Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Agency
Department of Social Services
 
Board
State Board of Social Services
 
chapter
Child Protective Services [22 VAC 40 ‑ 705]
Action Review & Amend CPS Regulation
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 2/12/2016
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Previous Comment     Back to List of Comments
2/12/16  8:51 am
Commenter: Doug Brown, City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services

Comments on proposed changes to 22VAC40-705
 

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.

  1. In 22VAC40-705-40 (A) there are several proposed changes to regulations involving substance-exposed newborns.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

 

  1. In 22VAC40-705 (E) proposed language states the local department shall not disclose the reporter’s identity.This does not seem to take into consideration current policy in Section 9 (9.2.1.2) which states, “

 

  1. 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.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Doug Brown, MSW

Child Protective Services

Human Services Program Manager

Department of Community and Human Services

CommentID: 49596