IV. D-1. Child Abuse and Neglect Findings

Effective 8/10/05

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Definitions:

A Substantiated finding means that, by a preponderance of the evidence, a parent(s)/caregiver(s) has caused and /or is likely to cause high severity child abuse and neglect. This person is considered a danger to children.  

 

An Indicated finding means that, by a preponderance of the evidence, a parent(s)/caregiver(s) has caused and /or is likely to cause low/moderate severity child abuse.  Signs of risk may also be present.

 

An Unsubstantiated finding means that, by a preponderance of the evidence, a parent(s)/caregiver(s) did not abuse or neglect a child.  However, signs of risk may be present.

 

LEGAL BASE:

A person can only be substantiated as an abuser if that person is "responsible for the child."  [Title 22 MRSA §4002 Subsection 9] Person responsible can mean anyone who explicitly or implicitly has been given or assumed responsibility for a child.  This includes:  parents; adult members of the household; day care providers; babysitters; and adult family members who may not live in the home, but are there frequently.

 

Title 22 MRSA §4002 1.  "Abuse or neglect" means a threat to a childs 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, by a person responsible for the child (Indicated or Substantiated CA/N).

 

Title 22 MRSA §4002 6.  Jeopardy to health or welfare or jeopardy:  "Jeopardy to health or welfare" or "jeopardy" means serious abuse or neglect, as evidenced by serious harm or threat of serious harm (Substantiated CA/N).

 

PHILOSOPHIC BASE:

The Bureau of Child and Family Services believes that child safety is first and foremost.   Staff works with families in a respectful, objective, unbiased and, professional manner based on good practice.  There will be times that the Bureau will find, that by the preponderance of the evidence, a parent(s)/caregiver(s) has indeed abused and/or neglected a child.  Under these circumstances, the Bureau has a mandate to and the legal authority for reaching findings related to child abuse and neglect and the need for intervention.

 

PURPOSE:

This policy has been revised to minimize family impact when the abuse is not found to be a danger to children.  Under this policy assuming the subject of the investigation signs a release, we will only disclose "substantiated" abuse and neglect (high severity).  If abuse or neglect is "indicated" (low/moderate severity), we will not disclose that information.  Policy on making findings with respect to juvenile abusers is restricted and clarified.

 

FINDINGS AND DEPARTMENT INVOLVEMENT:

A caseworkers decision that high severity child abuse and/or neglect has occurred and/or is likely to occur in the near future may have far reaching consequences on the child, the abuser and the childs family.  This decision will result in a classification of substantiated abuse and/or neglect.  When reaching this decision, the Department has the authority and responsibility to intervene in a family in order ensure the following:

 

1) safety for each child, even if that means seeking court action when a child is assessed to be in jeopardy or at immediate risk of serious harm
2) services in order to reduce and/or eliminate the likelihood of high severity child abuse and neglect, previous signs of danger, and high risk.

 

A caseworkers decision that low/moderate child abuse and/or neglect has occurred is also of consequence to a child, the abuser and the childs family.  This decision will result in a classification of indicated child abuse and/or neglect.   When reaching this decision, the Department has the authority and responsibility to offer and provide voluntary services to a family in order to promote the following:

 

1.safety for each child
2.voluntary services in order to reduce and/or eliminate the likelihood of low/moderate severity child abuse and neglect and previous signs of high risk

 

A caseworkers decision that no child abuse and/or neglect has occurred may result in the termination of the Departments involvement.  This decision will result in a classification of unsubstantiated child abuse and/or neglect.  In the event that there are signs of significant risk, voluntary services, such as referral to a Community Intervention Program, may be offered to the family in order to promote the following:

 

1.Enhanced safety for each child
2.Voluntary services in order to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect and to reduce and/or eliminate signs of high risk.

 

NOTIFICATION OF FINDINGS:

Parent(s)/Caregiver(s) who have been substantiated by a preponderance of the evidence to have abused and/or neglected a child will receive formal, written notice of the findings and their basis.  Parents/caregivers will be informed that the finding will be entered into the Departments database and that it could affect their present and future employment.

 

Each substantiated individual will be informed of his or her right to appeal.  Substantiated individuals will be entitled to a two-step appeal process where the findings will be reviewed to determine if there was adequate evidence to support those findings.  First, a paper review will be conducted; and, if upheld, the appellant will be informed of his or her right to Administrative Hearing.  A decision will be reached about whether the findings are upheld, overturned or changed to indicated.  In the event that all the findings are overturned, the assessment will be changed to unsubstantiated.

 

Individuals who have been indicated by a preponderance of the evidence to have abused/neglected a child will also receive formal, written notice of the findings and their basis.  Their names and findings will be entered into the Departments database, but will not be shared with prospective employers.  

