2331. Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation

Original Date:  December 2011

Revised Date:  July 25, 2021

Policy Review: July 25, 2025

Approved by:  Jody Becker, Deputy Secretary


Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance on conducting investigations when intakes are screened-in with allegations of child abuse or neglect (CA/N) or when children or youth are believed to be at imminent risk of harm.

Scope

This policy applies to child welfare (CW) and Licensing Division (LD) Child Protective Services (CPS) employees.

Laws

RCW 26.44.030  Reports, Duty and authority to make – Duty of receiving agency – Duty to notify – Case planning and consultation – Penalty for unauthorized exchange of information – Filing dependency petitions – Investigations – Interviews of children – Records – Risk assessment process.

RCW 26.44.100  Information about rights – Legislative purpose – Notification of investigation, report, and findings

RCW 26.44.185  Investigation of child sexual abuse, Revision and expansion of protocols —    

Child fatality, child physical abuse, and criminal child neglect cases.

RCW 74.13.031  Duties of department, Child welfare services —Children's services advisory committee.

RCW 74.14B.010  Children's services workers – Hiring and training

Policy

  1. DCYF will complete investigations on screened-in intakes for allegations of CA/N in the following timeframes, unless law enforcement (LE) has determined additional time is needed, per County Child Abuse, Fatality and Criminal Investigations Protocols. For:
    1. CW employees, within 60 days from the date the allegations were reported.
    2. LD CPS employees, within 45 days from the date the allegations were reported.
  2. Regional administrators (RA) or designee must:
    1. Develop CPS guidelines with the military base commander or designee for families living on-post within the region. Guidelines and procedures may include off-post families.
    2. Collaborate with county prosecutors and offices to establish and maintain county child abuse investigation protocols, per RCW 26.44.185.  
  3. LD CPS employees must follow the Investigating Abuse and Neglect in State-Regulated Care Handbook.
  4. Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
    1. Follow Indian Child Welfare Chapter 1 Initial Intake Indian Child Welfare (ICW) policies when there is reason to believe children or youth are or may be a member, or are the biological child of a member and eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe.
    2. Contact LE if there is information about a crime that has been committed against a child, youth, or vulnerable adult, or the children or youths’ welfare is endangered, per the Mandated Reports to Law Enforcement policy.

