This policy reviews referral response times and how the Child Protection Hotline determines a response time. It provides guidance about both the Structured Decision Making (SDM) screening decision and the SDM response priority decision.
Table of Contents
This policy guide was updated from the 07/01/14 version to incorporate a recommendation from Evident Change’s Structured Decision Making (SDM) Fidelity Review for Child Protection Hotline (CPH) screeners to use the structure and definitions of the SDM Hotline screening tool when making screening decisions, to add information about 24-Hour Immediate Response referrals, and to update terms and procedures. The title of this policy was changed from “Response Times to Referrals.”
Child Protection Hotline (CPH)
The Child Protection Hotline (CPH) acts as the central point of entry for calls to DCFS regarding suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of children. The CPH decides if an in-person investigation is necessary (i.e., the screening decision) and determines the referral response (i.e., the response priority) by using the Structured Decision Making (SDM) Hotline Tools. Referrals that do not meet the criteria for an in-person response time will be at the CPH. Referral response times are used when a referral meets the criteria for an expedited, immediate, 24-hour IR, or five-day in-person response.
DCFS uses the statewide hotline tools that adhere to Division 31 regulations related to response times of twenty-four (24) hours and ten (10) days and, in part, this policy is intended to provide guidance in triaging the expanded response priority levels adopted by DCFS. These include Expedited Response, Immediate Response (IR), 24-Hour IR, Five-Day, and Five-Day By (specified date) referrals.
Expedited Response Referrals
An expedited response referral requires an in-person response to be initiated by a Children’s Social Worker (CSW) as soon as possible, but no later than two (2) hours after receiving the Expedited Response Alert notification from the CPH.
A referral will be assigned as "expedited" under the following circumstances:
- Law enforcement has taken a child into protective custody (including incidents of CSEC) and DCFS is called to receive and maintain the child and complete a separate, independent safety assessment to determine if the child should be taken into temporary custody
- Law enforcement arrests parent(s) and the parent(s) cannot arrange for their child’s care
- Law enforcement asks DCFS to conduct a joint response on a suspected child abuse and/or neglect call.
- Law enforcement is requesting an immediate, courtesy safety assessment when there is a concern that a child at a school, hospital, or another agency (such as DPSS or a DMH facility) may be unable to be located prior to a child abuse or neglect investigation being initiated
Immediate Response (IR) Referrals
An immediate response referral requires an in-person response be initiated as soon as possible, no later than the end of the shift in which the CSW received the referral. A referral will be assigned as "immediate" under the following circumstances:
- Imminent danger to a child is likely, such as physical pain, injury, disability, severe emotional harm, or death.
- Law enforcement personnel making the referral states the child is at immediate risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
- It is determined by the CPH CSW that the child referred by a law enforcement agency is at immediate risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
24-Hour IR Referrals
A 24-Hour IR allows for a response the next day or when most appropriate, but within twenty-four (24) hours of the referral being generated, in accordance with State regulations. The response to such an IR is by the end of the regional/investigating CSW’s shift, providing that the end of their shift does not exceed the 24-hour time frame. When warranted, a referral received between the hours of 9pm to 8am may be assigned as a “24-Hour IR” based on a consideration of protective capacities and any other factors that would allow the allegation(s) to be safely addressed within the next twenty-four (24) hours. These factors include:
- The age of the child(ren)
- The severity of any injuries
- An alleged perpetrator’s access to the victim (including whether an alleged perpetrator has been arrested)
- An alleged perpetrator’s pattern of behavior (impulsive and highly unpredictable vs. stable and predictable)
- Whether the family has prior history related to the current allegations
- Whether a non-offending parent is protective or another protective adult/caregiver is identified in the home
- Whether there is information to suggest the child will be abused within the next twenty-four (24) hours
- Whether the child is hospitalized and there are no siblings at risk
- Whether the child will be in any other identified safe environment within the next twenty-four (24) hours
- The date and/or time of day the alleged incident took place and whether the incident can be safely addressed within the next twenty-four (24) hours
Five-Day and Five-Day By Response Referrals
A "five-day" or "five-day by" date specified referral requires an in-person response be initiated within five (5) business days or by a specified date. A referral will be assigned as a "five-day" under the following circumstances:
- The CPH CSW has determined that an in-person immediate response is not appropriate.
