REPORTS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT May 20, 2002 PT APPENDIX B THE ALLEGATIONS SYSTEM

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1 APPENDIX B THE ALLEGATIONS SYSTEM a) Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) Incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect reported to the Department are classified as physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect or a combination of the preceding three and recorded in the State Central Register s Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). The SACWIS enables the Department to identify and locate prior reports of child abuse or neglect; monitor the current status of reports of child abuse or neglect being provided services under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act; and regularly evaluate the effectiveness of existing laws and programs through statistical analysis and other information. During the course of an investigation the CPSW is required to contact various subjects and collaterals to obtain information to use as evidence to prove or disprove the pending allegation. Information received may or may not be relevant, and may or may not be true. The mandate of the CPSW is to determine what information is relevant so that it may be used as evidence to indicate or unfound an investigation. b) Credibility of Evidence For purposes of making child abuse and neglect investigation decisions, credibility of evidence means the likelihood that the information is accurate. The CPSW will use two types of evidence to support an investigative finding. The first is direct evidence. An example of direct evidence is a statement taken from an eyewitness. The second type of evidence is indirect or circumstantial. This type of evidence infers the existence or nonexistence of certain facts. For example, circumstances infer that a child s caretaker is the perpetrator of abuse when a child diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome has not been out of the care and custody of the caretaker. Evidence is that information that proves or disproves the allegation at issue. Information that does not prove or disprove the allegation is irrelevant. The CPSW and supervisor must evaluate the value and relevancy of case information to determine which information will be used as evidence, and which evidence is more or less credible. The CPSW and the supervisor must assess the credibility of evidence using the following factors and the SACWIS Child Abuse and Neglect Finding Matrix. The SACWIS Child Abuse and Neglect Finding Matrix, which will become part of the investigative file, will facilitate and document the assessment process. Appendix B - Procedures 300 (1)

2 1) Factors Affecting the Credibility of Evidence Obtained from All Sources Factors affecting the credibility of all evidence include, but are not limited to, the following: Corroborating Evidence: This is evidence that supports someone s prior statements or other evidence that may point to a certain determination of fact. This type of evidence is more credible than information that has not been verified or supported by independent sources. For example, a mother s statement that a physician has seen her child is made far more credible when the physician (corroborating witness) verifies that he or she has seen the child. Another example would be the child s statement that they were hit by an extension cord, and by observing the child s back you observe linear loop marks on the child s back (corroborating physical evidence). Source of Information: The more direct the source of information that serves as the basis for a source s opinion, the more credible the opinion. For example, a physician rendering an opinion based on a review of medical records is more credible than one rendering an opinion based on a caseworker s description of an injury. A physician rendering an opinion based on her or his direct physical evaluation is more credible still. Direct Interest: Information from a source who has something to lose or gain from a particular investigative outcome is less credible than information from one who has no direct interest in providing an account that may not be accurate. For example, a neighbor who has had no previous relationship to family and who reports that the young children have been left alone is more credible than a neighbor who has been feuding with the family and makes the same report. It should not be surprising that adults named as alleged perpetrators of abuse or neglect would want to present themselves in the best possible light during the investigation. Self reports concerning possible CA/N risk indicators such as use of alcohol/drugs; the extent to which they use corporal punishment/instruments in disciplining their children; their involvement in a domestic violence relationship; or the extent and nature of a relationship with a paramour/convicted sexual offender may be denied or minimized by the alleged perpetrators during interviews. Additionally these adults may give inaccurate characterizations of why they and their children are not regularly in contact with extended family members, when in fact these adults are estranged from extended family members because extended family members have concerns about the adults care of the involved children. It is imperative that the CPSW seeks objective corroboration of these self-reports. Family members and extended family members may even be consistent in denying or minimizing possible CA/N risk indicators (e.g., subject family and extended family members may be substance abusers). The CPSW must seek out additional collaterals to verify self-reports and consider information developed through personal observation, reports from professionals, or required interviews that will establish the accuracy of self- Appendix B - Procedures 300 (2)

