|Action||Review & Amend CPS Regulation|
|Comment Period||Ends 2/12/2016|
This section is confusing. After a child is removed and placed in foster care, the CPS investigation should be completed and closed relatively quickly. This makes it sound like the CPS worker has to keep the case open an additional 30 days to wait for the notification to relatives. Apart from notifying the guardian at the time of the removal and both biological parents, the notification to relatives is a foster care responsiblity, not a CPS responsiblity.
"i. Within 30 days of removing a child from the custody of the parents or legal guardians, the local department shall exercise due diligence to identify and notify in writing all maternal and paternal grandparents and other adult relatives of the child and explain the options they have to participate in the care and placement of the child, unless the local department determines such notification is not in the best interest of the child. These notifications shall be documented in the state automated system. When notification to any of these relatives is not made, the child protective services worker shall document the reasons in the state automated system."
The draft regulation is not clearly stated. Records cannot be released during the investigation without permission. Once the investigation is completed and court action is concluded, we can release that information if the abuser has appealed the CPS disposition. The wording in the regulation, "No information gathered during a joint investigation with law enforcement shall be released by the local department unless authorized by the investigating law enforcement agency or the local attorney for the Commonwealth pursuant to 63.2 1516.1 B of the Code of Virginia" would lead one to conclude that information can never be released without permission.
The intent would be much clearer if it read, "No information gathered during a joint investigation with law enforcement shall be released by the local department prior to the conclusion of the investigation and resolution of all criminal matters unless authorized by the investigating law enforcement agency or the local attorney for the Commonwealth pursuant to 63.21516.1 B of the code of Virginia."
The language in the policy is clear that information is not to be released in investigations "that are being investigated jointly". This implies during the investigation. The code's language refers to case "being criminally investigated" and local agency and law enforcement "conducting a joint investigation."
With the understanding that public comments are usually reserved for concerns and disagreements, as these will mostly be, I would also like to recognize the numerous clarifications and improvements contained within these proposed regulations. In particular, the enhanced definitions of mental abuse/neglect and near fatalities, and the requirements for annual professional development are needed and beneficial additions. Below are additional comments for the proposed CPS regulations.
In 22VAC40-705-40 (A) there are several proposed changes to regulations involving substance-exposed newborns.
The removal of language requiring invalidation if substance abuse treatment was sought by the mother will increase child safety by requiring the completion of a full assessment and not short-changing the process.This is good proposal.Because of this change, it would seem helpful to also remove the language in parts “d,e,f, and g” which further define counseling and treatment.The regulation will then be clear—if certain specified facts indicate a newborn may have been exposed to a controlled substance, CPS must respond and complete a full assessment.
It is unclear why the Department would seek to remove language in part “h” which states additional facts besides prenatal exposure is required for a founded disposition, but then maintain that language in policy as described in the economic impact analysis.Concerns for this include:
By eliminating the authority of regulation in this matter, it opens the door for potential Founded dispositions for substance exposed newborns (with no other evidence) for which there is no policy additional guidance.How are agencies to determine the Level of Finding—what will separate a Level 1 from a Level 3? This will lead to inconsistencies in local agency application, and the treatment of new mothers across the Commonwealth, whereas the current Family Assessment response ensures equal treatment.
By eliminating the authority of regulation in this matter, policy changes around this could happen with any change in leadership at the Department, and without formal review, public input, and oversight of the State Board of Social Services.This topic needs regulatory authority to prevent sudden changes in policy and practice.
The intent of substance exposed newborn laws is to provide an opportunity for assessment and treatment services of a potentially dangerous situation.The importance of engagement during this time cannot be overstated.The use of the investigation track, now more likely with this proposal, makes engagement more difficult, provides no additional protections or authority, and seems punitive in nature.
By allowing the potential of a Founded disposition for actions taken by a mother prenatally, the Department appears to be opening up the possibility of local agency CPS involvement and disposition for other prenatal actions.Would a violent incident between parents that injured or threatened to cause prenatal harm also be open for CPS investigation?The Department has consistently guided local agencies that a founded investigation must be made for abusive/neglectful actions or conditions occurring post-partum, this change seems to open the door for a more expansive definition of child abuse/neglect and potential agency involvement in many more situations.
In 22VAC40-705-80 (A) the proposed regulation adds the requirement that the CPS worker shall conduct a face-to-face interview with the alleged victim child within the “determined response time.”The “response time” is earlier defined as the urgency in which a valid report is “initiated” by the local agency.Assuming the determined response time is that which is determined by the IntakeTool (varying from within 24 hours to 5 business days), this proposed regulation seems to narrow the definition of “initiating” from several agency actions that can assess safety, to only that of a face-to-face interview with the child.Although this addition may be appropriate in the Investigation response, it seems somewhat contradictory in the Family Assessment response where in Section 4 (4.4.3) policy guides CPS workers to arrange announced visits in an effort to demonstrate increased respect and seek better engagement and collaboration.By mandating a face-to-face interview with the child within the determined response time, this proposed regulation will increase school visits with children and unannounced home visits, and require the agency to take an authoritative instead of partnering initial response with caretakers.For the Family Assessment response where there is no immediate serious threat, this regulation would limit local agency flexibility in working and engaging with families.
Doug Brown, MSW
Child Protective Services
Human Services Program Manager
Department of Community and Human Services