Procedures

  1. Supervisors must:
    1. When there is a disagreement between supervisors about an intake screening decision or a CPS investigation identified to transfer to Family Voluntary Services (FVS), consult with:
      1. The safety administrator for LD CPS.
      2. The area administrator (AA) for CW.
    2. For CPS Risk Only screened-in intakes, assign them:
      1. Per the Case Assignment policy.
      2. To the assigned CPS Family Assessment Response (FAR), CPS Investigation, FVS, or Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS) caseworker, if the case is already open to that caseworker. That caseworker will complete the CPS risk-only investigation.
      3. To CPS investigation caseworkers. If the case is co-assigned, assign the intake to the CPS investigation caseworker.
      4. To a LD CPS investigator if the Risk Only is provider related.
    3. Conduct monthly supervisor case reviews, review all Safety Plans, and document the reviews in a FamLink case note.
    4. Review Investigative Assessments (IA) submitted for approval. When reviewing for approval, confirm the case documentation is comprehensive and complete and document in FamLink. If:
      1. Not approved, return case to caseworkers for continued work with instructions of what work needs to be completed before resubmitting for transfer or closure.
      2. Approved, transfer or close the case.
    5. Close cases when:
      1. Court intervention is not necessary or appropriate.
      2. Services are not needed or have been declined.
      3. All components of the investigation have been completed.
      4. There is no active safety threat per the Safety Assessment policy.
    6. Transfer case assignments to:
      1. FVS or FRS when families are participating in services.
      2. CFWS when a dependency has been filed.
    7. Review and approve requests to extend investigations that remain open past 90 calendar days from the date and time of intake when LE or prosecutors have determined additional time is needed or to comply with the County Child Abuse, Fatality, and Criminal Investigation Protocols.
    8. Submit cases for a statewide CPS alert to the FamLink Service Desk when reasonable efforts to locate the child or youth have been exhausted and either the:
      1. Court has authorized pick-up of the child.
      2. Child or youth is believed to be in present danger or unsafe.
    9. If children or youth are out-of-state and believed to be unsafe, make a CPS report to the state where it is believed the children or youth are located.
  2. When conducting investigations:
    1. Prior to face-to-face contact or investigative interviews with children or youth, caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
      1. Review case history, if applicable.
      2. Coordinate with local LE per County Child Abuse, Fatality and Criminal Investigations Protocols, when applicable.
      3. Contact referrers to verify the information in the intake is clear and complete and to learn additional needed information such as the families schedule and child’s likely whereabouts.
      4. Maintain confidentiality of case information with non-mandatory reporters. Case information may only be shared with mandated reporters as long as the information is pertinent to the CPS case.
      5. Notify the Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program, per the military Memorandum of Understanding, when investigations involve military parents or guardians.
    2. Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must conduct face-to-face contacts and interviews with children and youth, per Child Protective Services (CPS) Initial Face-to-Face Response policy.
    3. Caseworkers must conduct monthly health and safety visits with children and youth and monthly visits with parents or guardians when cases are open longer than 60 calendar days, per the Health and Safety Visits with Children and Youth and Monthly Visits with Parents and Caregivers policy.
    4. Caseworkers must conduct in-person interviews of children’s or youth’s parents or guardians and subjects, and LD CPS investigators must conduct in-person interviews with subjects. When conducting interviews:
      1. Caseworkers must notify children or youth’s parents or guardians:
        1. Of any CA/N allegations made against them at the initial point of contact, while maintaining the:
          1. Confidentiality of the person making the allegations.
          2. Safety and protection of children or youth.
          3. Integrity of the investigation process.
        2. When children or youth are taken into protective custody.
      2. Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
        1. Identify and verify all individuals living in the home and assess for safety threats and risk.
        2. Provide infant safety education and intervention for all children in the family age birth to one year, per the Infant Safety Education and Intervention policy.
        3. Inquire about the child’s possible membership or eligibility for membership in a federally recognized tribe and follow Indian Child Welfare Manual Chapter 3 Inquiry and Verification of Child’s Indian Status.
        4. Conduct a universal domestic violence (DV) screening and at key points in a case, i.e., a new intake is received, at case transfer, or when re-assessing safety to identify if DV is present. If DV is identified, follow the DV policy and verify all persons, e.g., children and youth, caregivers, and subjects, are interviewed separately, if possible.
        5. Follow the Child Protective Services (CPS) Initial Face-To-Face (IFF) Response policy when a child cannot be located within response timeframes. This includes making reasonable efforts to locate the family using the Guidelines for Reasonable Efforts to Locate Children or Parents as a resource if the family cannot be located.
    5. Safety, Risk, and Investigative Assessments
      1. Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
        1. Complete a Safety Assessment within 30 calendar days from the date of the intake and at key decision points in a case. For:
          1. Caseworkers, follow the Safety Assessment policy.
          2. LD CPS investigators, follow the LD CPS Use of Safety Assessment and Safety Planning Tools policy.
        2. Discuss cases with their supervisor to determine if children or youth will be placed in out-of-home care when a safety threat is identified and cannot be managed with a Safety Plan.
        3. Complete the Investigative Assessment (IA) on all investigations within the following timeframes from when the intake is received:
          1. 60 calendar days for CW employees.
          2. 45 calendar days for LD CPS employees.
        4. Document and submit an extension on the Extension/Exception tab in FamLink when requesting extensions on investigations remaining open beyond 90 calendar days from the date the intake is received due to LE or prosecutor collaboration to their supervisor.
      2. Caseworkers must complete the Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment (SDMRA) within the timeframe specified in the SDRMA policy.
    6. Safety Plans
      Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must complete a:
      1. Safety Plan DCYF 15-259 form if safety threat is identified and can be controlled and managed in the home.
      2. Plan of Safe Care DCYF 15-491, per the Infant Safety Education and Intervention policy, with families when newborns are either:
        1. Identified as substance affected by a health care provider.
