CPS Responds to Child Abuse Reports
CPS responds to child abuse reports. CPS-trained caseworkers across the state listen to reports of abuse, assess the situations and prepare safety plans to assist children and families. CPS staff work closely with law enforcement agencies and other members of multidisciplinary teams in each county to assess child abuse reports.
CPS and law enforcement agencies have a shared legal responsibility for taking child abuse reports and responding to them. The Oregon Child Abuse reporting Law, ORS 419B.005 to 419B.05D, was enacted in 1971 and has been updated several times. The law was designed to provide early identification and protection of children who have been abused. CPS or law enforcement intervenes when a caregiver abuses or neglects a child. When assessing abuse allegations, ODHS and law enforcement always consider that an accident or illness may have caused a child’s injury.
For each call CPS receives, the process begins with screening. Information is the foundation of CPS assessment.
Every report is handled by a CPS-trained worker who will make an initial determination of whether a report meets the guidelines that require ODHS to conduct an assessment of the family.
Reports fall into one of four categories:
- Information only
- Referral to other services
- Not a situation that is child abuse or neglect
- Possible child abuse or neglect
Those reports that are possible abuse are further analyzed to determine whether an immediate response is needed.
In many cases after screening, a worker with CPS training will conduct a CPS assessment. The worker will talk to the child, the child’s caregivers, which may include family members, and others involved with the child such as teachers or medical professionals.
After an assessment is completed, the information is reviewed to determine whether abuse occurred and whether the child is safe.
If a child has been abused or neglected, CPS and law enforcement staff decide, with family help if possible, whether the child can be safely left at home. ODHS and law enforcement have the authority to remove a child from the home if they are in immediate danger of abuse. A court order also can authorize ODHS or law enforcement to place a child in protective custody. Less than 10 percent of total child abuse reports resulted in a child being removed from home and placed in relative or substitute care.
A process for determining the safety of the child takes into account the type of abuse, age of the child, family history, protective capacity of the family and the potential for re-abuse.
When a child’s safety can be assured, the child should stay at home with their family. In order for the child to remain in the home, the abusing caregiver may be asked to move out or the family may be provided with intensive family counseling and other safety services.
When child safety cannot be assured in the home, an out-of-home safety plan is developed. When this is necessary, ODHS will first consider whether a relative can provide safety.
When a child is placed in substitute care, the case is reviewed by the juvenile court within 24 judicial hours. Then the court decides, based on the child’s safety, whether the child should be returned home or remain in custody.
A caseworker will discuss concerns and potential solutions with the family and work with them to develop a safety plan. The plan builds on the family's strengths to meet a child's need for safety and attachment. This may be done in a family meeting.
ODHS does not prosecute abusive parents. Only a district attorney can prosecute a crime. District attorneys receive reports of possible criminal behavior from law enforcement officers.
District attorneys are required to convene multidisciplinary teams to review child abuse cases. There are teams working in every county in Oregon. By legal mandate, they develop protocols to ensure the coordination of child abuse investigations. Child abuse is not just a ODHS issue. The best way to protect children and strengthen families is through coordination of community services, including law enforcement, medical professionals, school officials and the district attorney.
Addiction Recovery Teams
Addiction Recovery Teams (ART teams) provide coordinated multi-disciplinary services to substance abusing families referred to child protective services using a short-term crisis intervention model. Each team consists of an alcohol and drug counselor, an outreach worker and a social service specialist. They are also linked with resource providers in local communities and other ODHS programs.
The ART teams focus on family strengths and building the clean and sober support networks of clients to assist them with their efforts to sustain recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Team members assist clients with the initial response to their addiction, assessment, and referral to treatment as well as relapse prevention.
CPS caseworkers must complete a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of child abuse, including:
- symptoms of abuse
- how to screen incoming reports of abuse
- how to assess the future safety of a child
- how to conduct an assessment of the family
- how to interview victims, witnesses and alleged abusers
- when to ask for law enforcement assistance
- how to decide if abuse has occurred
- how to decide if a child is safe
- how to develop a safety plan
- when to close a case
In addition, all CPS supervisors and caseworkers are offered several days of in-service training to continually upgrade their knowledge and skill.
Cultural awareness is a part of ODHS staff training. This includes information on specific cultural practices that may be mistakenly labeled abuse. It also teaches staff to be aware of their own cultural biases and to recognize the strength each of us draws from our cultural heritage.