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Once the assessment is completed, Child Protection Services and the local protection team decide whether the facts gathered during the assessment meet the definitions of child abuse or neglect contained in state law. The child protection team includes community members from many fields. The final decision rests with the Department of Human Services.
Two decisions are possible. The Department of Human Services will decide that either services are required or services are not required.
- "Services Required"—this means that enough evidence was found in the assessment to meet the legal definitions of abuse or neglect. This decision will be referred to the court for review and potential legal action.
- "No Services Required"—this means that the facts in the assessment did not meet the legal standards of abuse or neglect. The family may be offered the opportunity to volunteer for services.
Who is notified of the decision?
Mandated reporters can receive information about the assessment decision by contacting the county social service office and asking to speak directly with the county social worker who conducted the assessment.
In addition, the following people are notified of the decision:
- The child’s parents or guardian
- The person or people accused in the report. They are also informed of their right to file an appeal if there is a decision of "Services Required."
- The mandated reporter who filed the report.
- Parents of children who attend a childcare facility, when the subject of the report operates or works in that facility. Parents may be given the person’s name, the decision of the assessment, and a brief description of the abuse or neglect concerns, regardless of whether the abuse or neglect concern occurred in that particular childcare.
An administrative referral is necessary when the situation falls outside the local social services authority, such as when:
- The child is not present in the county receiving the report. (In this case, the report will be sent to the county or other state where the child is present.)
- The report involves abuse by non-family members. (In this case, the report will be referred to law enforcement or another appropriate agency.)
- The child is on an Indian reservation. (In this case, the report will be referred to the appropriate tribal social service agency.)
An administrative assessment is necessary when Child Protection Services guidelines aren’t met, such as when:
- The report involves a child over age 18.
- The report does not contain a reason to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected. The concerns in the report do not meet the definitions of child abuse or neglect, and do not affect the child’s health or provide a reason to question parental lifestyles.
- There is not enough information to identify or locate a child.
- There is reason to believe it is a false report—that is, the reporter knowingly made false accusations. False reports are sent to law enforcement or to the State’s Attorney.
- The concern was addressed previously and may not be addressed again unless there is a new incident of suspected abuse or neglect.
- Abuse concerns are addressed in treatment. Long-past abuse or neglect may be addressed in a therapeutic setting. This is a decision made with a county and regional human service team. The county social service case manager can handle non-criminal cases involving families already receiving services.
- The assessment is terminated in progress. If information obtained in the assessment shows no CPS involvement is needed, the assessment may be closed.
- The assessment concerns a pregnant woman abusing alcohol or drugs. Until a child is born, no determination can be made about the need for protective services. (However, the assessment process can be used to provide prevention education and services for the mother.)
Will the child be taken from the home?
Unless danger is present, CPS social workers try to keep a family together. If possible, the child will remain in the home. If danger exists, the county social service agency must receive an order from the court before a child can be removed, although the order does not have to be in writing before the child may be removed.
Law enforcement and medical professionals may take temporary custody of a child in danger. When this happens, the court and Child Protection Services must be informed within 96 hours (4 days). Parents or legal guardians have the right to participate in a shelter care hearing.