Emergency Response

The Emergency Response Investigation includes the time from when it is assigned for Investigation until it is either closed or becomes a Case. It can become a Voluntary Family Maintenance Case or a Court Dependency case.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway is the best national resource for many aspects of CPS work. For each section there is usually a link such as the one below.http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/cps/cpsf.cfm

Child Neglect: A Guide for Prevention, Assessment and Intervention


There are several phases in the ER Investigation process. In the first phase the worker reviews and becomes thoroughly familiar with what is know from the referral or the file. Then the investigator makes contact with the child, siblings, parents, and collateral contacts. The final phase is the Investigation Narrative summary.

The California CWS/CMS computer referral document contains basic information, history, referent information and the screener narrative. The referral should also include the documentation received such as the Suspected Child Abuse Report (SCAR), police reports, medical reports if appropriate, and sometimes letters from the referent. The worker should also thorough review the file. The paper file will contain copies of previous referrals and conclusions if there were any. Agencies have clear policies about the Closing Summary (aka Investigation Narrative)so this can be a good way to acquire a sense of the family issues involved.

The ER investigator should look in the referral and the file for:

  • the primary child abuse issue,
  • family makeup and clues to dynamics,
  • family strengths or resources,
  • demographic information on each person involved,
  • what other agencies or organizations might be involved with the family,
  • indicators of substance abuse,
  • indicators of domestic violence,
  • indicators of mental health concerns

The Field Investigation

(version 2010)
  1. Victim Child Interview
  2. Sibling Interviews
  3. Interviews with Parents
  4. Interviews with the reporting party
  5. Making additional witness and collateral contacts
  6. Follow Up interviews

Victim Child Interview

  1. The school is a preferred location to interview children because it is usually neutral and safe.
  2. A parent must give specific permission for the child to be interviewed at school.  If the worker and department determine an emergency exists then an interview may occur, however, a court order is often required.
  3. School will allow the CPS social worker to meet with the child privately, but the worker should ask the child if they want someone present. This is permitted.
    • California Penal Code 11174.3. (a) Whenever a representative of a government agency investigating suspected child abuse or neglect or the State Department of Social Services deems it necessary, a suspected victim of child abuse or neglect may be interviewed during school hours, on school premises, concerning a report of suspected child abuse or neglect that occurred within the child’s home or out-of-home care facility. The child shall be afforded the option of being interviewed in private or selecting any adult who is a member of the staff of the school, including any certificated or classified employee or volunteer aide, to be present at the interview. A representative of the agency investigating suspected child abuse or neglect or the State Department of Social Services shall inform the child of that right prior to the interview. The purpose of the staff person’s presence at the interview is to lend support to the child and enable him or her to be as comfortable as possible. However, the member of the staff so elected shall not participate in the interview. The member of the staff so present shall not discuss the facts or circumstances of the case with the child. The member of the staff so present, including, but not limited to, a volunteer aide, is subject to the confidentiality requirements of this article, a violation of which is punishable as specified in Section 11167.5. A representative of the school shall inform a member of the staff so selected by a child of the requirements of this section prior to the interview. A staff member selected by a child may decline the request to be present at the interview. If the staff person selected agrees to be present, the interview shall be held at a time during school hours when it does not involve an expense to the school. Failure to comply with the requirements of this section does not affect the admissibility of evidence in a criminal or civil proceeding. (b) The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall notify each school district and each agency specified in Section 11165.9 to receive mandated reports, and the State Department of Social Services shall notify each of its employees who participate in the investigation of reports of child abuse or neglect, of the requirements of this section. Search for “Find California Code”]
  4. An advantage of the school interview is that it is usually not expected by the child or the parent so the information gathered, hopefully, won’t be tinged by anxiety or anticipation.
  5. If it is necessary and/or appropriate to conduct the first, or subsequent, interviews at the residence, then the parent would have to agree with that.
  6. Although a parent will often let the social worker interview in the home, it is customary to still ask for a private location to interview the child.
  1. Sibling Interviews
    1. The siblings may be victims of the abuse or neglect or they may be witnesses.
    2. It is often better to talk to the siblings immediately after the SW talks to the alleged victim. They can also be interviewed at their schools if all proper procedures have been followed.
    3. Sibling interviews that happen before the worker talks to the parent are less likely to be influenced by the disruption and anxiety which talking to the parent causes in the family.
  2. Interviews with Parents
  3. Interviews with the reporting party
  4. Making additional collateral contacts
  5. Follow Up interviews

Summary of Emergency Response Program Referral Closing Requirements

[= responsible party]

Evaluate Out

  • Write justification on page 3 of Intake document [intake SW]
  • Response to Mandated Reporter (HSD 1266)
  • Supervisor writes “Evaluate out” and reason on the bottom of the first page of the referral document

One or Two Visits [ER SW]

  • Contacts entered within two (2) working days of each contact is best practice but time constraints can cause this to be longer
  • Attempted contacts, or the first Face-to-face, should be entered within ten (10) calendar days of the date on the referral.
  • Investigation Narrative
  • Risk Assessment – ER Assessment Tool ,  SDM, (first done within 72 hours of initial investigation then completed at end of investigation, workers prepares it, supervisor confirm it and submits for analysis)
  • Your Rights (Publication 13) – document that it was given to the parent(s)
  • Language Preference and Auxiliary Aid Identification (HSD 1259)
  • DOJ Report Form, entitled “Child Abuse Investigation Report” in CWS on referrals which were Inconclusive or Substantiated (DOJ 8583)
  • Notice to alleged perpetrator (SOC 832, 833, 834)
  • Response to Mandated Reporter – Notice of Referral Disposition (HSD 1266)
  • There are several things which should be documented somewhere in the contacts and/or in the Investigation narrative:
    • if the child was offered someone’s presence (e.g. I explained to the child that when I speak to children in school they are allowed to have someone from the school present. I asked if it was okay that we could talk alone and the child agreed.) (each contact)
    • If the issues of tribal affiliation / ICWA involvement were present.
    • The language of the interviews if not in English. (each contact)
  • Close within five (5) days of most recent visit

Day 30 Investigate & Close [ER SW]

  • All of the above plus minimum of three (3) visits with the child(ren)
  • Case Plan Assessment (HSD # 1167 )
  • Close referral by the 30th day. All Emergency Response referrals should closed or transferred to Case within thirty (30) days from the first face to face with a child.

Transfer to Voluntary Family Maintenance [ER SW]

  • Contacts entered within two working days of each contact
  • Investigation Narrative
  • SDM Risk Assessment
  • Your Rights (Publication 13) – document that it was given to the parent(s)
  • DOJ Report Form, Inconclusive or Substantiated (DOJ 8583)
  • Response to Mandated Reporter – Notice of Referral Disposition (HSD 1266)
  • FM Case Plan signed by Parent(s)
  • FM referral form cover sheet
  • DOJ Report Form Inconclusive or Substantiated (DOJ 8583) unless for General Neglect or Substantial Risk
  • Notice to alleged perpetrator (HSD 1109 & SOC 832, 833, 834)
  • Transfer within Two (2) days of most recent visit

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