 

Each indicated individual will be informed that upon request they are entitled to a Central Office record review to determine if there was adequate evidence to support the findings.  A Central Office decision will be reached about whether the findings are upheld or overturned.  In the event that all the findings are overturned, the assessment will be changed to unsubstantiated.

 

If any of the findings are upheld upon review the indicated finding will remain in the database.  In the event that all the findings are overturned, the assessment will be changed to unsubstantiated.  All unsubstantiated assessments will be expunged after 18 months unless a new referral received within that time.

 

AREAS TO ASSESS IN ORDER TO REACH A FINDINGS DECISION:

(1)The credibility of each person interviewed.
(2)The presence or absence of child abuse, neglect dynamics.
(3)Whether or not there was access/opportunity for the abuse or neglect to have occurred.
(4)Each family members current and historical functioning.
(5)Signs of safety, risk and danger.
(6)The physical condition of the home environment.
(7)Corroborative, medical and physical evidence.
(8)The nature, frequency and impact of prior Departmental involvement.
(9)The presence or absence of child abuse and neglect.
(10)The severity/impact upon each child of the found abuse, neglect.
(11)The likelihood of child abuse and neglect to occur/reoccur in both the near and foreseeable future.

 

STANDARD OF DECISION-MAKING:

When reaching a finding related to child abuse and neglect, one considers all of the gathered information, facts and evidences and determines whether it is more likely than not, (preponderance) that the abuse, neglect did or did not occur.

 

GUIDELINES FOR DETERMINING INDICATED/SUBSTANTIATED FINDINGS:

 

Physical Abuse – High Severity

(Yes = Substantiated)

Abusive treatment to a child by a parent/caregiver that caused and/or is likely to cause a serious physical injury that requires medical treatment. Includes situation where there is a threat of high severity physical abuse based on the identification of signs of danger supported by an analysis of available information and/or a lack of parental protective capacity.

Physical Abuse – Low/Moderate Severity

(Yes = Indicated)

Abusive treatment to a child by a parent/caregiver that caused and/or is likely to cause minor physical injury that does not require medical treatment.

Neglect – High Severity

(Yes = Substantiated)

Failure to provide essential food, clothing, shelter, supervision, or medical care when that failure causes and/or is likely to cause serious injury or serious illness, including failure to protect a child from high severity physical abuse, sexual abuse, or high severity emotional abuse and neglect. Includes a threat of serious injury or illness from neglect based on the identification of signs of danger supported by an analysis of available information and/or a lack of parental protective capacity.

Neglect – Low/Moderate Severity

(Yes = Indicated)

Failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, or medical care when that failure causes and/or is likely to cause injury including accidental injury or illness.  Failure to protect a child from harm resulting from physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse and neglect.

Sexual Abuse – Sexual Contact

(Yes = Substantiated)

Parent/caregiver engaged in sexual contact with a child, or forced the child to have sexual contact with others. Sexual offender of children has uncontrolled access to children. Includes situations where there is a threat of sexual abuse based on the identification of signs of danger supported by an analysis of available information and/or a lack of parental protective capacity.

Sexual Abuse – Other

(Yes = Indicated)

Parent/caregiver intentionally subjects a child to purposefully suggestive remarks and behaviors and/or creates a sexualized environment that is likely to result in sexual abuse or exploitation.

Emotional Maltreatment – High Severity    (Yes = Substantiated)

Abusive treatment of a child by a parent/caregiver that caused and/or is likely to cause serious emotional impairment or serious distress that requires mental health treatment.

Emotional Maltreatment – Low/Moderate Severity   (Yes = Indicated)

Abusive treatment of a child by a parent/caregiver that resulted in emotional impairment or distress.

 

FINDINGS OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT BY A JUVENILE:

A juvenile may be substantiated or indicated for abuse and neglect only if:

1.The Juvenile is the parent of the children found to be abused or neglected.
2.With documented approval by the Child Welfare Program Administrator, the juvenile has been in a unique situation in which s/he was found after assessment to have been clearly designated to be the person with responsibility for the victim childs health and welfare during the time the abuse or neglect occurred.  In such situations, the age of the responsible juvenile must be carefully considered.

 

NOTIFICATION:

Both parent(s)/caregiver(s) and the juvenile will be notified of the indication or substantiation.

A parent/caregiver can appeal on behalf of the juvenile/or the juveniles can appeal on their own behalf.

As an adult the substantiated person may request a review of the substantiation.  The Department may remove the substantiation if a credible clinician provides a written statement that the person presents only minimal risk to children.