Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - South Carolina

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-310

A mandated reporter shall report to the Department of Social Services or a law enforcement agency when the reporter has reason to believe that a child may have been abused or neglected. The report is made to a law enforcement agency when abuse is committed by someone other than a person responsible for the child's welfare.

Reports may be made orally by telephone or otherwise to the county Department of Social Services or to a law enforcement agency in the county where the child resides or is found.

Content of Reports

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-310

A mandated reporter, including workers of the department, who has reason to believe that a child has died as a result of abuse or neglect shall report the information to the appropriate medical examiner or coroner. Any other person who has reason to believe that a child has died as a result of child abuse or neglect may report this information to the appropriate medical examiner or coroner.

The medical examiner or coroner shall accept the report for investigation and shall report his or her findings to the appropriate law enforcement agency, circuit solicitor's office, the county department, the Department of Children's Advocacy, and if the institution making a report is a hospital, to the hospital.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-7-310; 63-7-320

Reports of child abuse or neglect may be made orally by telephone or otherwise to the county department or to a law enforcement agency in the county where the child resides or is found.

When reports are made to a law enforcement agency, the law enforcement agency shall notify the county department of the law enforcement's response to the report at the earliest possible time.

When a county or contiguous counties have established multicounty child protective services, the county department immediately shall transfer reports to the service.

In the event the alleged abused or neglected child is a member of an active-duty military family, concurrent with the transfer of the report, the county department shall notify the designated authorities at the military installation where the active-duty military sponsor is assigned, pursuant to the memorandum of understanding or agreement with the military installation's command authority.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-7-340; 63-7-350

When a report is referred to the department for an investigation, the department must determine whether previous reports have been made regarding the same child or the same subject of the report.

If the department does not conduct an investigation, the department must make a record of the report and classify the record as a Category IV unfounded report. The department and law enforcement are authorized to use information from the report for purposes of assessing risk and safety if additional contacts are made concerning the child, the family, or the subject of the report.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-980

The department must cooperate with law enforcement agencies within the area it serves and establish procedures necessary to facilitate the referral of child protection cases to the department.

When the facts indicating abuse or neglect also appear to indicate a violation of criminal law, the department must notify the appropriate law enforcement agency of those facts within 24 hours of the department's finding for the purposes of police investigation.

When the intake report is of alleged sexual abuse, the department must notify the appropriate law enforcement agency within 24 hours of receipt of the report to determine if a joint investigation is necessary. The law enforcement agency must file a formal incident report at the time it is notified of the alleged sexual abuse.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-920

The department or law enforcement, or both, may interview the child alleged to have been abused or neglected and any other child in the household during the investigation. The interviews may be conducted on school premises, at child care facilities, at the child's home, or at other suitable locations and, in the discretion of the department or law enforcement, or both, may be conducted outside the presence of the parents. To the extent reasonably possible, the needs and interests of the child must be accommodated in arranging interviews, including time, place, method of obtaining the child's presence, and conduct of the interview. The department or law enforcement, or both, shall provide notification of the interview to the parents as soon as reasonably possible during the investigation if notice will not jeopardize the safety of the child or the course of the investigation.

To reduce potential emotional trauma to the child, all State, law enforcement, and community agencies providing child welfare intervention into a child's life should coordinate their services to minimize the number of interviews of the child.

The department or law enforcement, or both, may collect information concerning the military affiliation of the person having custody or control of the child subject to an investigation and may share this information with the appropriate military authorities pursuant to § 63-11-80.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-910

Within 24 hours of the receipt of a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, the department must begin an appropriate and thorough investigation to determine whether a report of suspected child abuse or neglect is 'indicated' or 'unfounded.' The finding must be made no later than 45 days from the receipt of the report.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-930

Reports of child abuse and neglect must be classified in the department's data system and records in one of three categories: suspected, unfounded, or indicated. All initial reports must be considered suspected. Reports must be maintained in the category of suspected for no more than 60 days after the report was received. By the end of the 60-day time period, suspected reports must be classified as either unfounded or indicated based on the investigation. Indicated findings must be based upon a finding of the facts available to the department that there is a preponderance of evidence that the child is an abused or neglected child. All reports that are not indicated at the conclusion of the investigation and all records of information for which an investigation was not conducted must be classified as unfounded. Unfounded reports must be further classified as Category I, Category II, Category III, or Category IV:

  • Category I unfounded reports are those in which abuse and neglect were ruled out following the investigation. A report falls in this category if evidence of abuse or neglect as defined in this chapter was not found regardless of whether the family had other problems or was in need of services.
  • Category II unfounded reports are those in which the investigation did not produce a preponderance of evidence that the child is an abused or neglected child.
  • Category III unfounded reports are those in which an investigation could not be completed because the department was unable to locate the child or family or for some other compelling reason.
  • Category IV unfounded reports are records of information received pursuant to § 63-7-350 but were not investigated by the department.