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:
- Assessing a child’s immediate safety;
- Assessing the risk of future maltreatment;
- Determining the outcome of the intervention; and
- 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.