Intake and Screening
Reports or referrals of possible child abuse and neglect are generally received by child protective services intake staff. Often, statewide, toll-free hotlines are used to receive calls. In some cases, reports are received by local police departments. Staff use criteria to decide if the report should be accepted for investigation or assessment; these are often called screened-in reports. Reports that do not meet the criteria may be screened out and referred to other services. Also on this page, State and local examples.
Prioritization for Response From Intake: The First Safety Decision (PDF - 92 KB)
ACTION for Child Protection (2004)
Determining the prioritization of child abuse and neglect cases. The process for judging the priority response is explained.
The Decision to Investigate: Understanding State Child Welfare Screening Policies and Practices
Urban Institute (2000)
The process and decisions that child protection investigators must use in determining whether to substantiate a report of child abuse once an investigation has been concluded. (PDF - 117 KB)
Ecological Factors and Screening in Child Protective Services
Wells, Lyons, Doueck, Brown, & Thomas
Children and Youth Services Review, 26(10), 2004
Examines the relationship between ecological factors and screening decisions made by child protective services workers from 12 sites in five States.
Judging CPS Response - A Child Safety Decision (PDF - 57 KB)
ACTION for Child Protection (2003)
Addresses how soon child protective services should respond to a report of child abuse and neglect and the standards of response.
The Safety Intervention Process (PDF - 52 KB)
ACTION for Child Protection (2004)
Describes safety intervention strategies at intake, during the initial contact with the family, during the investigation or initial assessment, and at the conclusion of the investigation or initial assessment.
State and local examples
Child Abuse Hotline Interview Questions: Questions to Support the Information Collection and Assessment Process (PDF - 32 KB)
Arizona Division of Children, Youth and Families; Department of Economic Security (2010)
Lists questions for child abuse hotline workers in Arizona that address family composition, the extent of and circumstances surrounding the maltreatment, level of child and adult functioning, disciplinary practices, and more.
Child Maltreatment Screening Guideline and Response Decision
South Dakota (2006)
View Abstract and Document
Offers South Dakota's form for screener intake workers to assess the risk level in child maltreatment cases involving caregivers and children ages 0-18. It includes a timeline for response based on immediate threat level.
Designing and Implementing a Screening and Response Time Assessment for Maryland Social Services Administration (PDF - 296 KB)
National Council on Crime and Delinquency & Children's Research Center (2009)
Evaluates the reliability of an initial screening and response time assessment implemented in Maryland to screen child abuse and neglect reports in order to ensure policy is applied consistently among workers statewide.
Hotline Policies and Procedures (PDF - 266 KB)
Clark County Department of Family Services (2009)
Describes the child abuse hotline process in Clark County, NV, when a referral is received from the community. The policy is designed to create a standardized process to maximize the collection of consistent, relevant information from the referral source.
Hotline Practice Guide
Government of the District of Columbia, Child and Family Services Agency, Child Protective Services
Describes the roles and responsibilities of hotline staff and explains how to elicit information, screen calls, and handle different types of child maltreatment reports.
The Intake and Investigation Process
Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program (2003)
Describes steps in the intake and investigation process, including a discussion of how to handle knowingly false reports.
Strengthening Child Protective Services Intake (PDF - 342 KB)
North Carolina Family and Children's Resource Program
Children's Services Practice Notes, 16 (2), 2011
Examines administrative and outcome data related to intake in North Carolina and suggests ways to educate community partners about CPS intake/screening. The article also offers strategies for overcoming legal and policy challenges.