Intake / Investigation

Intake is the first stage in the Child Protective Services process. All reports are formally screened during the intake process in establishing jurisdiction for a Child Protective Services Investigation; other reports are assessed for appropriate in-house or community resource referrals. The assessment of risk immediately follows the report of a suspected child abuse protective services report. Investigation is a highly involved process of gathering detailed information to assess the validity of the report and consequently the risk to the child. 

Collaboration with a wide range of professionals drives the investigative process to arrange for the provision of and assisting families in utilizing appropriate services and community resources to prevent further abuse and neglect so the healing can begin in the treatment process.


If a report is substantiated (that is found to be true), the case is assigned to a treatment social worker for follow-up. The social worker attempts to maintain the safety of the child in the home. He/she works with the family to alleviate the factors causing the substantiation. In some cases, the risk of harm to the child is so great that the child has to be removed from his/her home. However, the first priority is to maintain the child within his or her family unit.

There are two different ways (family assessment and traditional investigation) of responding to families who are working with the child welfare system. The highlights of the two different response tracks can be viewed below:

Family Assessment

  • Family Assessments will be completed within 45 days.
  • The family will participate in contacting people they know about their situation.
  • From this information, DSS will make a case decision of Services Needed (this means that services are required), 
  • Services Recommended (this means that participation in services is voluntary), or Services Not Recommended (this means that the case is closed).
  • If it is found that a family is in need of services, a social worker will meet with the family within 7 days of the case decision to discuss the services.
  • Initial contacts will be with the parents or parents and children.
  • Safety, risk, and strengths and needs assessments will be completed.

Traditional Investigation

  • Collateral contacts are often made without the parents knowledge and/ or permission
  • In substantiated cases, the perpetrator is identified and entered into a centralized database
  • Interviews with the child are usually done without the parents knowledge and permission
  • The report is either substantiated or unsubstantiated

The following are types of reports that would follow the traditional investigative approach:

  • Abandoned
  • Abused, including physically, sexually, or emotionally
  • Found by a judge to be unsafe
  • In the custody of the local DSS
  • In a family whose caregivers are not willing to work with the Family Assessment process.
  • In the hospital due to suspected abuse or neglect
  • Infants with life-threatening medical problems
  • Living with a family where a child has died
  • Taken into custody by a doctor or police



Any child whose parent/guardian:

  • Commits, permits, encourages rape or other sexual offense, including the taking of pornographic images of the child
  • Creates or allows serious emotional damage
  • Creates or allows a substantial risk of serious injury
  • Encourages, directs, etc. delinquent acts involving moral turpitude by child
  • Inflicts or allows serious physical injury other than accidental
  • Uses or allows cruel or grossly inappropriate procedures or devices to modify behavior


Child not receiving proper care, supervision or discipline from parent/guardian

  • Abandoned
  • Lives in environment injurious to welfare
  • Not getting necessary medical care
  • Not given necessary remedial care
  • Placed for adoption in violation of law

It is relevant whether the child lives in a home where another child has died as a result of abuse or neglect, or been sexually abused or severally physically abused.


In need of placement because there is no parent / guardian / custodian / caretaker, or parent/guardian cannot provide care or supervision due to a physical or mental disability.