Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Nebraska

Date: November 2021

Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 28-711

When a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect, he or she shall report to the proper law enforcement agency or the Department of Health and Human Services on the toll-free number.

The report may be made orally by telephone with the caller giving his or her name and address and shall be followed by a written report.

Content of Reports

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 28-711

The report shall contain the following:

  • The address and age of the child
  • The address of the person having custody of the child
  • The nature and extent of the abuse or neglect or the conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect
  • Any evidence of previous abuse or neglect
  • Any other information that in the opinion of the reporter may be helpful in establishing the cause of the child abuse or neglect and the identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 28-712.01

For a report involving an infant, the report shall be immediately forwarded to law enforcement or the county attorney when a household member tests positive for methamphetamine or nonprescribed opioids at the birth of the infant.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 28-711

The department shall establish a statewide toll-free number to be used by any person any hour of the day or night, any day of the week, to make reports of child abuse or neglect.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 28-712; 28-712.01

Upon receipt of a report, the department shall determine whether to (a) accept the report for traditional response and an investigation, (b) accept the report for alternative response, (c) accept the report for screening by the Review, Evaluate, and Decide (RED) Team to determine eligibility for alternative response, or (d) classify the report as requiring no further action by the department.

No report involving any of the following shall be assigned to alternative response but shall be immediately forwarded to law enforcement or the county attorney:

  • Murder, manslaughter, assault, or sexual abuse
  • Labor or sex trafficking of a minor
  • Neglect or physical abuse of a child that results in bodily injury
  • An allegation that requires a forensic interview
  • Out-of-home child abuse or neglect
  • An allegation being investigated by a law enforcement agency at the time of the report
  • A history of termination of parental rights
  • Absence of a caregiver who failed to give an alternate caregiver authority to make decisions about the care of the child or make provision to be contacted to make such decisions
  • Domestic violence when the alleged perpetrator has access to the child or caregiver
  • Illegal manufacture of methamphetamine or opioids by a household member
  • Contact with methamphetamine or other nonprescribed opioids by a child

A report that includes any of the following may be eligible for alternative response but shall first be reviewed by the RED Team prior to assignment to alternative response:

  • Domestic violence in the family home
  • Use of alcohol or controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to care safely for the child
  • A household member that has been the subject of a report assigned to traditional response or alternative response in the past 6 months

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 28-713; Rules & Regs. Tit. 395, Ch. 6

Unless a report is assigned to alternative response, it is the duty of the law enforcement agency to investigate the report, to take immediate steps to protect the child, and to institute legal proceedings if the child is seriously endangered and immediate removal is necessary for the protection of the child. The law enforcement agency may request assistance from the department during the investigation and shall, by the next working day, notify either the hotline or the department of receipt of the report, including whether an investigation is being undertaken by the law enforcement agency. A copy of all reports, whether the report is investigated or not, shall be provided to the department.

In regulation: Each accepted report will be referred for response by law enforcement or the department.

The department will assess accepted reports of abuse or neglect when the alleged perpetrator is either of the following:

  • A caregiver who resides in the same home of the alleged victim
  • A caregiver in a daycare home, foster home, daycare center, child care facility, or other residential care facility

Each accepted report that is not referred to the department for assessment will be referred to law enforcement for investigation. This includes reports of abuse or neglect in which the perpetrator is a teacher, school employee, counselor, therapist, or other licensed medical or mental health practitioner, and the perpetrator is not the parent of the alleged victim.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 28-710; 28-712.01; 28-713

In the case of an alternative response, the department shall complete a comprehensive assessment. A comprehensive assessment includes an analysis of child safety, risk of future child abuse or neglect, and family strengths and needs using an evidence-informed and validated tool. Comprehensive assessment does not include a finding as to whether the child abuse or neglect occurred but does determine the need for services and support, if any, to address the safety of children and the risk of future abuse or neglect.

The department shall transfer an alternative response case to traditional response if the department determines that a child is unsafe. Upon completion of the comprehensive assessment, if it is determined that the child is safe, participation in services offered to the family receiving an alternative response is voluntary, the case shall not be transferred to traditional response based upon the family's failure to enroll or participate in such services, and the subject of the report shall not be entered into the central registry of child protection cases.

When a report is assigned for traditional response, the department shall utilize an evidence-informed and validated tool to assess the safety of the child at the time of the assessment, the risk of future child abuse or neglect, the need for services to protect and assist the child and to preserve the family, and whether the case shall be entered into the central registry. As part of the investigation, the department may request assistance from the appropriate law enforcement agency or refer the matter to the county attorney to initiate legal proceedings.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Rules & Regs. Tit. 395, Ch. 6

The department will make contact with the identified family within a maximum of 10 days after receipt of an accepted report of child abuse or neglect unless an exception is granted. The department will complete the initial assessment within 60 days unless an exception is granted.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 28-720

All cases entered into the central registry shall be classified as one of the following:

  • Court substantiated: If a court of competent jurisdiction has entered a judgment of guilty against the subject of the report of child abuse or neglect upon a criminal complaint, indictment, or information, or there has been an adjudication of jurisdiction of a juvenile court over the child that relates to the report of child abuse or neglect
  • Court pending: If a criminal complaint, indictment, or information or a juvenile petition that relates to the subject of the report of abuse or neglect has been filed and is pending in a court of competent jurisdiction
  • Agency substantiated: If the department's determination of child abuse or neglect against the subject of the report of child abuse or neglect was supported by a preponderance of the evidence and based upon an investigation