Following a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, the report is first screened. Initial assessment, investigation (or perhaps Family Assessment) are further possible steps in the child protection continuum.
Intake workers screen reports of suspected child maltreatment to determine if what is being described meets the law's definition of child maltreatment. If so, this triggers the right of Hennepin County to inquire further and to take possible further steps to protect the child. (If not, no further action is taken. Reports are kept on file for four years.)
A report meeting the criteria for child protection involvement leads to assessments of both the child’s current safety and the potential future risk to the child. These assessment results determine what kind of response will follow—either a traditional investigation or a family assessment.
Where there is a substantial safety risk to the child, the child protection worker conducts an investigation, which is the traditional child protection response. Investigation determines answers to two important, but different, questions:
If the initial assessment determines there is no substantial risk of harm to the child, the family may chose to have a Family Assessment response. A Family Assessment does not address whether the alleged abuse or neglect occurred. Rather, Family Assessment focuses on the safety of the child, risk of future maltreatment and the family’s strengths and needs. Determining the need for services and which services will best protect the child are at the heart of Family Assessment.
Participation in Family Assessment is voluntary; however, in situations where there is concern for the child’s future safety, a refusal to participate will result in a transfer of the case to a full-fledged investigation. As with an investigation, there is continuing assessment of the child’s safety and the risk of future maltreatment. Cases may be transferred from Family Assessment to Investigation.
The purpose of child protection is to prevent any future maltreatment (abuse or neglect). If a child is not safe in his or her home, it may be necessary to place the child outside of the home.
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