Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - Virginia

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1509

A mandated reporter who has reason to suspect that a child is an abused or neglected child shall report the matter immediately to the local department of the county or city wherein the child resides or wherein the abuse or neglect is believed to have occurred or to the toll-free child abuse and neglect hotline of the Department of Social Services.

The initial report may be an oral report, but such report shall be reduced to writing by the child abuse coordinator of the local department on a form prescribed by the State Board of Social Services.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63.2-1509; 63.2-1503(D)

A mandated reporter shall disclose all information that is the basis for his or her suspicion of abuse or neglect of the child and, upon request, shall make available to the child protective services coordinator and the local department that is the agency of jurisdiction any information, records, or reports that document the basis for the report.

Within 2 business days after the local department has notified the local law enforcement agency of a complaint, the local department shall complete a written report that includes the following:

  • The name of the department representative who provided the notice
  • The name of the local law enforcement officer who received the notice
  • The date and time that notification was made
  • The identity of the victim
  • The identity of the person alleged to have abused or neglected the child, if known
  • The signatures, which may be electronic signatures, of the representatives of the local department making the notification and the local law enforcement officer receiving the notification

The report shall be included in the record of the investigation and may be submitted either in writing or electronically.

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1503(D)-(E)

The local department shall notify the local attorney for the commonwealth and the local law enforcement agency of all complaints of suspected child abuse or neglect involving any death of a child immediately, but in no case more than 2 hours after receipt of the complaint. The local department shall provide the commonwealth attorney and the local law enforcement agency with the department's records and information related to the investigation of the complaint, including records related to any complaints of abuse or neglect involving the victim or the alleged perpetrator. The local department shall not allow reports of the death of the victim from other local agencies to substitute for direct reports to the commonwealth attorney and the local law enforcement agency.

When abuse or neglect is suspected in any case involving the death of a child, the local department shall report the case immediately to the regional medical examiner and the local law enforcement agency.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1509(B)

For purposes of making a report, 'reason to suspect that a child is abused or neglected' shall, due to the special medical needs of infants affected by substance exposure, include the following:

  • A finding made by a health-care provider within 6 weeks of the birth of a child that the child was born affected by substance abuse or experiencing withdrawal symptoms resulting from in-utero drug exposure
  • A diagnosis made by a health-care provider within 4 years following a child's birth that the child has an illness, disease, or condition that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, is attributable to maternal abuse of a controlled substance during pregnancy
  • A diagnosis made by a health-care provider within 4 years following a child's birth that the child has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder attributable to in-utero exposure to alcohol

When 'reason to suspect' is based upon this subsection, such fact shall be included in the report along with the facts relied upon by the person making the report. Such reports shall not constitute a per se finding of child abuse or neglect. If a health-care provider in a licensed hospital makes any finding or diagnosis of an infant affected by substance exposure, the hospital shall require the development of a written discharge plan under protocols established by the hospital.

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 63.2-1503

The local department shall be the public agency responsible for receiving reports of suspected abuse or neglect. The local department shall ensure, through its own personnel or through cooperative arrangements with other local agencies, the capability of receiving reports or complaints and responding to them promptly on a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-per-week basis.

The local department shall widely publicize a telephone number for receiving complaints and reports.

The local department shall notify the local attorney for the Commonwealth and the local law enforcement agency of all complaints of suspected child abuse or neglect involving any injury or threatened injury to the child in which a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor is also suspected; any sexual abuse, suspected sexual abuse, or other sexual offense involving a child; a child abduction; a drug offense involving a child; or contributing to the delinquency of a minor immediately but in no case more than 2 hours of receipt of the complaint. The local department shall notify the local attorney for the Commonwealth of all complaints of suspected child abuse or neglect involving the child being left alone in the same dwelling with a person to whom the child is not related by blood or marriage and who required to register as a sex offender.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63.2-1503; 63.2-1508

Upon receipt of a report of child abuse or neglect, the local department shall determine the validity of such report and make a determination to conduct an investigation or, if designated as a child protective services differential response agency by the department, a family assessment.

A valid report or complaint means the local department has evaluated the information and allegations of the report or complaint and determined that the local department shall conduct an investigation or family assessment because the following elements are present:

  • The alleged victim child or children are under age 18 at the time of the complaint or report.
  • The alleged abuser is the alleged child victim's parent or other caregiver.
  • The local department receiving the complaint or report has jurisdiction.
  • The circumstances described allege suspected child abuse or neglect.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63.2-1503; 63.2-1504

The local department shall be the public agency responsible for responding to complaints and reports.

The local department may develop multidisciplinary teams to provide consultation to the local department during the investigation of selected cases involving child abuse or neglect and to make recommendations regarding the prosecution of such cases. These teams may include, but are not limited to, members of the medical, mental health, legal, and law enforcement professions, including the attorney for the commonwealth or his or her designee, a local child protective services representative, and the guardian ad litem or other court-appointed advocate for the child.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63.2-1505; 63.2-1506; 63.2-1516.01

An investigation will determine the following:

  • The immediate safety needs of the child
  • The risk of future harm to the child
  • Whether abuse or neglect has occurred
  • If abuse or neglect has occurred, who abused or neglected the child
  • A finding of either founded or unfounded based on the facts collected during the investigation

A family assessment will determine the following:

  • The immediate safety needs of the child
  • The protective and rehabilitative services needs of the child and family
  • The risk of future harm to the child
  • Whether the mother of a child who was exposed in utero to a controlled substance sought substance abuse counseling or treatment prior to the child's birth
  • Alternative plans for the child's safety if protective and rehabilitative services are indicated and the family is unable or unwilling to participate

An immediate investigation will be commenced if, at any time during the completion of the family assessment, the local department determines that an investigation is required. The following valid reports of child abuse or neglect shall be investigated:

  • Sexual abuse
  • A child fatality
  • Abuse or neglect resulting in serious injury
  • A child taken into the custody by the local department
  • Cases involving a caregiver at a child care center, school, hospital, or any institution

The local department shall, at the initial time of contact with the person subject to an investigation, advise such person of the complaints or allegations made against the person in a manner that is consistent with laws protecting the rights of the person making the report or complaint.

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63.2-1505; 63.2-1506

If the local department responds to the report or complaint by conducting an investigation, the local department shall do the following:

  • Make immediate investigation
  • Determine within 45 days if a report of abuse or neglect is founded or unfounded and transmit a report of the findings to the department and to the person who is the subject of the investigation

Upon written justification by the local department, the determination may be extended up to a total of 60 days. If through the exercise of reasonable diligence the local department is unable to find the child who is the subject of the report, the time the child cannot be found shall not be computed as part of the 45-day or 60-day period, and documentation of such reasonable diligence shall be placed in the record.

If the local department responds to the report or complaint by conducting an assessment, the local department shall do the following:

  • Conduct an immediate family assessment
  • Complete the family assessment within 60 days and transmit a report of the findings to the department and to the person who is the subject of the family assessment

Classification of Reports

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 22, § 40-705-10

The term 'disposition' means the determination of whether child abuse or neglect occurred and that identifies the individual responsible for the abuse or neglect of the child.

A report is 'founded' when a review of the facts gathered from an investigation shows by a preponderance of the evidence that child abuse and/or neglect has occurred. A determination that a case is founded shall be based primarily on first source evidence; in no instance shall a determination that a case is founded be based solely on indirect evidence or an anonymous complaint.

A report is 'unfounded' when a review of the facts does not show by a preponderance of the evidence that child abuse or neglect occurred.