Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Mississippi

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-353

A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child, an abused child, or a victim of commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking shall immediately make an oral report to the Department of Child Protection Services to be followed as soon as possible by a written report.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-353

Any report to the department shall contain the following:

  • The names and addresses of the child, the child's parents, or other persons responsible for the child's care
  • The child's age
  • The nature and extent of injuries, including any evidence of prior injuries
  • Any other information that might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and the identity of the perpetrator

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Code of Rules, § 18-006-102

When an intake report is received indicating a near fatality or fatality, the following two questions must be answered for each allegation:

  • Is the victim in serious or critical condition, as certified by a physician, as a result of this maltreatment (near fatality)?
  • Did the victim die as a result of this maltreatment (fatality)?

'Yes' is selected at intake only if the reporter is department staff, law enforcement, or medical personnel and indicates a physician has labeled the child's condition as serious or critical as a result of the maltreatment act (near fatality) or the child has died as a result of the maltreatment act (fatality).

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-102

All reports of positive drug screens for a mother and/or infant shall be screened in by the intake unit. All reports of positive drug screens for a mother and/or infant that have been screened in by the intake unit shall be assigned to a worker for investigation or assessment.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-353; Code of Rules § 18-006-102

The department shall maintain a statewide incoming wide-area telephone service or similar service for the purpose of receiving reports of suspected cases of child abuse, commercial sexual exploitation, or human trafficking. When the department receives a report, it shall immediately make a referral to the youth court intake unit. The intake unit shall promptly comply with § 43-21-357.

In regulation: Any person who has reason to suspect maltreatment of a child must make a report by telephone to Mississippi Centralized Intake, the department's 24-hour statewide child abuse hotline for the reporting of child maltreatment at 1-800-222-8000, or electronically at www.msabusehotline.mdhs.ms.gov.

When a reporter comes to the county office to make a report, he or she shall be educated on the report process and allowed to use a department phone to call the hotline. If the reporter does not choose to make a report from the office phone, the county staff shall make the report to the hotline immediately.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-102

When a report is received, the department will determine if the following apply:

  • The family can be located.
  • The alleged perpetrator is a parent, guardian, relative, someone in a caregiving role, or foster care provider, or other legal caregiver.
  • The parent or guardian permits abuse or neglect to occur or fails to protect the child from maltreatment.
  • The alleged perpetrator has access to the child due to the relationship with the parent or caregiver.
  • The alleged maltreatment meets statutory and department criteria of maltreatment.
  • The child has been harmed or is in imminent risk of being harmed.

After gathering as much information as possible, department staff will screen the report; this task must be completed immediately upon receipt of report. Staff will use the following statutory criteria to make the screening decision:

  • Level One: A report that does not meet the statutory criteria is screened out and may receive a referral for information or services.
  • Level Two: A report that meets the statutory criteria but does not meet at least one of the Level Three criteria listed below is screened in and assigned to a worker who must initiate the investigation within 72 hours of assignment.
  • Level Three: The report is screened in and assigned for investigation within 24 hours when it meets the statutory criteria and at least one of the following criteria:
    • Any child in the current legal custody of the department
    • Any child with a prior report within the past 12 months or multiple reports
    • A child in imminent risk of harm
    • Any sexual abuse
    • Any life-threatening neglect
    • Any child in the home age 5 or younger
    • Any allegation of any-age child with special needs
    • Any allegation that could be felony child abuse under State or Federal law

If the intake supervisor receives a report that indicates a child is in imminent danger, he or she will assign a worker for immediate response.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 43-21-357; 43-21-353

If the intake unit receives a neglect or abuse report, the intake unit shall immediately forward the complaint to the department to promptly make an investigation or report concerning the child and any other children in the same environment and promptly present the findings to the intake unit.

In any investigation of a report made under this chapter of the abuse or neglect of a child, the department may request the appropriate law enforcement officer with jurisdiction to accompany the department in its investigation. In such cases the law enforcement officer shall comply with such request.

Upon receiving a report that a child has been sexually abused; is a victim of commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking; or has been burned, tortured, mutilated, or in such a manner as to cause serious bodily harm or abuse that would be a felony under State or Federal law, the department shall immediately notify the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred and shall notify the appropriate prosecutor within 48 hours. The law enforcement agency and the department shall investigate the reported abuse immediately, file a preliminary report with the appropriate prosecutor's office within 24 hours, and make additional reports as new or additional information or evidence becomes available.

In addition, if the department determines that a parent or other person responsible for the care or welfare of an abused or neglected child maintains active-duty status within the military, the department shall notify the applicable military installation family advocacy program that there is an allegation of abuse or neglect that relates to that child.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-102

As the first step in the investigation, the worker will contact the reporter to get any additional information about the abuse or neglect the reporter may possess. The investigation will include interviews with the parent, guardian, caregiver, or alleged perpetrator and the alleged child victim, siblings, all household members, relatives, and other persons with knowledge of the child's situation. The child should be examined for evidence of physical abuse and photographs taken to document the abuse. The parent may be given a drug or alcohol screen any time there is suspicion of illicit drug use, prescription drug abuse, or alcohol abuse.

Medical examinations of children should occur when there are specific allegations indicating injury that can be corroborated and verified by an examination and the initial phases of the investigation reveal information indicating that a medical examination is necessary and warranted in order to determine whether or not there is evidence to substantiate any harm or maltreatment.

A safety assessment is completed in all situations in which the report has been assigned a Level Two or Level Three investigation. The safety assessment addresses the following areas:

  • Physical harm or injury
  • Neglect of basic needs
  • Family strengths and needs
  • Prior history of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or domestic violence
  • Protective capacity of the parent

A risk assessment assesses the well-being of the child and the risk factors for abuse and neglect, including the following:

  • The nature of the abuse and/or neglect
  • The parent's ability to provide basic needs
  • The parent's level of functioning and support system
  • Family and parent-child relationships, including parenting style, knowledge and skill, and discipline techniques

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-102

The intake supervisor has 2 hours from receipt of report for assignment.

All Level Three reports of maltreatment of children, including children in department custody, must be initiated within 24 hours of the initial intake and completed within 30 calendar days, including supervisory approval.

The safety assessment is completed in all situations when the report has been assigned a Level Two or Level Three investigation. The documentation of the safety assessment must be completed and submitted to the supervisor within 25 days of the report date and time. The risk assessment shall be addressed simultaneously with the safety assessment but must be completed within 25 calendar days of initial intake and submitted with the completed investigation to the supervisor for approval. The supervisor has 5 calendar days to approve the findings.

The worker has 25 calendar days from initial intake to complete the investigation and submit it to the supervisor who has 5 days for approval.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Code of Rules § 18-006-102

When the worker completes an investigation, a determination is made to support the disposition of the report. Report findings are either substantiated or unsubstantiated. This determination is made based upon substantiation criteria that may include the following:

  • The Safety Checklist for Children
  • The results of the safety and risk assessments
  • The information gathered in interviews, including the statements of the child victim and any credible witnesses
  • Direct observation
  • Medical or psychological information