Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Rhode Island

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Gen. Laws §§ 40-11-3; 40-11-6

Any person who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been abused, neglected, or sexually abused by another child shall report the information within 24 hours.

A physician, registered nurse practitioner, or other health-care provider who has cause to suspect that a child is abused or determines that a child under age 12 is suffering from any sexually transmitted disease shall report his or her suspicions to the Department of Children, Youth and Families. An immediate oral report shall be made by telephone or otherwise, to both the department and law enforcement agency, and shall be followed by a report, in writing, to the department and law enforcement agency explaining the extent and nature of the abuse or neglect the child is alleged to have suffered.

Content of Reports

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-6

A written report shall follow the oral report. The written report will explain the extent and nature of the abuse or neglect the child is alleged to have suffered.

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-3.1

Any mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has died as a result of child abuse or neglect shall immediately report that information to the department, which shall cause the report to be investigated immediately. Upon receipt of the report, the department shall immediately refer the information to the local law enforcement agency or the State police as well as to the office of the medical examiner.

The office of the medical examiner shall investigate the report and communicate its preliminary findings, orally within 72 hours and in writing within 7 working days, to the appropriate law enforcement agency, to the department, and if the person who made the report is an employee or a member of the staff of a hospital, to the hospital.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-6

When any physician, duly certified registered nurse practitioner, or other health-care provider is involved in the delivery or care of infants born with, or identified as being affected by, substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure or a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, he or she shall report the incident or cause a report thereof to be made to the department.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Gen. Laws §§ 40-11-3; 40-11-6; Admin. Rules 214-20-00-1, § 1.5

Reports shall be made to the Department of Children, Youth and Families. Physicians and nurse practitioners shall make reports of suspected sexual abuse to both the department and a law enforcement agency.

In regulation: The department shall maintain a child protective services (CPS) hotline, a statewide, toll-free phone number, to receive child abuse and neglect reports 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Admin. Rules 214-20-00-1, § 1.7

The department must investigate reports that allege child abuse and/or neglect when reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect exists. Reports accepted for investigation must contain the following elements:

  • Harm or substantial risk of harm to the child
  • An incident or pattern of incidents suggesting child abuse and/or neglect
  • A person responsible for the child's welfare has allegedly abused or neglected the child
  • Allegations of child-on-child sexual abuse
  • Allegations of sexual abuse by school personnel
  • Allegations of sex trafficking and/or severe forms of trafficking of a child

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-7

The department shall investigate reports of child abuse and neglect made under this chapter in accordance with the rules the of the department. The department shall notify the children's advocacy center of all suspected cases of child sexual abuse.

The department shall immediately forward any reports of institutional child abuse and neglect to the child advocate who shall investigate the report. In the event that after the investigation the department has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to criminal abuse or neglect, the department shall immediately forward any information related to that knowledge or suspicion to the law enforcement agency.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-7; Admin. Rules 214-20-00-1, § 1.15

The investigation shall determine the circumstances surrounding the alleged abuse or neglect and the cause thereof. The investigation shall include personal contact with the child named in the report and any other children in the same household.

In regulation: During the family assessment response, the department assesses child safety and risk for all children in the home and develops a safety plan with the family, if necessary. The family assessment consists of the following:

  • A face-to-face meeting the parent or guardian, the child, and any other household members, and family supports
  • Completion of a standardized risk and safety assessment
  • Criminal background checks and department clearances for caregivers and household members older than age 18
  • Service assessment and delivery to stabilize and mitigate risk

Information that may be screened in for a family assessment response includes, but is not limited to, the following vulnerability factors and risk areas:

  • A child age 6 or younger
  • A caregiver or child's emotional, physical, or developmental condition
  • Circumstances indicating that the caregiver's protective capacity may be compromised but not to the level of requiring an investigation
  • A prior report within 12 months involving a family with a child age 6 younger or with two or more children
  • One or more prior reports received on a family within a 3-month period
  • A prior indicated investigation or removal within the past 12 months
  • Any other risk factors that may compromise the well-being of the child
  • Whether the report was called in by a professional mandated reporter

Any report screened in for a family assessment response may be upgraded to an investigation if there is any evidence or reason to suspect child abuse or neglect in accordance with laws governing child abuse or neglect investigations.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Admin. Rules 214-20-00-1, §§ 1.8; 1.9; 1.15

Department staff utilize a standardized screening tool to determine the response priority for each report of child abuse or neglect that is screened in for an investigation. Response priorities delineate the time limit for the intake workers to process the CPS report and for the initiation of an investigation. Response priorities are categorized into the following three types:

  • Priority 1 Response: The CPS report must be processed within 30 minutes after the call is completed. A child protection investigator (CPI) must respond to the report within 2 hours of the report being received by CPS. A Priority 1 response is used when a is in imminent danger of physical harm.
  • Priority 2 Response: The CPS report must be processed within 2 hours after the call is completed. A CPI must respond to the report within 12 hours of the report being received by CPS. A Priority 2 response is used when the child is not in imminent danger, but other risk factors are present.
  • Priority 3 Response: The CPS report must be processed within 4 hours after the call is completed. A CPI must respond to the report within 48 hours of the report being received by CPS. A Priority 3 response is used for all other reports in which there is minimal risk of harm to the child.

All efforts are made to complete each investigation or family assessment within 30 days. If an extension of the 30-day timeframe for completion of an investigation or assessment is necessary, a supervisor and/or administrator may grant an extension request of up to 15 additional days.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Admin. Rules 214-20-00-1, §§ 1.5; 1.9; 1.14

The standard of proof to indicate a report of child abuse or neglect is a 'preponderance of the evidence.' This is defined as evidence of a greater weight or more convincing than the evidence in opposition to it; that is, evidence that shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not.

A notification will be made to a person who is alleged to have perpetrated abuse and/or neglect upon a child, to inform that person whether the department's CPS investigation will be 'indicated' or 'unfounded' and to identify the allegations that have been 'indicated' or 'unfounded.'