to the child.

Content of Reports

Citation: Fam. Law § 5-704

Insofar as is reasonably possible, an individual who makes a report under this section shall include in the report the following information:

  • The name, age, and home address of the child
  • The name and home address of the child's parent or other person who is responsible for the child's care
  • The whereabouts of the child
  • The nature and extent of the abuse or neglect of the child, including any evidence or information available to the reporter concerning possible previous instances of abuse or neglect
  • Any other information that might be helpful to determine the cause of the suspected abuse or neglect and the identity of any individual responsible for the abuse or neglect

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Fam. Law § 5-704.2

A newborn infant is 'substance-exposed' if the following is true:

  • The newborn displays a positive toxicology screen for a controlled drug as evidenced by any appropriate test after birth.
  • The newborn displays the effects of controlled drug use or symptoms of withdrawal resulting from prenatal controlled drug exposure as determined by medical personnel.
  • The newborn displays the effects of a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

A health-care practitioner involved in the delivery or care of a substance-exposed newborn shall do the following:

  • Make an oral report to the local department as soon as possible
  • Make a written report to the local department no later than 48 hours after the contact, examination, attention, treatment, or testing that prompted the report

A health-care practitioner is not required to make a report if following applies:

  • The practitioner has knowledge that the head of an institution or the designee of the head or another individual at that institution has made a report regarding the substance-exposed newborn.
  • The practitioner has verified, at the time of delivery, the following:
    • The mother was using a controlled substance as currently prescribed for the mother by a licensed health-care practitioner.
    • The newborn does not display the effects of withdrawal from controlled substance exposure, as determined by medical personnel.
    • The newborn does not display the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
    • The newborn is not affected by substance use.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Fam. Law § 5-704; Code of Rules § 07.02.07.05(C)

The oral report shall be made to the local department or the appropriate law enforcement agency. The written report shall be made to the local department, with a copy to the local State's attorney.

An agency to which an oral report of suspected abuse or neglect is made shall immediately notify the other agency. This paragraph does not prohibit a local department and an appropriate law enforcement agency from agreeing to cooperative arrangements.

In regulation: Each local department shall have staff on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to receive and take appropriate action on reports of suspected child abuse and child neglect. The local department shall ensure that the public has a means of access to staff who are on-call after normal office hours.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Fam. Law § 5-706

Selected reports of abuse or neglect may be assigned to an alternative response program. Only a low-risk report of abuse or neglect may be considered for an alternative response. A report that is not assigned for an alternative response shall be assigned for investigation.

Within 24 hours after receiving a report of suspected physical or sexual abuse of a child, and within 5 days after receiving a report of suspected neglect or suspected mental injury of a child, the local department or the appropriate law enforcement agency shall do the following:

  • See the child
  • Attempt to have an onsite interview with the child's caregiver
  • Decide on the safety of the child, wherever the child is, and of other children in the household
  • Decide on the safety of other children in the care or custody of the alleged abuser

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Fam. Law. § 5-706

Promptly after receiving a report of suspected abuse or neglect of a child who lives in this State that is alleged to have occurred in this State, the local department or the appropriate law enforcement agency, or both, if jointly agreed on, shall make a thorough investigation of a report of suspected abuse or neglect to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the child or children.

The agencies responsible for investigating reported cases of suspected sexual abuse, including the local department, the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and the local State's attorney, shall implement a joint investigation procedure for conducting joint investigations of sexual abuse as follows:

  • It will include appropriate techniques for expediting validation of sexual abuse complaints.
  • It will include investigation techniques designed to decrease the potential for physical harm to the child and decrease any trauma experienced by the child in the investigation and prosecution of the case.
  • It will include screening to determine whether a child is a victim of sex trafficking.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Fam. Law. § 5-706

The investigation shall include the following:

  • A determination of the nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect, if any
  • If mental injury is suspected, an assessment by two of the following: a licensed physician, psychologist, or social worker

The following must occur if the suspected abuse or neglect is verified:

  • A determination of the identity of the person or persons responsible for the abuse or neglect
  • A determination of the name, age, and condition of any other child in the household
  • An evaluation of the parents and the home environment
  • A determination of any other pertinent facts or matters
  • A determination of any needed services

An 'alternative response' is a comprehensive assessment of the following:

  • Risk of harm to the child
  • Risk of subsequent child abuse or neglect
  • Family strengths and needs
  • The provision of or referral for necessary services

When a report is referred for an alternative response, the local department shall do the following:

  • See the child and the child's parent or primary caregiver within 24 hours of receiving a report of physical abuse or within 5 days of receiving a report of neglect
  • Attempt to have an onsite interview with the child's parent or primary caregiver
  • Evaluate the child's home environment
  • Decide on the safety of the child, wherever the child is, and of other children in the household
  • Decide on the safety of other children in the care or custody of the individual suspected of abuse or neglect
  • Advise the appropriate law enforcement agency that the report has been assigned for an alternative response, if the law enforcement agency made the report of abuse or neglect
  • Inform the individual suspected of child abuse or neglect of the allegations made against the individual in a manner consistent with laws protecting the rights of the person who made the report

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Fam. Law. § 5-706

To the extent possible, an investigation shall be completed within 10 days after receipt of the first notice of the suspected abuse or neglect by the local department or law enforcement agencies. An investigation that is not completed within 30 days shall be completed within 60 days of receipt of the first notice of the suspected abuse or neglect.

Within 5 business days after completion of the investigation, the local department and the appropriate law enforcement agency, if that agency participated in the investigation, shall make a complete written report of its findings to the local State's attorney.

An alternative response assessment shall be completed within 60 days after the receipt of the report. Within 10 days after completing the alternative response assessment, the department shall provide a written report to the family members who are participating in the alternative response assessment as to whether and what services are necessary to address the following:

  • The safety of the child or other children in the household
  • The risk of subsequent abuse or neglect

Classification of Reports

Citation: Fam. Law. § 5-701

Reports may be classified as follows:

  • 'Indicated' means a finding that there is credible evidence, which has not been satisfactorily refuted, that abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse did occur.
  • 'Unsubstantiated' means a finding that there is an insufficient amount of evidence to support a finding of indicated or ruled out.
  • 'Ruled out' means a finding that abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse did not occur.