Known Abuse or Threat of Abuse - What Happens Next?
Maine Child and Family Services has several options for response, depending on the specific family situation:
Court Preliminary Protection Order - When threat of serious harm to a child is imminent and the situation in the home cannot be changed or managed immediately, Maine Child and Family Services would ask the court for a preliminary protection order. This allows for the child to be immediately removed from a very unsafe setting. Summary hearing on the preliminary order must be scheduled within ten days to allow parents an opportunity to be heard.
Child Protection Order - This is a request to the court to place a child in care of Maine Child and Family Services. The child must be unsafe because of serious harm and/or threats of serious harm that cannot be managed by the protective capacity of the parents or caregivers. In making its determination, the court must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the child is in circumstances of jeopardy, that remaining in the home is contrary to the welfare of the child and that Maine Child and Family Services has made reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of the child from the home. The child remains with the parents or caregivers until the court hears the evidence and makes a finding. If the court finds jeopardy, the law provides a number of dispositional options, including care outside the home, supervision, or removal of the perpetrator from the home and appropriate services.
Voluntary Care - Voluntary care is available to families who find themselves in temporary crisis. It is intended to be a short-term option, no longer than 180 days based on the reasonable expectation that the child can be safely returned to his or her family. Parents must be available for services needed to prepare for the child's return and to resolve problems that made temporary foster care necessary.
Safety Plan for the Family - Such a plan must address the behavior or conditions that are making a child unsafe. It might include services such as counseling for parents and children, homemaker services, day care, substance abuse treatment, family violence programs, temporary shelter for teens, parent education, public health nursing, short term family services and voluntary care.
Close Case with Referral to Community Intervention - In this situation, safety is compromised and the parents or caregivers are getting help from services or are willing to get help from services. Casework professional and supervisor believe likelihood of future abuse or neglect is low to moderate, but that the family can address concerns with help from community intervention.
Close Case - Safety is compromised, but parents or caregivers understand the safety issues and are actively engaged and the casework professional and supervisor believe the likelihood of future abuse is low to moderate. Or, safety is compromised, but the parents or caregivers refuse to work with casework professional to address the issue. (When the compromised safety does not rise to the level of jeopardy defined in law there is no authority to engage the family in helpful services.)
In Maine law, jeopardy to health or welfare or jeopardy means serious abuse or neglect, as evidenced by:
- Serious harm or threat of serious harm;
- Deprivation of adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision or care, including health care when that deprivation causes serious harm;
- Abandonment of the child or absence or any person responsible for the child, which creates a threat of serious harm; or
- The end of voluntary placement, when the imminent return of the child to his custodian causes a threat of serious harm.
Serious harm means:
- Serious injury;
- Serious mental or emotional injury or impairment, which now or in the future is likely to be evidenced by serious mental, behavioral or personality disorder, including severe anxiety, depression or withdrawal, untoward aggressive behavior, seriously delayed development or similar serious dysfunctional behavior, or
- Sexual abuse or exploitation.