Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Ohio

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.421

A mandated reporter who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has suffered or faces a threat of suffering abuse or neglect shall immediately make a report to the county public children services agency (PCSA) or a peace officer in the county in which the child resides or the abuse or neglect is occurring or has occurred.

The report shall be made either by telephone or in person and shall be followed by a written report, if requested by the receiving agency or officer.

Content of Reports

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.421; Admin. Code § 5101:2-36-01

The written report shall contain the following:

  • The names and addresses of the child and the child's parents or persons having custody
  • The child's age
  • The nature and extent of any injuries, abuse, or neglect, including any evidence of prior injuries, abuse, or neglect
  • Any other information, including, but not limited to, results and reports of any medical examinations, tests, or procedures, that might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury, abuse, or neglect that is known or reasonably suspected or believed to have occurred or of the threat of injury, abuse, or neglect that is known or reasonably suspected or believed to exist

In regulation: A PCSA shall attempt to obtain, at a minimum, the following information from a reporter regarding child safety, risk of child maltreatment, or need for services to determine an intake category and arrive at a screening decision. Receipt of all the following information is not required in order to screen in a report:

  • The names and addresses of all household members
  • The child's age
  • The child's and any family member's race and ethnicity
  • The type, extent, frequency, and duration of the abuse, neglect, or dependency, as applicable
  • The alleged perpetrator's access to the child, if applicable
  • The child's current condition
  • The child's current location
  • The circumstances regarding the abuse, neglect, or dependency or the circumstances indicating a need for PCSA services
  • Information regarding any evidence of previous injuries, abuse, or neglect
  • Any other information that might be helpful in establishing that the family is in need of PCSA services

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.421(H)(4)

If a report has been made, and the child who is the subject of the report dies for any reason at any time after the report is made but before the child reaches age 18, the PCSA or peace officer to which the report was made or referred, on the request of the Child Fatality Review Board or the Director of Health, shall submit a summary sheet of information in the report to the director or the review board of the county in which the deceased child resided at the time of death. If the county served by the PCSA also is served by a children's advocacy center and the report of alleged sexual abuse or another type of child abuse is specified in the memorandum of understanding that creates the center as being within the center's jurisdiction, the agency or center shall perform the duties and functions specified in this section.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-36-01

The PCSA shall categorize the information received as a child abuse and/or neglect report any report alleging either of the following:

  • An infant identified as affected by legal or illegal substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal or postnatal substance exposure
  • An infant diagnosed with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

When a PCSA receives report regarding a substance-affected infant, the PCSA shall attempt to gather the following regarding the plan of safe care:

  • The name(s) and address(es) of the child; the parent, guardian(s), or custodian(s); and all household members
  • The identity of the caregiver(s) for the infant
  • A description of the interaction between the mother/caregiver and infant
  • The name of the hospital or medical facility where the infant is receiving care
  • Any known medical information on the parent(s), guardian(s), caregiver(s), infant, or household members
  • Information regarding any known legal or illegal substance abuse, including the history of legal or illegal substance abuse by parent(s), guardian(s), caregiver(s), and household members
  • Information regarding support systems for the parent(s), guardian(s), caregiver(s), or household members
  • Information on the managed care plan and insurance

The PCSA shall not screen out a referral regarding a substance-exposed infant if any of the following apply:

  • The plan of safe care information required by this rule is not obtained.
  • The plan of safe care has not been developed.
  • The plan of safe care is not adequate to address the safety of the infant.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.421; Admin. Code § 5101:2-1-01

The person making the report shall make it to the PCSA or a peace officer in the county in which the child resides or the county in which the abuse or neglect is occurring or has occurred.

In regulation: The 'hotline/answering service' is a communication system that allows child abuse or neglect reports to be received 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.429; Admin. Code §§ 5101:2-1-01; 5101:2-36-01

The differential response approach shall include two response pathways: the traditional response pathway and the alternative response pathway. The agency shall use the traditional response for the following types of accepted reports:

  • Physical abuse resulting in serious injury or that creates a serious and immediate risk to a child's health and safety
  • Sexual abuse
  • Child fatality
  • Reports requiring a specialized assessment
  • Reports requiring a third-party investigative procedure

For all other child abuse and neglect reports, an alternative response shall be the preferred response, whenever appropriate and in accordance with rules adopted by the department.

In regulation: Screening is the process of receiving and recording information from a report to determine one or both of the following:

  • Whether the information provided should be categorized as a referral of child abuse or neglect, dependency, or family in need of services; or as an information and/or referral intake
  • Whether the information categorized as a referral of child abuse or neglect, dependency, or family in need of services should be screened in or screened out

PCSAs shall assign screened-in reports to one of the following pathways:

  • Traditional response
  • Alternative response

Additional types of reports that shall be assigned to the traditional response pathway are those that contain one of the following allegations:

  • Felony child endangering
  • Criminal sexual conduct
  • Sexual abuse of a child or abuse of a child who is also a victim of sexual abuse
  • Homicide

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.421; Admin. Code § 5101:2-36-03

The PCSA shall investigate, within 24 hours, each report of child abuse or child neglect. The investigation shall be made in cooperation with the law enforcement agency.