3 reports. While information provided by potential perpetrators may be accurate, it must considered carefully since there is always motivation to present information that will lead to unfounding. There is no substitute for independent verification of this sort of information. 2) Factors Affecting the Credibility of Evidence Obtained from Professional Sources Those individuals classified as professionals may be viewed as credible witnesses. However, not all professionals are equal in terms of the credibility of the information they provide in specific situations. Factors influencing the degree to which a professional s information is credible include: Training: A professional who has more training is more credible than one who has less. For example, information about the mental state of a parent obtained from a psychiatrist is more credible than information obtained from a Bachelor Social Work counselor. Experience: A medical professional with more training/experience is more credible than one with less training/experience. For example, a pediatrician who is a member of the hospital staff is more credible than a pediatric resident. Specialization: An opinion provided by a professional may be considered more credible when he or she has a specialization relevant to the issue being considered. For example, a radiologist s opinion about the cause of a bone fracture is more credible than an opinion provided by a pediatrician; and an opinion provided by a pediatric radiologist with a specialization in the identification of child abuse is more credible than an opinion provided by a radiologist without that specialization. 3) Factors Affecting the Credibility of Evidence Obtained from Non- Professional Sources (Adult) The credibility of information obtained from non-professional sources, especially subjects of investigations, must be carefully evaluated. Particular consideration must be given to any direct interest non-professional sources may have in the outcome of an investigation. When weighing the credibility of non-professional sources of evidence, there is no substitute for independent verification of the evidence with additional sources. Factors influencing the degree of credibility of information provided by non-professional source s include: Consistency: Information reported in a consistent manner is more credible than information reported inconsistently. For example, a non-professional source that provides a significantly different description of an incident to a Appendix B - Procedures 300 (3)

4 police officer or a physician from that given to the CPSW is less credible than a person whose description of the incident remains constant. In order to verify the consistency of the previous obtained statements it is crucial that the CPSW not share information obtained from other sources with a source being interviewed. Plausibility: A plausible statement is one that is seemingly true based on the facts and circumstances. For example, the statement that a hand shaped bruise on a child s face was caused by a fall is obviously implausible. As a rule, qualified physicians must verify whether explanations given for physical injuries are plausible. 4) Factors Affecting the Credibility of Evidence Obtained from Non- Professional Sources (Children) The factors above in subsection (3) and the following factors should be applied to evidence obtained from children: Child s Age and Developmental State: Information provided by an older child is usually more credible than information obtained from a younger child with less developed cognitive abilities. For example, a detailed description of a complex chain of events given by a twelve year old is generally more credible than a description of the same series of events given by a verbal three year old. However, the opposite is true when a young child is able to give a plausible and specific description of situations that would normally be beyond his or her experiences (e.g., sexual acts). Plausibility: The plausibility of information gathered from children should generally be evaluated in the same manner as information gathered from adults. However, the evaluation must take into consideration the development of the child s communication skills and abilities. A young child may tell a true story in a way that would make the information seem implausible. For example, the child may describe ejaculation as a snake spitting. Evidence that an Account of the Facts Has Been Influenced by Others: A child s information is more credible when the child is interviewed out of the presence of adults with the ability and motivation to coerce, pressure or otherwise influence the child s statement; and the child has not been in the care of those same adults since the incident. For example, information about abuse allegedly committed by a father obtained from a young child who has been in the custody of the mother involved in a bitter divorce with the father may be less credible because the mother may have intentionally or unwittingly pressured the child into giving inaccurate information. Note: When making investigative findings, the credibility of each piece of evidence must be evaluated according to the above factors. The more Appendix B - Procedures 300 (4)

