IV. D-1. Child Abuse and Neglect Findings
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Office of Child and Family Services Child Abuse and Neglect Findings Policy
The Office of Child and Family Services of The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is mandated to receive reports of suspected child maltreatment, to assess appropriate allegations, and to reach decisions, based on the preponderance of facts and evidence, about whether or not a child has indeed been harmed and, if harmed, to what degree of severity. When it has been determined that a child has been seriously harmed or is in danger, child safety must be established and maintained well into the future. When a child has experienced low or moderate severity maltreatment, child protection services may be offered to families in order to help reduce risk of maltreatment well into the future.
This policy informs staff of the definitions and guidelines in deciding on whether or not to unsubstantiate, indicate or substantiate a person responsible for a child when an assessment has been completed due to allegations of child abuse and/or neglect.
In our response to child safety concerns, we reach factually supported conclusions in a timely and thorough manner.
Abuse or neglect means a threat to a child's health or welfare by physical, mental or emotional injury or impairment, sexual abuse or exploitation, deprivation of essential needs or lack of protection from these or failure to ensure compliance with school attendance requirements under Title 20-A, section 3272, subsection 2, paragraph B or section 5051-A, subsection 1, paragraph C, by a person responsible for the child.
A finding is a decision reached by a social worker based on the facts and evidence gathered during an assessment to support a decision that a “person responsible for a child” has, by a preponderance of the evidence, abused or neglected a child.
Indicated finding means that facts and evidence gathered during an assessment/investigation support a decision that a “person responsible for a child” has, by preponderance, subjected that child to low or moderate severity abuse and/or neglect.
Person responsible for a child means a person with responsibility for a child’s health or welfare, whether in the child’s home or another home, or a facility which, as part of its function, provides for care of the child. It includes the child’s custodian. In licensed Maine Residential facilities, a “caregiver” may be determined to be “a person responsible for the child”.
Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence gathered in the assessment/investigation demonstrates that the existence of the contested fact is more probable (at least 51%) than its nonexistence. This standard of proof equates to “more likely than not”.
Risk is the likelihood that a child may experience some form of abuse and/or neglect based on factors and/or circumstances to which that child has been exposed.
Severity is the degree to which a child has been impacted by maltreatment. The degrees of severity are low/moderate or high.
Substantiated finding means that facts and evidence gathered during an assessment/investigation support a decision that a “person responsible for a child” has, by preponderance, subjected that child to specific high severity abuse and/or neglect thus causing the child to be in danger.
Threat of means a child is exposed to one or more risk factors that may imminently cause that child to experience high severity child abuse, neglect. When deciding whether or not a “threat of sexual abuse” exists, the time frame being considered may be extended, but only when the social worker/investigator has documented an analysis of the specific factors about the abuser and the likelihood for him/her to sexually abuse a child in a specific case which sufficiently supports that finding when it was reached.
Unsubstantiated finding means that facts and evidence gathered during an assessment/investigation support a decision that a “person responsible for a child” has not, by preponderance, subjected that child to specific abuse and/or neglect.
Very likely means that there exists a supportable, firm intellectual conviction that the facts observed in the assessment/investigation process will result in specific high severity child maltreatment outcomes.
Title 22 M.R.S.§ 4002 & 4004 (C-1)
GUIDELINES FOR DETERMINING THE SEVERITY OF ABUSE/NEGLECT:
NOTIFICATION OF FINDINGS TO A “PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHILD”:
Any “person responsible for the child” who is determined, by a preponderance of facts and/or evidence gathered during an assessment, to have harmed a child is entitled to receive a timely written notice within 10 days of the findings being reached along with the specific facts that support each individual finding. This information must be provided in a language that the “person responsible for the child” can easily understand (sixth grade reading level).
The notice will also provide a “person responsible for the child” with information both about the Office of Child and Family Services MACWIS database, the potential “collateral consequence” for present and future employment, and the right to appeal in accordance with the Rules Governing the Appeal of Child Maltreatment Findings.
FINDINGS OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT BY A MINOR:
A person under the age of 18 may be substantiated or indicated if he/she is a biological parent to the child, or he/she was “a person responsible for a child”, and maltreated that child when that child was in the minor’s care. However, in both these circumstances, a District Program Administrator must approve and document in MACWIS what supported the findings. Special consideration will be given to the age of the minor, how it was determined that he/she was “a person responsible for the child” when maltreatment occurred, and the factors that were considered in deciding he/she was the one who maltreated the child.
NOTIFICATION TO A MINOR:
In the event that findings are reached for a minor, both that minor and his/her custodian must be notified of the specific findings and the facts that support those findings, as well as the right of appeal. This notification requires a “face to face” meeting with both the minor and his/her custodians followed up with a written notice of findings. Either or both the minor and his/her custodian may appeal the findings before the minor reaches the age of 25.
DISCLOSURE OF FINDINGS:
For information regarding records disclosure please refer to Title 22, M.R.S. §4008
Employers: Only high severity, substantiated child maltreatment findings will be disclosed by The Office of Child & Family Services to potential employers regarding potential employees who are or may be engaged in specified categories of child related activities or employment.