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Investigating Maltreatment

Traditionally, when child protective services case managers arrive on a family's doorstep, there's the implied or explicit threat that a child will be placed in out-of-home care. The situation can immediately become confrontational.

However, child welfare is not a one-size fits-all approach.

That's why DCS uses the multiple response system to child maltreatment.

Different situations require different responses.  DCS has a variety of ways of looking into and responding to allegations.  We look at the severity of the alleged maltreatment, and we take into account a family's needs. Using the Multiple Response System, child protective services case managers offer a variety of approaches that can be more helpful to families and promise more lasting change.

What is the Multiple Response System? 

The Multiple Response System is a different way of responding to concerns of certain types of neglect or abuse by: 
• Ensuring children are safe 
• Avoiding negative labels for parents 
• Setting aside the issue of fault 
• Working in partnership with parents to identify the family's strengths and needs 
• Asserting families are the experts at solving their own problems

A core value of the Multiple Response System is that most parents love their children and want them to be safe, but sometimes parents need help to make that happen.

To be clear: Some parents are not able to keep their children safe. For all reports of severe abuse, a traditional investigation will still take place. Law enforcement will be asked to assist in cases where severe abuse has been reported. This Investigative Approach is focused on finding out what caused the incident to be reported, and it seeks to find out who was responsible and what steps need to be taken to ensure a child's safety.

For many of the families we encounter at DCS, there are plenty of other, less adversarial ways we can help, particularly in the low-to-moderate risk cases. This is where the three-track Multiple Response System steps in. It offers two other approaches in addition to the traditional investigation.

The Assessment Approach

The Assessment Approach seeks to understand the underlying conditions and factors that could jeopardize a child's safety. The focus becomes not just the child but the entire family and its identifiable strengths. By building on those strengths and understanding a family's needs, DCS can help families avoid the pitfalls that may have previously put their children at risk.

The Resource Linkage Approach

The Resource Linkage Approach is primarily for families who demonstrate no immediate or current safety risk. Many times, these families can really use some of the help that's available to them in their local communities, be it through government programs, non-profit organizations or counseling services. DCS can best help these families by putting them in touch with a variety of resources, all with the aim of keeping kids safe and helping families grow stronger.

The Traditional  Investigative Approach

Some parents are not able to keep their children safe. For all reports of severe neglect or abuse, a traditional investigation will still take place. Law enforcement will be asked to assist in cases where severe abuse has been reported. 

The Family Assessment Approach

When the Department receives a call with concerns relating to certain types of abuse and neglect, the choice may be made to approach the family in order to complete a family assessment.

  • Child Protective Services and the family will work to develop true partnerships to ensure the safety of the child.
  • A holistic approach will be used, looking at all the needs of the family.
  • The family assessment approach is not voluntary.
  • A safety assessment is conducted. The case manager and family gather information together from several sources.
  • A child and family team meeting may be called to devise a workable plan to ensure the child's safety and family's needs are met.

The Case Decision

After gathering information, the family team will determine what further services are needed. If services are not recommended, the case is closed. If services are required, DCS or other community resources will provide them.

Safety Comes First

If at any time it is determined that the child's safety cannot be maintained in the home or if the family chooses not to participate in the Family Assessment process, or if new allegations of abuse, neglect, or dependency arise during the process, our Department has the legal obligation to take one of the following actions:

  • A traditional investigative approach will be initiated.
  • The family may be asked to choose a safe place for their child other than their own home.
  • It may ultimately be necessary for the Department to seek custody of the child.

Rights of the Family

An important part of working with families in need is acknowledging their rights: 

  • Families have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. 
  • Families have the right to know DCS's legal authority and right to intervene. 
  • Families have the right to know our expectations of them, and in turn what they can expect from us. 
  • Families have the right to have their phone calls returned within one working day. If the case manager is unavailable, please call the case manager's supervisor.