        2. Identified as having withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug and alcohol exposure.
        3. Born to a dependent youth.
    7. Consultations, Evaluations, and Referrals
      Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
      1. Request a prompt Child Abuse and Neglect Medical Consultation (Med-Con) with a Child Protection Medical Consultant provider for treatment for children or youth if:
        1. Indicators of serious CA/N exist.
        2. Children are age three or younger with a physical abuse allegation.
        3. The alleged CA/N cannot be reasonably attributed to the explanation and a diagnostic finding would clarify the assessment of risk or determine the need for medical treatment.
        4. The alleged neglect includes concerns that children or youth are being deprived of food, underweight, or starved.
      2. Contact the regional Child Protection Medical Consultant for consultation on medications and children with complex medical issues, when applicable.
      3. Seek legal authority for the medical examination if parents or guardians do not comply with the request. Contact your assigned Assistant Attorney General for consultation.
      4.   Contact the Washington Poison Control Center if consultation is needed about prescribed or non-prescribed medications.
      5. Refer children or youth with complex behavioral health needs for a Wraparound Intensive Services (WISe) screen, per the WISe policy.
      6. Make referrals to Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) services within two business days of identifying children younger than three years old with a possible developmental delay. To refer:
        1. Contact the Family Resources Coordinator at 1-800-322-2588 or through the ESIT website
        2. Inform the child’s parents or guardians of the ESIT referral and that the services are no cost to the family and:
          1. Voluntary for non-dependent children.
          2. Mandatory for dependent children.
    8. Investigating Allegations of Serious Physical and Sexual Abuse
      Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
      1. Consult with the Child Abuse and Neglect Medical Consultation (Med-Con) or with a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) physician:
        1. To determine if children or youth alleged to be sexually abused need a medical examination.
        2. When there is an allegation of sexual abuse that includes physical injury to children or youth or the potential for them to have a sexually transmitted disease.
        3. When children or youth are seriously injured.
        4. When there is a pattern of injury to young children because of alleged CA/N.
      2. Verify the physician examining children or youth are affiliated with Med-Con or a CAC. If children or youth are examined or were previously examined by a physician who is not affiliated with the Med-Con or a CAC, refer the case to the Med-Con or CAC physician so they are aware of:
        1. Current allegations
        2. Available medical information
        3. Previous injuries
        4. Indications they have been abused or neglected in the past.
      3. Except when the court has determined the children or youth are safe to remain in the home, place children or youth in out-of-home care when they:
        1. Have suffered a serious non-accidental injury and a safety plan separating the children or youth from the subject cannot be developed.
        2. Are a sibling of a child who has been fatally or seriously injured due to abuse or neglect and a safety plan separating the child or youth from the subject cannot be developed.
        3. Have a parent or guardian who has been determined to be unwilling or incapable, i.e., due to mental illness or substance abuse, of supervising or protecting the children or youth and an in-home safety plan cannot be developed to assure the supervision or protection of the children or youth.
        4. Have been sexually abused and a safety plan cannot be developed to protect them from the subject.
      4. Follow the Safety Assessment policy and if the child or youth is unsafe and safety threats can be controlled or managed in the home, complete a Safety Plan DCYF 15-259 form, per the Safety Plan policy.
      5. Prior to allowing contact between the alleged perpetrator and victim:
        1. Consider the psychological harm and physical safety of the children or youth.
        2. Consult with LE, treatment providers, and others involved with the family.
        3. Verify contact between the children or youth and the person who poses the safety threat is sufficiently monitored by a protective individual.
        4. Obtain supervisor approval.
    9. Case Coordination and Collateral Contacts
      Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
      1. Follow the background check policy, when applicable.
      2. Contact LE if assistance is needed to:
        1. Coordinate on investigations where a crime may have been committed against a child or youth.
        2. Assure the safety of children, youth, or employees.
        3. Observe or preserve evidence.
        4. Determine if children or youth are in need of protective custody.
        5. Enforce a court order.
        6. Assist with the investigation.
      3. Consult with supervisors if children or youth are unsafe and LE does not place them into protective custody.
      4. Interview professionals and other individuals who may have knowledge of the children or youth, parents or guardians, or the allegations of CA/N including but not limited to:
        1. Non-custodial parents
        2. School personnel
        3. Medical providers
        4. Childcare providers
        5. Relatives
        6. Neighbors
        7. Other adults or children living in the home
        8. Other individuals identified by parents or caregivers
        9. Tribal social workers, law enforcement
      5. Seek expert consultation and evaluation of issues that may pose a child safety threat or present danger, e.g., housing inspector, health department or other local authority, etc.
    10. Additional Requirements
      Caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
      1. Follow the Hospital Holds policy when children or youth are placed on a hospital hold by a physician or hospital administrator. 
      2. Follow the Sexually Aggressive Youth (SAY) policy when investigating SAY intakes.
      3. Make a report to intake when any child or youth in an open case is believed to be at imminent risk of serious harm or there is a new allegation of CA/N not included in the original intake.
      4. Send a False Reporting Letter DCYF 09-070 to any person believed to have made a false report of CA/N by certified mail.
  3. Concluding an Investigation
    Upon completion of an investigation, caseworkers and LD CPS investigators must:
    1. Notify all persons named in the intake as subjects of the abuse or neglect findings, and their rights of review and appeal, per the CPS Investigative Findings Notification policy.
    2. Inform the Washington State federally recognized tribe of the outcome of the investigation when children or youth meet the definition of an Indian child.
    3. Transfer case to FVS, FRS, or CFWS when services are provided, including placement in out-of-home care through Voluntary Placement Agreements (VPA) or court order.
    4. Close cases and submit to their supervisor when:
      1. All components of the investigation have been completed.
      2. Services are not needed or have been declined.
      3. Court intervention is not necessary or appropriate.
      4. There is no active safety threat.

