Making and Screening Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect - West Virginia

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Individual Responsibility to Report

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-2-803

A mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect shall immediately, and no more than 48 hours after suspecting this abuse or neglect, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the Department of Health and Human Resources. In any case in which the reporter believes that the child suffered serious physical abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual assault, the reporter also shall report immediately to the State police and any law enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint.

Any person over age 18 who receives a disclosure from a credible witness or observes any sexual abuse or sexual assault of a child shall immediately, and no more than 48 hours after receiving such a disclosure or observing the sexual abuse or sexual assault, make a report to the department or the State police or other law enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the report.

Content of Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-2-803

The report shall contain the reporter's observations of the conditions or circumstances that led to the suspicion that a child was an abused or neglected child.

Reporting Suspicious Deaths

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-2-807

Any mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has died as a result of child abuse or neglect shall report that fact to the appropriate medical examiner or coroner.

Upon the receipt of such a report, the medical examiner or coroner shall cause an investigation to be made and report the findings to the police, the appropriate prosecuting attorney, the local child protective service agency, and, if the institution making a report is a hospital, to the hospital.

Reporting Substance-Exposed Infants

Citation: CPS Policy Man. § 3.18

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires that child protective services (CPS) and other community service providers address the needs of newborn infants who have been identified as being affected by alcohol, legal and/or illegal substance use, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure. Health-care providers who are involved in the delivery or care of such infants are required to make a report to child protective services.

When a report indicates that an infant was born testing positive for a legal or illegal substance or prescribed medication or an infant is suffering from withdrawal from a legal or illegal substance or prescribed medication (including medications that treat addiction) or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, the child will be identified as a drug-affected infant. For reports received of drug-affected infants, the intake assessment worker will gather the following information:

  • The name and address of the medical facility where the child was delivered
  • The infant's drug results, if applicable, including the type of drug for which the infant tested positive
  • The birth mother's drug test results, if applicable, including the type of drug for which she tested positive
  • Information from medical personnel as to the condition of the infant upon birth, including specific data as to how the in-utero drug or alcohol exposure has affected the infant (e.g., withdrawal, physical and/or neurological birth defects)
  • The infant's birth weight and gestational age
  • The extent of prenatal care received by the birth mother
  • Information regarding any substance use treatment the parent may have had
  • The names and ages of any siblings the infant may have, including any abuse, neglect, or safety concerns regarding the siblings

Agency Receiving the Reports

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-2-809

Reports of child abuse and neglect shall be made immediately to the Department of Child Protective Services by a method established by the department, provided that if the method for reporting is web-based, the Department of Health and Human Resources shall maintain a system for addressing emergency situations that require immediate attention and shall be followed by a written report within 48 hours, if requested by the receiving agency. The department shall establish and maintain a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week telephone number to receive such calls reporting suspected or known child abuse or neglect.

A copy of any report of serious physical abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual assault shall be forwarded by the department to the appropriate law enforcement agency, the prosecuting attorney, or the coroner or medical examiner's office. Reports of known or suspected institutional child abuse or neglect shall be made and received as all other reports made pursuant to this article.

Initial Screening Decisions

Citation: CPS Policy Man. § 3.3

Whether or not to accept a referral for initial assessment is a critical decision in Child Protective Services (CPS). When making this decision, the supervisor must analyze all the information in the report to determine whether there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is abused or neglected or is subjected to conditions that will likely result in abuse or neglect.

CPS must accept for assessment any report that suggests that, assuming the reporter's perceptions are true, an individual between birth and age 18 may have been subject to treatment that meets the definition of abuse or neglect in statute and CPS policy. A reporter need not have witnessed a specific injury, nor does there have to be an injury for there to be a reason to believe that parental conduct results in a threat of harm to a child, which is included in the statutory definitions of an abused and neglected child.

In determining whether to accept a CPS report or screen it out, the supervisor must consider the following:

  • Whether the information collected meets required definitions of child abuse and neglect
  • The sufficiency of information in order to locate the family
  • The motives and veracity of the reporter

Reasons for screening out a report include the following:

  • A duplicate referral is received during an initial assessment.
  • The information does not meet the legal definition of an abused or neglected child.
  • There is insufficient information to locate the family.
  • There are no children younger than age 18.
  • The family does not reside in West Virginia.