5 credible the information, the more weight it is to receive in reaching a decision. c) Using Evidence to Reach an Investigative Finding The final step in determining whether SCR reports will be indicated or unfounded is to consider all information obtained during the investigation and determine which information is relevant to be used as evidence to make a determination. It is of critical importance that all evidence suggesting that an incident of abuse or neglect did not occur be given the same consideration as evidence suggesting that an incident of abuse or neglect did occur. The SACWIS Child Abuse/Neglect Finding Matrix, musts be used to evaluate each piece of information to determine its relevance, credibility and weight of importance in proving or disproving the allegations presented. The supervisor is to review the matrix with the CPSW to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to lead a reasonable person to believe that the incident occurred or that the set of circumstances is or was present. Equal consideration shall be given to information entered in both columns. 1) If the answer is no the report is unfounded and consideration should be given to the need and potential for service provision. The following may never be used as the sole basis for unfounding a report: Intent to Harm the Child: The alleged perpetrator s intent to hurt a child, leave a mark, or endanger him or her by leaving him or her alone in a car is not a factor to be considered in making a finding. The law is clear that the showing of intent is not required to find abuse, but that the abuse occurred by other than accidental means. In reviewing the specific circumstances surrounding the allegation, the focus must be on whether the caretaker failed to exercise the care that circumstances required - what happened to the child not what was the adult s intent. One Time Incident: There is nothing in Illinois CA/N law that allows a report to be unfounded solely because the abusive/neglectful incident was a one-time incident. The incident must be evaluated giving greater weight to the other factors. It is equally inappropriate to unfound a case of an infant being left alone simply because it had not happened before. Agreement to Accept Services: The fact that a perpetrator agrees to receive services (or is already receiving them) has no effect on the decision to Indicate or Unfound an allegation. This determination is based upon the incident that occurred. Treatment can impact the safety and risk assessments, but not the finding decision. For example, a mother who hit a two-year old in the face with a belt should not be Unfounded simply because she is getting anger-management counseling. Appendix B - Procedures 300 (5)

6 Note: An exception to this rule is the failure to obtain required immunizations reported as medical neglect, which must be unfounded when the caretaker obtains the immunizations during the investigation. Economic Status or Neighborhood: Investigative decisions must never be influenced in any way by a family s economic status or by the condition of the neighborhood in which they live. The fact that families are wealthy or that they live in an affluent neighborhood plays no part in decisions to indicate or unfound reports. Attitude Toward the Worker: The attitude family members express toward the worker must not influence investigative decisions. Reports must never be unfounded because the family is compliant, agreeable, or cooperative with the worker. 2) If the answer is yes, the incident or set of circumstances is to be compared to the definitions of all relevant allegations and the established standard for indicating them to determine whether the situation fits. Relevant factors must be considered for applicable allegations [See Subsection (d)]. If the answer is yes, the report is indicated. The CERAP and risk assessment should be reviewed to determine what steps should be taken to assure the safety of involved children. The following may never be used as the basis for indicating a report: The Family s Need for Services: The decision to indicate must be based on evidence and not used as a way to get services to a family. Services can be provided to families whose reports are unfounded. Failure to Accept Services: Again, decisions about investigative decisions and service provision are separate. A family s refusal to accept services may be related to decisions about court intervention but not the decision to indicate a report. Economic Status or Neighborhood: Investigative decisions must never be influenced in any way by a family s economic status or by the condition of the neighborhood in which they live. The fact that families are poor or that they live in a disadvantaged neighborhood plays no part in decisions to indicate or unfound reports. Attitude Toward the Worker: The attitude family members express toward the worker must not influence investigative decisions. Reports must never be indicated because the family is argumentative, hostile, or uncooperative with the worker. Appendix B - Procedures 300 (6)