Forms

Child Custody Transfer DCYF 10-157 (located in the Forms repository on the DCYF intranet)

Child's Physical Description DCYF 15-359

False Reporting Letter DCYF 09-070 (located in the Forms repository on the DCYF intranet)

Plan of Safe Care DCYF 15-491

Safety Assessment/Safety Plan DCYF 15-258

Safety Plan DCYF 15-259

Washington State Court Forms

Resources

Audio Recording policy

Background Check policy

Case Assignment policy

Child Abuse and Neglect Medical Consultation (Med-Con)

Child Protective Services (CPS) Initial Face-To-Face (IFF) Response policy

CPS Investigative Findings Notification policy

Domestic Violence policy

Guidelines for Reasonable Efforts to Locate Children and/or Parents DCYF 02-607 (located in the Forms repository on the DCYF intranet)

Health and Safety Visits with Children and Youth and Monthly Visits with Parents and Caregivers policy

Hospital Holds policy

Indian Child Welfare Chapter 1 Initial Intake Indian Child Welfare (ICW) policies

Infant Safety Education and Intervention policy

Interviewing a Victim or Identified Child policy

Investigative Assessment policy

LD CPS Use of Safety Assessment and Safety Planning Tools policy

Mandated Reports to Law Enforcement policy

Monthly Supervisor Case Reviews policy

Photograph Documentation policy

Present Danger policy

Safety Assessment policy

Safety Plan policy

Sexually Aggressive Youth (SAY) policy

Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment (SDMRA) policy

Understanding the Dependency Process - brochure DCYF 22-1499

Using Child Safety as the Basis for Case Closing - article

Voluntary Placement Agreements (VPA) policy

Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe) policy 

Located on DCYF CA intranet: 

Child Protection Medical Consultation Network

County Child Abuse, Fatality and Criminal Investigations Protocols

Guidelines for Reasonable Efforts to Locate Children or Parents

Investigating Abuse and Neglect in State-Regulated Care Handbook

Military MOU

Supervisory Review of Cases

The Handbook – Investigating Abuse and Neglect in State-Regulated Care