Once a report of child abuse, neglect, or dependency has been accepted by the Department, it is then assigned to a social worker to complete an assessment. There are two types of approaches to completing assessments. When the report alleges any type of abuse or serious neglect, it is assigned as an investigative assessment. This is a more forensic approach with families. On abuse cases, the social worker typically has to respond and interview the child and parents or caretakers immediately or within 24 hours of the allegations being reported to the Department. The social worker will work closely with law enforcement during the investigative assessment. When the report alleges neglect, it is assigned as a family assessment. The social worker typically has 72 hours from the time the report is made to the Department to respond to the family. In family assessments, the social worker typically calls the family first to inform them the Department received a report and meets and talks to the family together.
Regardless of whether the report is accepted as an investigative assessment or a family assessment, our most important responsibility in working with families is ensuring that children are safe. In all cases, we develop safety plans with families that identify any safety issues that may be present for the children and make a plan with the family to reduce the risk to the children. All assessments include the social worker observing the environment where the child resides and assessing the child's medical, physical, mental health, educational, and emotional needs. Family input, accessing community and family resources, and safety planning are very important in keeping children safe. The family's cooperation and consent is critical and helps in this process. Our goals are always to keep children safe and keep families together whenever possible.
At the conclusion of our assessments, the Department makes a finding of whether or not abuse, neglect or dependency is present and if continued services through the Department are needed to ensure the safety of the children.