7 d) Factors to Be Considered REPORTS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT Some allegations, by their very definition, presume child abuse or neglect as defined by ANCRA. For example, a child who has suffered a subdural hematoma, internal injuries, bone fractures, or burns as the result of parental action or inaction is presumed to have been abused or neglected. Other allegations do not, by their very definition, presume child abuse or neglect as defined by ANCRA. For example, bruises or welts as the result of parental action or inaction may or may not be serious enough to constitute child abuse or neglect. Whether the incident constitutes abuse or neglect depends upon the extent of the injury, the location of the injury, the age of the child, and other pertinent factors. Allegations that do not constitute child abuse or neglect in every instance include: Cuts, Bruises, Welts, Abrasions and Oral Injuries Substance Misuse Substantial Risk of Physical Injury/Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare Inadequate Supervision Inadequate Shelter Inadequate Food Inadequate Clothing Environmental Neglect Medical Neglect Failure to Thrive (Non-Organic) Medical Neglect of Disabled Infants In reports where one of these allegations of harm is included, the report-taker must first apply the "factors" to determine if the alleged harm is serious enough to constitute a report of alleged abuse or neglect. After verifying the actual harm to the child, the investigative worker must apply the factors again to determine if the harm is serious enough to indicate the report. Factors that help the investigator weigh the child's maturity; ability to make sound judgments and ability to care for or protect himself or herself including the age of the child are common to several allegations. The age of the child is associated with his/her level of vulnerability. The younger the child, the more vulnerable he/she is. The age of the child is a common indicator of risk of maltreatment. In addition, the age of the child is a strong predictor of recurrence of maltreatment. Young children are at greater risk for severe child abuse injuries. The worker needs to consider the child s age in the context of his/her physical, emotional and developmental abilities. (Note: Injuries to older children should not be disregarded because of the youth s age.) Appendix B - Procedures 300 (7)

8 In determining whether a factored report is to be indicated the worker must assess: the child s age in relation to other factors such as physical, emotional and developmental impairments; the child s level of vulnerability; how this factor contributed to the maltreatment; and the parent s perception of the child. Generally, reports involving preverbal children who are alleged vicitms of inflicted cuts, bruises, welts, or abrasions, inadequate supervision, inadequate food, medical neglect, or failure to thrive (Non-Organic) should be indicated when credible evidence is obtained. In reports where one of these allegations of harm is included, the report-taker must first apply the "factors" to determine if the alleged harm is serious enough to constitute a report of alleged abuse or neglect. After verifying the actual harm to the child, the investigative worker must apply the factors again to determine if the harm is serious enough to indicate the report. Certain principles were used to select those allegations where factors should be applied. The first principle is that although parental responsibility for the provision of protection, supervision, food, shelter, clothing, education, and a sanitary environment continues until the child attains age 18 or is a legally emancipated minor, the need for the parent to provide these things decreases as the child's own ability to protect himself or to obtain or provide these necessities increases. The second principle is very similar to the first. The risk/harm to the child decreases as the child's own ability to protect himself or herself, comprehend danger in a given situation or to obtain or provide these necessities increases. Factors that help the investigator weigh the child's maturity; ability to make sound judgments and ability to care for or protect himself or herself are common to several allegations. In addition, other factors help the investigator weigh the seriousness of each incident. These two types of factors separate true allegations of child abuse or neglect from examples of poor parenting. e) Allegations The allegation definitions focus upon the harm or the risk of harm to the child. Many of the allegations of harm can be categorized as resulting from either abuse or neglect. All abuse allegations of harm are coded with a one or two digit number under thirty. All neglect allegations of harm are coded with a two-digit number greater than fifty. The allegations of harm are categorized and coded as follows: Appendix B - Procedures 300 (8)

