Emergency Response (ER) services are provided 24 hours a day. When reports of suspected child abuse are received they are first screened by a Social Worker to determine if there is sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect to warrant an in-person investigation. Those reports that do not have sufficient evidence are “evaluated out” and a case is not opened. The family may be referred to other community services. If there is sufficient evidence, a Social Worker determines if an investigation needs to occur immediately or within 10 days. This decision is based on whether the child appears to be at imminent or substantial risk of abuse or neglect. Several outcomes can occur as a result of the investigation: the case is closed, the child remains at home and the parents accept services, or the child is removed from the parents.
If the ER Social Worker (or a police officer) determines that the child cannot remain safely at home, immediate steps are taken to remove and place the child in a safe environment, such as emergency foster care. The child can be placed into protective custody for up to 48 hours. During those 48 hours, a Social Worker will assess whether the child can safely be returned home with supportive services or whether the intervention of the juvenile court is needed.
If the Social Worker determines that the protection of the juvenile court is needed, they must prepare and file a petition with the juvenile court within 48 hours after the child has been removed from the parent or guardian. The petition is a legal document containing evidence that court intervention is necessary for the safety of the child. The court process involves a series of hearings and case reviews.