Anyone may report a concern about the health or safety of a child. In fact, some people (such as doctors, teachers, and social workers) are required to make a report within 24 hours if they have reason to suspect that something is wrong. Someone making a report does not have to give his or her name, although many do. Usually, the name of the person making the report will be made known only if a court orders it, or if court testimony is involved.
Any person who is the subject of a report is notified in writing of the general nature of the report. This information is provided as soon as possible at the beginning of the investigation (usually during the first contact with the Child Protective Services [CPS] worker).
After the investigation is completed, you may ask to see a copy of the personal information about yourself that is part of the record. Your request will be granted unless doing so would not be in the best interest of the child and the family.
Please remember that a report is a statement of concern, not placing blame. You are encouraged to cooperate with the CPS worker and try to help your child and your family.
Why would someone make a report?
The purpose of making a report is to identify possibly abused and neglected children as soon as possible so that they can be protected from further harm.
Some signs that people notice and may report are:
- Physical abuse, such as beating, burning, cutting, shaking, etc.
- Neglect of physical needs such as inadequate food, clothing, and shelter
- Mental abuse, such as a pattern of ridiculing, terrorizing, or rejecting
- Sexual abuse or exploitation, such as rape, incest, fondling or using a child as the subject of sexual photographs or videos
What happens next?
After the investigation is finished, the CPS worker must determine, and report, one of two dispositions: founded or unfounded. Prior to the rendering of a disposition you have the right to request an informal meeting to discuss the investigative findings with the Adult and Family Services division.
This is not an option when criminal charges have been filed. When you choose this predisposition consultation you must agree to waive the 45-day time frame the division is allotted to complete the investigation; however, the additional time will not exceed an additional 15 days.
What happens when the report was UNFOUNDED?
The investigation did not reveal that child abuse or neglect occurred. Unless you request services, the Adult & Family Services division of the Department of Human Services will no longer be involved with the family.
A record of the investigation will be kept for one year if there are no subsequent founded or unfounded reports regarding the same child or the person who is the subject of the report in that one year. The subject of the complaint may request that the record be kept for up to two additional years. Statistics only, without names, are kept by the state after applicable time periods have expired.
If the subject of the complaint believes that original report was made in bad faith, he or she may petition the circuit court to obtain the name of the person making the report.
What happens when the Report was FOUNDED?
If the Adult & Family Services division of the Department of Human Services decides that there is a preponderance of evidence that abuse or neglect occurred, the department will work with you to develop a plan to help the family and the child, and will notify you orally and in writing.
Records of founded investigations are kept by both the local department and the State Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry for 3 to 18 years, depending on the seriousness of the situation.
Information in the Central Registry is highly confidential and will only be released (other than to the Adult & Family Services Division) upon submission of your signed and notarized request or court order.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there are about 3,400 SUID incidents each year that involve infants less than one-year-old. Of those, almost a third are the result of accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. In 2019, there were seven infant deaths related to unsafe sleep conditions in Virginia Beach.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple, easy things that parents and caregivers can do to greatly reduce the risk of a SUID event and potentially save a young life. These best practices are simple, proven, and effective ways to ensure an infant has a safe night's sleep.
The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) recommends that anyone caring for a child less than a year old adhere to three main principles for safe sleep. Infants should be:
- Alone on a firm, safe sleep space
- Children less than one-year-old should never sleep in an adult bed, a couch, on a chair, or with any other person. Share a room, not a bed.
- Apart from any blankets or objects
- An object-free sleep space helps an infant avoid suffocating on loose bedding or choking on toys.
- Always on their back
- Infants should be placed on their back for every sleep by every caregiver until they’re at least one-year-old.
To learn more about safe sleep practices, and additional resources, please visit www.SafeSleep365.com.