9 ABUSE #1 Death #51 Death #2 Head Injuries #52 Head Injuries NEGLECT #4 Internal Injuries #54 Internal Injuries #5 Burns #55 Burns #6 Poison/Noxious Substances #56 Poison/Noxious Substances #7 Wounds #57 Wounds #9 Bone Fractures #59 Bone Fractures #10 Substantial Risk of Physical Injury/Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare #11 Cuts, Bruises, Welts, Abrasions and Oral Injuries #60 Substantial Risk of Physical Injury/Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare #61 Cuts, Bruises, Welts, Abrasions and Oral Injuries #12 Human Bites #62 Human Bites #13 Sprains/Dislocations #63 Sprains/Dislocations #14 Tying/Close Confinement Abuse Only #15 Substance Misuse #65 Substance Misuse #16 Torture Abuse Only #17 Mental and Emotional Impairment #67 Mental and Emotional Impairment #18 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Abuse Only #19 Sexual Penetration Abuse Only #20 Sexual Exploitation Abuse Only #21 Sexual Molestation Abuse Only #22 Substantial Risk of Sexual Injury Abuse Only Neglect Only #74 Inadequate Supervision Neglect Only #75 Abandonment/Desertion Neglect Only #76 Inadequate Food Neglect Only #77 Inadequate Shelter Neglect Only #78 Inadequate Clothing Neglect Only #79 Medical Neglect Neglect Only #81 Failure to Thrive (Non-Organic) Neglect Only #82 Environmental Neglect Neglect Only #83 Malnutrition (Non-Organic) Appendix B - Procedures 300 (9)

10 Neglect Only #84 Lock-out Neglect Only #85 Medical Neglect of Disabled Infants f) Purpose of the Allegation System The allegation-based system provides specific allegations to assist in focusing the investigator's attention on the incident/circumstances at hand. The system eliminates the need for investigators to review every aspect of a family's life and environment. The allegations also provide a framework for decision-making by SCR and investigative staff and provide an important investigation tracking and record keeping function. In order to fulfill the purposes of the allegation-based system, it is essential that the allegations be narrowly defined and used consistently throughout the state. In the past, there has been a tendency to mark too many allegations in completing the SACWIS reports, thus thwarting the goal of focusing the investigation on specific issues and concerns. Accordingly, the allegations have been redefined and revised to allow only limited interpretation and usage. To verify the existence of specific injuries or a medical condition, a doctor's diagnosis is frequently required. (See allegation definitions for specific requirements.) If a doctor, or other medical source, will not or is not able to share information or speak with an investigator, the diagnosis may be documented through a police report or an interview with a police officer, which details the doctor's findings. Medical sources are preferred and are absolutely required for several allegations. g) Reasonable Efforts to Stop Abuse It is important to note that a significant change has been made in the usage of many of the allegations of harm. Henceforth, if "a parent, caretaker, immediate family member, other person residing in the home, or the parent's paramour" fails "to make reasonable efforts to stop an action by another person which resulted in" a specific allegation of harm to the child, that person is alleged to be the perpetrator of ABUSE, not neglect as in the past. The practice of alleging that a person is the perpetrator of neglect was not in keeping with the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (ANCRA). ANCRA includes persons who allow injury to be inflicted in its definition of abuse. "Reasonable efforts to stop abuse" is defined as those actions that could have stopped abuse of the child without posing an imminent threat to the person s own safety. Minors are not expected to intervene between an adult and another child. Appendix B - Procedures 300 (10)

11 h) Injuries Caused by Blatant Disregard of Parental or Caretaker Responsibilities Another important change is the way in which NEGLECT is defined and used in those allegations of harm, which may be attributable to either abuse or neglect. A child may sustain a harm (e.g., brain damage, death, etc.) because of the "blatant disregard" of the parent or caretaker in his or her responsibility to oversee and protect the child. In such instances, the harm is the same to the child, but the cause is attributable to NEGLECT, not abuse. To constitute neglect, the allegations require that the harm to the child must have been the result of a blatant disregard of parental or caretaker responsibilities. "Blatant disregard" is defined as incidents where the risk of harm to the child was so imminent and apparent that it is unlikely that a parent or caretaker would have exposed the child to such obvious danger without exercising precautionary measures to protect the child from harm. i) Use of Factors Must Be Documented The investigative worker must document the following information on a SACWIS Investigative Summary for those allegations where factors have been applied: which factors were considered in deciding whether to indicate or unfound the report; the information relevant to each factor; and the reasons for recommending the finding. j) Persons Who May Be Considered Perpetrators of Child Abuse or Neglect The following guidelines clarify which persons may be considered perpetrators of child abuse or neglect. RELATIONSHIP PARENTS Legal and/or Biological Parents (Includes Non-Custodial Parents) Step Parents Adoptive Parents IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS Biological Brothers and Sisters Step-Brothers and Sisters ABUSE X X X X X NEGLECT X X X See Note See Note Appendix B - Procedures 300 (11)