Agency Conducting the Assessment/Investigation

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-2-802

The local CPS office shall investigate all reports of child abuse or neglect. Each local CPS office shall, upon notification of suspected child abuse or neglect, commence or cause to be commenced a thorough investigation of the report and the child's environment.

The local CPS office shall make efforts as soon as practicable to determine the military status of parents whose children are subject to abuse or neglect allegations. If the office determines that a parent or guardian is in the military, the department shall notify a Department of Defense family advocacy program that there is an allegation of abuse and neglect that is screened in and open for investigation that relates to that military parent or guardian.

Assessment/Investigation Procedures

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-2-802; CPS Policy Man. § 4.1

Upon notification of suspected child abuse or neglect, CPS will conduct a thorough investigation of the report and the child's environment. As a part of this response, within 14 days there shall be a face-to-face interview with the child or children and the development of a protection plan, if necessary for the safety or health of the child, which may involve law enforcement officers or the court.

In policy: The initial assessment determines who CPS will serve by assessing and reaching conclusions about caregivers who are unable or unwilling to protect their children from impending safety threat. The purpose of the initial assessment includes the following:

  • To respond in a timely manner in accordance with content contained with the intake assessment
  • To inform caregivers that there is a reported concern for the safety of their children
  • To engage caregivers in a process that provides a picture of the family and reveals whether children are in danger
  • To meet emergency needs that are apparent at the onset or during the assessment
  • To conduct a structured, thorough information-collection process that includes relevant family members
  • To keep caregivers informed and appropriately involved in case decision-making
  • To reach a finding regarding the existence of child maltreatment consistent with State statute
  • To determine if a child in the home is unsafe
  • To establish a sufficient, least intrusive safety plan when indicated

Timeframes for Completing Investigations

Citation: Ann. Code § 49-2-802; CPS Policy Man. §§ 3.4; 4.20

Each local CPS office shall respond immediately to all allegations of imminent danger to the physical well-being of the child or of serious physical abuse. As a part of this response, within 72 hours there shall be a face-to-face interview with the child or children and the development of a protection plan, which may involve law enforcement officers or the court.

In policy: Response time is measured from the date and time the report is received by the department until face-to-face contact with the alleged child victim. The caregivers should be contacted the same day as the child victim unless contact will jeopardize child safety or extenuating circumstances exist (e.g., a caregiver is out of town). The response time is the maximum amount of time that the CPS worker has to make face-to-face contact in order to assess for immediate safety threats and gather information to complete the initial assessment.

The selected response times are as follows:

  • Zero to 24-hour response: CPS must respond as soon as the report is received unless there is a protective caregiver. If a protective caregiver clearly is documented in the intake assessment, face-to-face contact must be within the same day while the child is still under the care of that protective caregiver.
  • Zero to 72-hour response: Face-to-face contact must be made with the child within 72 hours.
  • Zero to 14-day response: Face-to-face contact must be made with the child within 14 days.

The initial assessment must be completed within 30 days from receipt of the report. If extenuating circumstances have prevented the completion of the assessment within the timeframe, the worker will request the approval of an extension from the supervisor.

Classification of Reports

Citation: CPS Policy Man. §§ 4.10; 4.11

During the initial assessment, the CPS worker will gather information in initial assessment areas related to child safety. The specific, detailed information in the assessment must be analyzed determine if maltreatment did or did not occur. The maltreatment finding is based on whether a preponderance of the evidence (e.g., eyewitness accounts, worker observations, medical reports, professional evaluations) obtained during the assessment would lead the worker to conclude that maltreatment did or did not occur.

Maltreatment is considered to have occurred when a preponderance of the credible evidence indicates that the conduct of the caregiver falls within the boundaries of the statutory and operational definitions of abuse or neglect. Maltreatment is considered to not have occurred when a preponderance of the credible evidence indicates that the conduct of the caregiver does not fall within the boundaries of the statutory and operational definitions of abuse or neglect. After diligent information collection, if the worker is unable to determine by a preponderance of the evidence that maltreatment had occurred, then the finding must reflect that decision.

Evaluating the safety of a child is a discrete function within CPS that is separate from determining whether child abuse or neglect occurred. The safety evaluation conclusion must be completed in all initial assessments. The safety decision must be based upon a consideration for impending safety threats. The following decisions will be documented in the safety evaluation conclusion:

  • Whether the children are safe or unsafe
  • Whether or not the family will be open for on-going services