Features of the intake procedures included the availability to receive reports, methods for documenting reports, and timeframes for accepting and forwarding a report. These features were examined in relation to published recommendations from the Council on Accreditation (COA) in order to compare findings to one set of standards in the field.
The COA recommends that intake be available 24-hours a day. The majority of States addressed this recommendation in policy and met this guideline. (See table 3-D.) In 44 States (86.3%), policy specified procedures to ensure that referrals could be accepted 24-hours a day.
Forty-seven States (92.2%) indicated that specific forms were required for documenting referrals. Many policy manuals simply listed the name of the required form. The following information was most commonly collected:
- Identifying information on the alleged victim, including name, age, address, present whereabouts;
- Identifying information on the alleged victim's caretakers;
- Identifying information on the alleged perpetrator;
- Nature of harm to the child; and
- Identifying information on the reporter or other collateral contacts.
The COA standards further recommend that action be taken within 24 hours of the initial report for every report of neglect, abuse, or exploitation in order to determine if the child is in danger and should be removed; how the child is being affected by the situation and if the care and protection of the child meets accepted standards.
Forty-eight States (94.1%) provided information regarding timeframes in written policy. (See table 3-E.) States varied in their explanation of timeframes for forwarding a report for investigation. Timeframes were defined in some cases as "time to forward the report to an investigation unit" or as "time from receipt of the report to the beginning of the investigation." A number of States did not define timeframes specifically within hours or days, but used terms that were more open to interpretation, such as "immediate." It appeared that, at least for high-priority or severe cases, most State policies stipulated a 24-hour standard.
- Eighteen States (35.3%) specified one timeframe for forwarding all accepted referrals. These varied from within 1 hour to 14 days with most falling within 24 to 72 hours. Five States specified that a response must be immediate.
- Twelve States (23.5%) described two levels of response--high and low priority. Timeframes for emergency or high-priority referrals varied from immediate to 1 hour to within 24 hours. Timeframes for low-priority responses varied from 3 hours to within 1 week.
- Eleven States (21.6%) specified three levels of priority response. These States specified response times for the most serious and high-priority referrals from 10 minutes to within 24 hours. Several others in this category also used the term "immediate" to describe their response time requirement. Timeframes for second-level priorities ranged from "within a worker's shift" to 72 hours. Timeframes for the least serious levels ranged from within 24 hours to within 14 days.
- Seven States (13.7%) specified four levels of response from immediate to 72 hours or a general system of graduated response depending upon severity.