National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Review of State CPS Policy. Intake Criteria [2]


The policy materials for almost all States included specific criteria for accepting or excluding referrals alleging child abuse and neglect. Policy documentation of screening criteria varied from State-to-State in terms of level of detail and scope. (See tables 3-B and 3-C.)

Forty-three States (84.3%) required referrals to meet the statutory criteria for abuse and neglect in that State. The policy materials of 10 of these States included only mention of the statute. The remaining 33 State policies included a blanket statement regarding what is considered abuse and neglect and other specific criteria such as "child under 18" or that the alleged perpetrator must be a "parent, guardian, or caretaker."

Other miscellaneous criteria for screening included maltreatment of married children under the age of 18, dependent children, children under the age of 13 with diagnosed sexually transmitted diseases, children with inadequate clothing or hygiene, multiple reports on the same family, instances where a family with a child that has been removed from the home has a new baby, mental illness that prevents parents from providing adequate care for their children, sexually aggressive youth, juvenile sex offenders returning to a home with other children, instances of child death due to child abuse or neglect where other children are in the home, high reporter validity by a mandated reporter, domestic violence in the home, women using drugs during pregnancy, instances where the parent or guardian has reason to know that the child would be maltreated, maltreatment occurring as a result of parent or guardian negligence, and reports regarding all children from birth through age 4 years.

Forty-one States (80.4%) additionally specified specific exclusionary criteria. Some exclusions mirrored inclusion criteria. For example 23 States (45.1%) included blanket exclusions based on the definition of child abuse and neglect; 14 States (27.5%) specified that children over 18 years of age would be excluded. However, the addition of some exclusionary criteria further refined and narrowed the definition of what could be screened-in for an investigation or assessment.

  • Seventeen States (33.3%) excluded third party perpetrators who were not responsible for the care of the child;
  • Sixteen States (31.4%) excluded referrals that lacked sufficient information for locating the child;
  • Twelve States (23.5%) excluded educational neglect;
  • Eleven States (21.6%) excluded referrals related to reasonable discipline; and
  • Ten States (19.6%) excluded referrals related to custody issues.

Although differences in the size of the net cast by States in defining criteria for inclusivity or exclusivity were identified, they did not relate to State administrative structures or to the presence or absence of an alternative response track.

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