What Happens to Reports Received

The information below describes the process we follow for each report received by the Child Protection Line.

Step 1 - A supervisor screens the report.

The supervisor decides whether the report can be accepted for intervention according to Vermont law and departmental policy. Several factors are considered, including: 

  • The child's age;
  • The alleged abuser’s relationship to the child; and
  • The nature of the allegation.

To learn more about how reports are screened, read FSD Policy 51 - Child Safety: Screening Reports of Child Maltreatment.

Step 2 -  If a report is accepted, the supervisor determines the appropriate intervention.

Vermont law authorizes two types of intervention: assessment and investigation. While the preferred intervention is usually assessment, an investigation is required in certain situations, including when a report alleges that:

  • A child was sexually abused by someone over 10;
  • A child is at risk of harm for sexual abuse by an adult;
  • Something a person responsible for a child’s welfare did or didn't do resulted in a child’s death or serious injury; or
  • A person responsible for a child’s welfare:
    • Abandoned a child;
    • Maliciously punished a child;
    • Physically abused a child under three or one of any age who does not talk or is not able to walk; or
    • Allowed a child to be exposed to methamphetamine production.

To learn more about child safety interventions, read FSD Policy 52 - Child Safety Interventions: Investigations & Assessments.

Step 3 - FSD opens an investigation or an assessment.

A social worker is assigned to the case and the selected intervention begins, usually within 72 hours but sooner if a child is in imminent danger.

Safety is the first priority in both types of intervention, which include similar steps:

  1. Assessing a child’s immediate safety;
  2. Assessing the risk of future maltreatment;
  3. Determining the outcome of the intervention; and
  4. Opening a case for ongoing services if needed.

The main difference between the two types of intervention is that an investigation requires a formal determination of whether the reported abuse or neglect happened and should be substantiated, while an assessment does not.

Step 4 - At the conclusion of the intervention, the supervisor determines the outcome based on the information gathered.

The possible outcomes are described below.

An assessment results in:

  • A determination of the family's need for ongoing services, based on the assessed risk of future maltreatment.

An investigation results in both:

  • A determination of the family's need for ongoing services, based on the assessed risk of future maltreatment; and
  • A formal determination of whether the reported abuse or neglect occurred. If the evidence would lead a reasonable person to believe the child was abused or neglected, the report is substantiated and information about the person substantiated is entered into Vermont’s Child Protection Registry. If a report is unsubstantiated, a case could still be opened for services based on the assessed risk of future maltreatment.

Family Services Division (FSD)

Deputy Commissioner Karen Shea
DCF - Family Services Division
280 State Drive
Waterbury, VT - 05671-1030
Phone:(802) 241-2131


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