National Study of Child Protective Services Systems and Reform Efforts. Review of State CPS Policy. Screening and Intake Procedures


All States addressed the process of screening and intake in their CPS policies. While similar in many respects, there was considerable variation on some elements of policy.

  • Mandated reporters. Nearly all States required professionals who work with children--such as social workers, medical personnel, educators, and child daycare providers--to report suspected child maltreatment. In approximately one-third of States, such nonprofessional sources as family and community members were considered mandated reporters as well. Several States required a variety of other categories of persons, ranging from clergy to veterinarians, to report maltreatment. Thirty-two States accepted child maltreatment reports from anonymous sources.
  • Criteria for accepting referrals. The vast majority of States required that reports meet the State's statutory criteria for child abuse or neglect. Most also included such criteria as that the report concerns a child younger than 18 years or that the perpetrator is a parent, guardian, or caretaker. Beyond this, however, States' acceptance criteria varied considerably.
  • Receiving referrals 24-hours a day. Forty-four States specified in their policy manuals procedures that ensure referrals could be accepted at all times. Nearly all States specified timeframes for responding to referrals. Eighteen States specified one timeframe for forwarding all accepted referrals. Thirty States specified different response timeframes based upon the severity of the allegations.
  • Criteria for referring a case to another agency. Forty-five States indicated in their policies that reports could be referred to outside agencies for reasons including that the alleged perpetrator is not in a caretaking role, the case involves criminal investigation, the agency receiving the report does not have jurisdiction, or that the call represents a request for services or information rather than a maltreatment allegation.
  • Notifications of screening decisions. Forty-two States had written policy for whom or what entities should be notified of screening decisions. Of the States with such policy, law enforcement was most commonly included (26 States). Fourteen States had requirements that reporters be notified when cases are screened in, seven States required that parents be notified, and six States required that alleged perpetrators be notified.

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