National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Review of State CPS Policy. Required Timelines


CPSagency policies included guidelines for responding to allegations of child abuse or neglect. There was significant variation among States in how quickly workers were required to respond to referrals and complete investigations. Most States established that the most serious types of allegations must be responded to "immediately," usually specifying within 24 hours or less. Many States indicated that the lowest priority of response should take place within a week. For example, one State's policies specified that high-priority referrals should be responded to within 1-24 hours, intermediate referrals within 2-72 hours, and low-priority referrals within 3-7 calendar days.

States also varied in the time allowed for completing an investigation. Four States required the investigation to be completed within 2 weeks; 20 States within 2-4 weeks; 23 States allowed some or all investigations to be completed within more than 4 weeks.

These variations may reflect local conditions, including dispersed rural populations or dense urban communities, and transportation issues. They may also acknowledge the workloads of investigation workers. Without skilled screeners or the ability to make a rapid response to all referrals, such variation may put children at further risk of maltreatment. States that undertake to revise their CPS process may wish to review the timeframes allowed for initiating and completing investigations.

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