- Law enforcement making the referral does not state the child is at immediate risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation and the CPH CSW determines that an in-person immediate investigation is not appropriate.
A referral will be assigned as a "five-day by specified date" when a threat of specific harm is not immediate, but is expected to occur prior to the fifth business day.
When the referral is taken by the CPH on a business day, the five-day clock begins on the day and time the referral is created by the CPH, counting that day as day one (1) and adding four (4) more consecutive business days. Weekends and County holidays are not business days; therefore, when the CPH creates a referral on the weekend or a County holiday, the five-day clock begins on the next business day. For example, if a referral is created by the CPH on Saturday, the five-day clock begins on Monday because that is the next business day and the CSW should initiate contact no later than Friday.
The Screening Decision
CPH CSW Responsibilities
- Decide if an in-person response is necessary using the structure and definitions of the SDM Hotline screening tool and guided by the criteria of the Emergency Response (ER) protocol outlined below:
In-Person Response Required
- Reporter has described specific acts and/or behavioral indicators suggestive of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
- The child(ren) can be located.
- It is a new incident of abuse that has not been reported to the CPH.
- The alleged perpetrator is a caregiver to the child.
- The caregiver is allowing, or is unable/unwilling to prevent the alleged perpetrator access to the child.
- There is additional information, e.g. collateral contacts and documentation that confirms the reported allegation.
- Reporter has not described specific acts and/or behavioral indicators suggestive of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
- The child(ren) cannot be located.
- The same incident of abuse has been reported to CPH.
- The caregiver is able and willing to prevent the alleged perpetrator access to the child.
- There is additional information, e.g. collateral contacts and documentation that invalidates the reported allegation.
- Reporter has described specific acts and/or behavioral indicators suggestive of abuse, neglect, or exploitation requiring an immediate investigation; however, the alleged victim is physically located in a county other than the home county, and the county where the victim is physically located has agreed to conduct a courtesy investigation.
- After completing item 1: If the child is a dependent or resident of another county and meets the
Determining the In-Person Response Priority
CPH CSW Responsibilities
- Determine which SDM response time decision tree should be used and followed.
SDM Response Time Decision Tree
Neglect Decision Tree
Physical Abuse Decision Tree
Sexual Abuse Decision Tree
Emotional Abuse Decision Tree
More than 1 allegation
Complete the Decision Tree corresponding to each type of allegation. The shortest response time determination among the completed decision trees must be used.
- If appropriate, follow the SDM response time overrides to increase or decrease the response time.
- If the expedited response time is used, complete the following:
- Gather and document the relevant information from law enforcement/reporting party, such as name, badge number, and phone number (including cell number) of the officer involved.
- Identify call as needing an "expedited" response.
- Immediately complete the Expedited Response Alert form.
- Upload the Expedited Response form into the open referral or case in CWS/CMS
- Obtain SCSW approval to send the Expedited Response Alert form to ERCP/region and
forward to designated CPH support staff to send the alert.
- Resume and complete the referral in CWS/CMS.
- When the circumstances of the referral are not captured by any of the decision trees, consult with an SCSW.
- If appropriate, request the SCSW approve the appropriate response time override.
- In WebSDM, select the applicable override reason (i.e., Courtesy interview at law enforcement’s request, Response required by court order) and explain the rationale in the “Staff Person Comments” or “Supervisor comments box (as applicable), or
- In WebSDM, select either “Local Protocol” or “Other” as applicable and explain the rationale for the override decision in the comments box.
- Complete the referral in CWS/CMS.
- All SDM tools used
- Expedited Response Alert
- Response Priority Override
Expedited Response Form
Referenced Policy Guides
0050-502.10, Child Protection Hotline
0050-503.65, Child Protection Hotline (CPH): Referrals Regarding Children in
0050-503.70, Child Protection Hotline (CPH): Alleged Perpetrator is not the Child’s Legal Parent or
0070-547.13, Concurrent Investigations with Law Enforcement
Response Operations (FRO) and DCFS.
0070-548.24, Structured Decision Making (SDM)
California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP) Division 31-105.115 - Sets forth the decision criteria on whether or not an in-person investigation is necessary.
CDSS MPP Division 31-115 - Sets forth when a social worker must conduct an in-person immediate investigation.
CDSS MPP Division 31-120 - Sets forth when a social worker must conduct an in-person investigation within 10 calendar days.