Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Missouri

Date: November 2021

Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 210.115

When a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect, that person shall immediately cause an oral report to be made to the Children's Division within the Department of Social Services.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 210.130

Reports shall contain the following information:

  • The names and addresses of the child, the child's parents, or other persons responsible for the child's care
  • The child's age, sex, and race
  • The nature and extent of the child's injuries, abuse, or neglect, including any evidence of previous injuries, abuse, or neglect to the child or the child's siblings
  • The name, age, and address of the person responsible for the child's injuries, if known
  • Family composition
  • The source of the report
  • The name, address, occupation, and contact information of the reporter
  • Actions taken by the reporter
  • Any other information that might be helpful

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 210.115; 210.145

Any mandated reporter who has probable cause to suspect that a child has died as a result of abuse or neglect shall report that fact to the medical examiner or coroner.

If a child fatality or near-fatality is involved in a report of abuse or neglect, the investigation shall remain open until the division's investigation surrounding the death or near-fatal injury is completed.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 191.737

Any physician or health-care provider may refer families to the division when they suspect that the children may have been exposed to a controlled substance or alcohol, as evidenced by a written assessment made or approved by a physician, health-care provider, or by the division, which documents the child as being at risk of abuse or neglect and either of the following:

  • Medical documentation of signs and symptoms consistent with controlled substances or alcohol exposure at birth
  • Results of a confirmed toxicology test performed on the mother or the child at the child's birth

Nothing in this section shall preclude a physician or other mandated reporter from reporting abuse or neglect of a child as required by the provisions of § 210.115.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 210.115; 210.145

Reports shall be made to the division. The division shall maintain an information system operating at all times that is capable of receiving and maintaining reports. This information system shall have the ability to receive reports over a single, statewide toll-free number. The information system shall maintain the results of all investigations, family assessments and services, and other relevant information.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 210.145; Code of Regs. Tit. 13, § 35-31.020

The division shall utilize structured decision-making protocols, including a standard risk assessment that shall be completed within 72 hours of the report of abuse or neglect, for classification purposes of all child abuse and neglect reports. The protocols developed by the division shall give priority to ensuring the well-being and safety of the child. All child abuse and neglect reports shall be initiated within 24 hours and shall be classified based upon the reported risk and injury to the child.

The director of the division and the Office of State Courts Administrator shall develop a joint safety assessment tool before December 31, 2020, and such tool shall be implemented before January 1, 2022. The safety assessment tool shall replace the standard risk assessment and shall be completed within 72 hours of the report of abuse or neglect.

In regulation: All reports received by the hotline shall be screened within 24 hours of receipt and shall be classified based upon the reported safety risk and injury to the child. In all cases, the division must have face-to-face contact with all children in the alleged victim's household within 72 hours.

If the call is screened in, it will be accepted as a child abuse/neglect report and sent to the county office. If the call is screened out, the call will be documented and entered into the database, but no further action will be taken unless the division decides to refer it for appropriate community service. After response assignment, the report is sent to the local division office for review. The local division office has the option to change the response assignment given additional information or prior history with the family. Each investigation will be classified as a 3-hour, 24-hour, or 72-hour call, based upon information received by the hotline.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 210.145

The local office shall contact the appropriate law enforcement agency immediately upon receipt of a report that division personnel determine merits an investigation and provide such agency with a detailed description of the report received. In such cases, the local division office shall request the assistance of the local law enforcement agency in all aspects of the investigation.

The local office of the division shall cause an investigation or family assessment and services approach to be initiated in accordance with established protocols.

Multidisciplinary teams shall be used whenever conducting the investigation in conjunction with local law enforcement. Multidisciplinary teams shall be used in providing protective or preventive social services, including the services of law enforcement, a liaison of the local public school, the juvenile officer, the juvenile court, and other agencies, both public and private.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 210.145

The investigation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • The nature, extent, and cause of the abuse or neglect
  • The identity and age of the person responsible for the abuse or neglect
  • The names and conditions of other children in the home if any
  • The home environment and the relationship of the subject child to the parents or other persons responsible for the child's care
  • Any indication of incidents of physical violence against any other household or family member
  • Other pertinent data

When a report has been made by a mandated reporter, the division shall contact that person within 48 hours of the receipt of the report to ensure that full information has been received and to obtain any additional information or medical records, or both, that may be pertinent.

If the appropriate local division personnel determine after an investigation has begun that completing an investigation is not appropriate, the division shall conduct a family assessment. For the family assessment, the division shall do the following:

  • Assess any service needs of the family
  • Provide services that are voluntary and time-limited, unless it is determined by the division based on the assessment of risk that there will be a high risk of abuse or neglect if the family refuses to accept the services
  • Commence an immediate investigation if at any time during the family assessment the division determines that an investigation is required

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 210.145

If the report indicates that educational neglect is the only complaint and there is no suspicion of other neglect or abuse, the investigation shall be initiated within 72 hours of receipt of the report. If the report indicates the child is in danger of serious physical harm or threat to life, an investigation shall include direct observation of the subject child within 24 hours.

The division shall complete all investigations within 45 days, unless good cause for the failure to complete the investigation is specifically documented in the information system. Good cause for failure to complete an investigation shall include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Relevant reports of medical providers, medical examiners, psychological testing, law enforcement agencies, forensic testing, and analysis of relevant evidence by third parties have not been completed and provided to the division.
  • The attorney general or the prosecuting attorney of the city or county in which a criminal investigation is pending certifies in writing to the division that there is a pending criminal investigation of the incident and the issuing of a decision by the division will adversely impact the progress of the investigation.
  • The child victim, the subject of the investigation, or another witness with information relevant to the investigation is unable or temporarily unwilling to provide complete information within the specified time frames due to illness, injury, unavailability, mental capacity, age, developmental disability, or other cause.

The division shall document any such reasons for failure to complete the investigation.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 210.152

The results of the investigation shall be classified as any of the following:

  • That the division has determined by a probable cause finding prior to August 28, 2004, or by a preponderance of the evidence after August 28, 2004, that abuse or neglect exists
  • That the division has not made a probable cause finding or determined by a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or neglect exists
  • That the division has been unable to determine the identity of the perpetrator of the abuse or neglect