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 age of the alleged victim
- The alleged abuser’s relationship to the child
- The nature of the allegation
Every report that is not accepted gets a second review by another supervisor who may decide to accept it. If it is still not accepted, the family may be referred to services in the community but no further action is taken by the Family Services Division.
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. This allows us to respond differently to reports based on factors such as the type and severity of the alleged maltreatment, the number of previous reports, and the family’s willingness to engage in services to reduce risk.
While the preferred intervention is usually assessment, an investigation is required in certain situations. This includes when a report alleges that:
- A child was sexually abused by an adult (18+).
- A child is at risk of harm for sexual abuse by an adult (18+).
- The actions or inactions of a person responsible for a child’s welfare resulted in a child’s death or serious injury to a child.
- A person responsible for a child’s welfare abandoned a child, maliciously punished a child, physically abused a child under three or a child of any age who is non-verbal or non-ambulatory 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
- Opening a case for ongoing services if needed
The same assessment tools are used in both types of intervention: the SDM® Assessment of Danger and Safety Tool and the SDM® Risk Assessment Tool. The results inform our recommendations to Family Court about the need for children to come into DCF custody and be placed out of their homes to ensure safety.
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.
A supervisor may approve changing a child abuse assessment to a child abuse investigation at any time if it appears necessary to ensure a child’s safety.
Step 4 - At the conclusion of the intervention, the supervisor determines the outcome based on the information gathered.
At the conclusion of the intervention, the supervisor determines the outcome based on the information gathered.
Need for services: Both investigations and assessments result in a determination of the family’s need for ongoing services based on the assessed risk of future maltreatment.
Formal Determination: Investigations also result in 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 - a database of all substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect dating back to January 1, 1992.
If a report is unsubstantiated, a case could still be opened for services based on the assessed risk of future maltreatment.
Click here to see the case flowchart.