If the county served by the PCSA also is served by a children's advocacy center, and the report alleges child sexual abuse or another type of child abuse that is within the center's jurisdiction, the PCSA shall comply with the protocol and procedures for referrals and investigations, the coordinating activities, and the authority or responsibility for performing or providing functions, activities, and services stipulated in the interagency agreement relative to that center.

In regulation: A PCSA shall conduct an intrafamilial child abuse and/or neglect assessment/investigation in response to a child abuse and/or neglect report if one or more of the following applies:

  • The alleged perpetrator is a member of the alleged child victim's family.
  • The alleged perpetrator is known to the family or child and has had access to the alleged child victim, whether the access was known or authorized by the child's parent.
  • The alleged perpetrator is involved in daily or regular care for the alleged child victim, excluding a person responsible for the care of a child in an out-of-home care setting.

The PCSA may request the assistance of law enforcement during an assessment/investigation if one or more of the following situations exist:

  • The agency has reason to believe that the child is in immediate danger of serious harm.
  • The agency has reason to believe that the worker is, or will be, in danger of harm.
  • The agency has reason to believe that a crime is being committed or has been committed against a child.
  • The assistance of law enforcement needs to be invoked in accordance with the county child abuse and neglect memorandum of understanding.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.421; Admin. Code §§ 5101:2-1-01; 36-03

The PCSA shall investigate, within 24 hours, each report of child abuse or child neglect to determine the circumstances surrounding the injuries, abuse, or neglect; the threat of injury, abuse, or neglect; the cause of the injuries, abuse, neglect, or threat; and the person or persons responsible.

A representative of the agency shall, at the time of initial contact with the person subject to the investigation, inform the person of the specific complaints or allegations made against the person.

In regulation: A comprehensive family assessment is an ongoing exchange of information among the worker, family, and collaterals to determine the strengths of the family, the degree of risk, and the intervention necessary to keep a child safe. It organizes and categorizes information focusing on the management of future risk or maltreatment and is constantly being revised during the life of the case. An investigation is a fact-finding process that includes interviews, observations, and other forms of information gathering. Information collected during the investigation provides data upon which a case disposition regarding a report of alleged child abuse or neglect can be made.

The PCSA shall conduct and document face-to-face interviews with each child residing within the home. The purpose of the interviews is to evaluate each child's condition and determine if each child is safe. The PCSA shall conduct and document face-to-face interviews with the alleged perpetrator and all adults residing in the home to do the following:

  • Assess his or her knowledge of the allegation
  • Observe the interaction between the alleged child victim and caregiver
  • Obtain relevant information regarding the safety and risk to the child

Other actions that can be taken include, but are not limited to, taking photographs, securing a medical examination or psychological evaluation, and securing any relevant records.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Admin. Code §§ 5101:2-36-01; 5101:2-36-03

The PCSA shall complete the screening decision and determine the immediacy of need for agency response to ensure child safety within 24 hours from receipt of the report and following the categorization of the referral information.

The PCSA shall initiate the screened in child abuse and/or neglect report in accordance with the following:

  • For an emergency report, an attempt at a face-to-face contact with the alleged child victim shall be made within 1 hour from the time the referral was screened in to assess child safety and interview the alleged child victim.
  • For all other reports, an attempt at a face-to-face or telephone contact shall be made with a principal of the report or collateral source who has knowledge of the alleged child victim's current condition and can provide current information about the child's safety within 24 hours from the time the referral was screened in
  • If face-to-face contact with the alleged child victim was not attempted within the 24-hour timeframe, an attempt of face-to-face contact with the alleged child victim shall be made within 72 hours from the time the report was screened in.

The PCSA shall complete the report and arrive at a final case disposition no later than 45 days from the date the report was screened in. The PCSA may extend the timeframe by a maximum of 15 days if information needed to determine the report disposition and final case decision cannot be obtained within 45 days and the reasons are documented in the case record.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-36-01

'Case disposition' means the determination of whether abuse or neglect has occurred or is occurring and reflects the highest report disposition in the following ranking order from highest to lowest:

  • Substantiated: There is an admission of child abuse or neglect by the person responsible; an adjudication of child abuse or neglect; or other forms of confirmation deemed valid by the PCSA.
  • Indicated: There is circumstantial or other isolated indicators of child abuse or neglect lacking confirmation; or a determination by the caseworker that the child may have been abused or neglected based upon completion of an assessment/investigation.
  • Unsubstantiated: The assessment/ investigation determined no occurrence of child abuse or neglect.
  • Family moved--unable to complete assessment/investigation: A PCSA cannot confirm or deny child abuse or neglect allegations based upon a full assessment/investigation because the family moved after the PCSA made contact with the family, but the family's current whereabouts are unknown or the family now lives out of State and a referral was made to the child services agency where the family currently resides.
  • Family moved out of county--refer to the appropriate PCSA.
  • Unable to locate: The assessment/investigation was not completed due to the inability to contact the family.