12 Adopted Brothers and Sisters Biological Grandfather and Grandmother Step-Grandfather and Grandmother Adopted Grandfather and Grandmother INDIVIDUALS RESIDING IN THE SAME HOME AS THE CHILD May Include Foster Brothers and Sisters (To determine residency, the person should maintain clothing and personal effects at the address, receive mail at or have identification using the address or otherwise identify the residence as his or her home. Visitors or short-term quests are not included in this category.) May Include Foster Brothers and Sisters PARAMOUR Parent s Boyfriend or Girlfriend Paramour means a significant other (e.g., boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, partner, friend or putative father) who is involved in an intimate/romantic relationship with one of the custodial parents of the children who come to the official attention of the Department through a child abuse or neglect investigation and/or open case; does not have a legally recognized and/or significant, continuous and stable relationship with all of the children; and may or may not live in the same household of the custodial parent of the involved children. PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHILD'S WELFARE (CARETAKER) Legal Guardian of the Child Foster Parents Appendix B - Procedures 300 (12) X X X X X X X X X See Note See Note See Note See Note See Note See Note See Note X X

13 Relative Caretakers Day Care Home Caregivers (Regardless of whether licensed or license-exempt. Includes home other persons residing in the home.) Day Care Center Employees (Includes all employees and volunteers who have direct contact with children) Residential Care Facility Employees (Includes all employees and volunteers who have direct contact with children) Other Caretakers or Baby-Sitters (When the child's parents or legal guardian has a verbal or written agreement for the person to assume responsibility for the child s care during the parent or guardian s absence. Includes home caregiver and other persons residing in the home.) Other Persons Any other person responsible for the child s welfare at the time of the alleged abuse or neglect. Included in this category are health care professionals, educational personnel, recreational supervisors, and volunteers or support personnel in any setting where children may be subject to abuse or neglect. X X X X X X X X X X X X Note: In accordance with ANCRA, an immediate family member, other person residing in the same home as the child or the parent's paramour cannot be alleged as the perpetrator of child neglect unless they were acting as the child's caretaker when the incident occurred. k) Expanded Allegation Definitions The requirements and guidelines for completing investigations are delineated in the expanded allegation definitions. Each allegation contains the following information: Definition of Allegation Appendix B - Procedures 300 (13)

14 Taking a Report Acceptable Reporter/Source Usage Factor to Be Considered (Not applicable to all allegations.) Investigating the Report Documentation/Evidence to Support a Finding Requirements for Initial Investigation Requirements for Proceeding to a Formal Investigation Requirements for Formal Investigation Required Medical Information and/or Consultations Law Enforcement/State s Attorney Notification and Involvement Notification of Findings l) Retention Schedule Identifying information contained in indicated reports is retained in the State Central Register for 5, 20 or 50 years depending on the Allegation. See Procedures 300, Subsection (c) for information on how to assign a case retention schedule for indicated cases. If there are multiple indicated allegations in a report, all of the allegations will be retained for the longest length of time assigned to an allegation in the report. m) References Definitions of the allegations were taken in part from: Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. Edited by Clayton L. Thomas. M.D., M.P.H., Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, Interdisciplinary Glossary on Child Abuse and Neglect: Legal, Medical, Social Work Terms, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing office, Appendix B - Procedures 300 (14)

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