Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Vermont

Date:

Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 4913

A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected shall report within 24 hours of the time information regarding the suspected abuse or neglect was first received or observed.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 4914

The report shall contain the following:

  • The name and address of the reporter
  • The names and addresses of the child and the child's parents or other persons responsible for the child, if known
  • The age of the child
  • The nature and extent of the child's injuries, including any evidence of previous abuse and neglect of the child or the child's siblings
  • Any other information that might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries or the reasons for the neglect

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 4914; Code of Rules 13-172-200, § 2003

A report shall be made orally or in writing to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Family Services Division.

In regulation: The division shall report to and receive assistance from appropriate law enforcement in the following circumstances:

  • Investigations of child sexual abuse by an alleged perpetrator 10 years of age or older
  • Investigations of serious physical abuse or neglect requiring emergency medical care, resulting in death, or likely to result in criminal charges
  • Situations potentially dangerous to the child or division worker
  • Accepted or nonaccepted reports of serious physical abuse or neglect, including those resulting in death (includes reports not accepted because the alleged perpetrator is a noncaregiver)

When conducting joint investigations or assessments with law enforcement, the division may share information verbally and in writing with law enforcement.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 4915

Upon receipt of a report of abuse or neglect, the department shall promptly determine whether the report constitutes an allegation of child abuse or neglect. If the report is accepted as a valid allegation of abuse or neglect, the department shall determine whether to conduct an assessment or an investigation.

The decision to conduct an assessment shall include consideration of the following factors:

  • The nature of the conduct and the extent of the child's injury, if any
  • The accused person's prior history of child abuse or neglect or lack thereof
  • The accused person's willingness or lack thereof to accept responsibility for the conduct and cooperate in remediation

The department shall conduct an investigation when an accepted report involves allegations indicating substantial child endangerment. For purposes of this section, 'substantial child endangerment' includes conduct by an adult involving or resulting in sexual abuse and conduct by a person responsible for a child's welfare involving or resulting in abandonment, child fatality, malicious punishment, or abuse or neglect that causes serious physical injury. The department may conduct an investigation of any report.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 4915

The department shall conduct either an assessment or an investigation. The department shall report to and request assistance from law enforcement in the following circumstances:

  • Investigations of child sexual abuse by an alleged perpetrator age 10 or older
  • Investigations of serious physical abuse or neglect requiring emergency medical care, resulting in death, or likely to result in criminal charges
  • Situations potentially dangerous to the child or department worker
  • An incident in which a child suffers any of the following:
    • Serious bodily injury by other than accidental means
    • Potential violations of laws regarding lewd or lascivious conduct with a child, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, or sexual assault

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, §§ 4915a; 4915b

An assessment shall include the following:

  • An interview with the child's parent or any other adult residing in the child's home who serves in a parental role
  • An evaluation of the safety of the child and other children living in the home, which may include an interview with or observation of the children
  • In collaboration with the family, identification of family strengths, resources, and service needs and the development of a plan of services that reduces the risk of harm and improves family well-being

Families have the option of declining the services offered. If the family declines the services, the case shall be closed unless the department determines that sufficient cause exists to begin an investigation. In no instance shall a case be investigated solely because the family declines services.

When an assessment case is closed, there shall be no finding of abuse or neglect, however, the department shall document the outcome of the assessment.

An investigation shall include the following:

  • A visit to the child's residence and the location of the alleged abuse or neglect
  • An interview with or observation of the abused or neglected child
  • A determination of the nature, extent, and cause of any abuse or neglect
  • A determination of the identity of the person alleged to be responsible for the abuse or neglect
  • The identity of any other children living in the same home
  • A determination of the immediate and long-term risk to each child if that child remains in the home
  • Consideration of the environment and the relationship of any children to the person alleged to be responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect

For cases substantiated by the department, the commissioner shall, to the extent that it is reasonable, assist the child and the child's family. Services may be provided to the child's immediate family whether or not the child remains in the home.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, §§ 4912; 4915a

The department shall begin either an assessment or an investigation within 72 hours after the receipt of a report, provided that it has sufficient information to proceed.

The assessment shall be completed within 45 days. Upon written justification by the department, the assessment may be extended, but is not to exceed a total of 60 days.

Classification of Reports

Citation: Ann. Stat. Tit. 33, § 4912; Code of Rules 13-172-200, § 2008

The term 'substantiated report' means that the commissioner has determined after investigation that a report is based upon accurate and reliable information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the child has been abused or neglected.

In regulation: The decision to substantiate a report of child maltreatment shall be based on pertinent, accurate, and reliable information gathered during an investigation. Hearsay information from a reliable source may be considered. All information shall be weighed with other supporting or conflicting data. A statement or disclosure from the child that he or she was abused or neglected is not required.

To substantiate an allegation of child abuse or neglect, the division must determine that a reasonable person would conclude the following:

  • The child is an abused or neglected child as defined in statute.
  • Unless the substantiated maltreatment is sexual abuse, a person responsible for the child's welfare is the perpetrator.