Actions DCF takes when child abuse or neglect is reported

When the Department of Children and Families (DCF) receives a report of child abuse or neglect from a mandated reporter or another concerned citizen, DCF is required to evaluate the allegations and determine the safety of the children.

Table of Contents

What will I be asked when I file a report?

The DCF screener will ask you to provide the following information:

  • Your name, relationship (if any) to the child(ren), address, and phone number
  • Names, ages of the child(ren) about whom you have a concern and emergency contact information for them, language(s) spoken
  • Names, addresses, contact information, ages, language(s) spoken of parents/guardians of the child(ren)
  • Names and ages of other children in the family
  • Details about your concern – “What are your worries?”
    • The nature and extent of the suspected abuse or neglect, including any evidence or knowledge of prior injury, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect
  • Circumstances under which you became aware of injuries, abuse, or neglect
  • Dates and/or timeframes in which the maltreatment may have occurred
  • Action(s) taken thus far to treat, shelter, or otherwise assist the child(ren)
  • The identity of the person you believe may be responsible for the abuse / neglect (if known)
  • Any other information you believe might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and/or person responsible, or for making safe contact with the family
  • Any other information you believe would be helpful to ensuring the child’s safety and/or supporting the family to address the abuse and/or neglect concerns

DCF screening of child abuse or neglect reports

The purpose of the screening process is to gather sufficient information to determine whether the allegation meets the criteria of suspected abuse or neglect, and whether there is immediate danger to the safety of a child.

Upon receiving a report, DCF immediately begins to “screen“ the report.  Screening activities include:

  • Gathering information from the reporter
  • Reviewing any history the child or family may have with DCF or another state’s child protection agency
  • Conducting an identity query (if needed)
  • Conducting CORI and SORI checks
  • Requesting information from local law enforcement
  • Contacting other collaterals who may know the family
  • Seeking clinical consultation (especially when multiple reports on separate incidents have been filed on any children in a family) and
  • searching online and social media sources (if needed)

DCF will determine if there is an immediate concern for child safety, and if a “reportable condition” exists (i.e., there is information that a child may have been abused and/or neglected by a caregiver, or that a child may have been or may be at risk of sexual exploitation or human trafficking). 

  • Reports that do not meet DCF’s criteria of suspected abuse or neglect are screened-out. DCF will send the family a written notification. The mandated reporter will be sent a copy.
  • Reports that meet the criteria are screened-in.

During screening, DCF also determines if an emergency or non-emergency response is needed.

  • Emergency responses begin ASAP, and the child is visited within 2 hours.
  • Non-emergency responses begin ASAP, and the child is visited within 3 business days.
  • DCF completes screening of non-emergencies in 1 business day (of the total 15), but may extend screening 1 additional day in limited circumstances. 

DCF investigation response timelines

How quickly DCF responds is based upon the severity of the allegations of abuse or neglect.

  • Emergency Response – DCF will assess child safety within 2 hours, visit and interview family within 24 hours, and may take up to 5 business days to complete other response activities and the report
  • Non-Emergency Response – DCF will assess child safety within 3 business days, and may take up to 15 business days to complete the response and report

Response outcomes

There are three possible outcomes at the conclusion of the department’s response.

“Support” finding means:

  • Allegation(s):
    • Reasonable cause to believe a child(ren) was abused and/or neglected, and
    • Actions/inactions of parent(s)/caregiver(s) place child in danger or pose substantial risk to child’s safety or well-being, or person(s) was responsible for child being a victim of child of sexual exploitation or human trafficking
  • Person(s) responsible:
    • Is named to DCF’s Central Registry, when known, and to the Registry of Alleged Perpetrators if there is substantial evidence the person was responsible and the report was referred to the District Attorney
  • DCF Intervention:
    • Open a case for Family Assessment and Action Planning, or
    • When case is already open, currently assigned social worker and supervisor review risk level and update Family Assessment Service (Action) Plan, as warranted, and may change  existing interventions/services, or
    • Determine intervention is not necessary in very limited circumstances, with manager approval.

 “Substantiated Concern” finding means:

  • Allegation(s):
    • Reasonable cause to believe a child(ren) was neglected, and
    • Actions/inactions of parent(s)/caregiver(s) create potential for abuse or neglect but there is no immediate danger to child’s safety or well-being
  • Person(s) responsible:
    • An alleged perpetrator is NOT named to DCF’s Central Registry (or Registry of Alleged Perpetrators even when report was referred to the District Attorney)
  • DCF Intervention:
    • Open a case for Family Assessment and Action Planning, or
    • When case is already open, currently assigned social worker and supervisor review risk level and update Family Assessment and Service (Action) Plan, as warranted, and may change existing interventions/services

“Unsupport” finding means:

  • Allegation(s) & person(s) responsible:
    • Not reasonable cause to believe a child(ren) was abused and/or neglected, or
    • Person believed to be responsible for the abuse or neglect was not a caregiver
  • DCF Intervention is not needed to safeguard child(ren)’s safety and well-being
    • DCF does not open a new case but family may apply for DCF voluntary services, or DCF may refer family to community services
    • When case is already open, currently assigned social worker and supervisor review risk level, update Family Assessment and Service (Action) Plan, as warranted, and may change existing interventions/services

Contact

Phone

Child-at-Risk-Hotline 800-792-5200

Call to report child abuse and neglect.

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