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The Screening Decision

The screening function is the first point at which a judgment must be made about a child's safety. The information obtained from the referent is used to make a judgment about the necessity to intervene and the speed and nature of the agency's response.

The purpose of screening is:

  • To determine whether an incoming allegation meets the criteria for assessment/investigation and is appropriate for Child Protective Services (CPS).
  • To gather sufficient information about the referred family to locate the family and child(ren), and to identify children who may be in danger.
  • To determine whether the information indicates the need for an emergency response because a child appears to be unsafe.

In accordance with section 2151.42.1 of the Revised Code, the public children services agency (PCSA) shall investigate each report of known or suspected child abuse or child neglect, or threat thereof, which is referred to it. Furthermore, section 5153.16(A)(1) of the Revised Code also states that the PCSA shall make an investigation concerning allegations of an abused, neglected, or dependent child. Based on the information obtained from the referent, the agency must determine whether the allegation meets the criteria for assessment/investigation.

A referral is an allegation of child abuse and/or neglect, dependency, or family in need of services made orally or in writing. It includes, but is not limited to, allegations involving individuals, families, and out-of-home care settings.

A report is a referral accepted by the PCSA as a result of the screening decision for PCSA assessment/investigation, services, and/or intervention.

To determine whether a referral meets the criteria to be accepted as a report and assigned for assessment/investigation, the information provided by the referent/reporter should indicate that a child is suspected of being abused or neglected or was abused and/or neglected, that a child is dependent (or suspicion thereof), or that a family is in need of services.

Abused Child, pursuant to 2151.03.1 of the Revised Code, includes any child who:

  • Is the victim of sexual activity as defined under Chapter 2907 of the Revised Code, where such activity would constitute an offense under Chapter 2907 of the Revised Code except that the court need not find that any person has been convicted of the offense in order to find that the child is an abused child.
  • Is endangered as defined in section 2919.22 of the Revised Code, except that the court need not find that any person has been convicted under 2919.22 of the Revised Code in order to find that the child is an abused child.
  • Exhibits evidence of any physical or mental injury or death, inflicted other than by accidental means, or an injury or death which is at variance with the history given of it. Except as provided in this definition, a child exhibiting evidence of corporal punishment or other physical disciplinary measure by a parent, guardian, custodian, person having custody or control, or person in loco parentis of a child is not an abused child under this definition if the measure is not prohibited under 2919.22 of the Revised Code.
  • Because of the acts of his parents, guardian, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child's health or welfare.
  • Is subjected to out-of-home care child abuse.

Neglected Child, pursuant to section 2151.03 of the Revised Code, includes any child:

  • Who is abandoned by the child's parents, guardian, or custodian.
  • Who lacks adequate parental care because of the faults or habits of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian.
  • Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care or treatment, or other care necessary for the child's health, morals, or well being.
  • Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide the special care made necessary by the child's mental condition.
  • Whose parents, legal guardian, or custodian have placed or attempted to place the child in violation of sections 5103.16 and 5103.17 of the Revised Code.
  • Who, because of the omission of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child's health or welfare.
  • Who is subjected to out-of-home care child neglect.

Nothing in Chapter 2151 of the Revised Code shall be construed as subjecting a parent, guardian, or custodian of a child to criminal liability when, solely in the practice of religious beliefs, the parent, guardian, or custodian fails to provide adequate medical or surgical care or treatment for the child.

Dependent Child, pursuant to Section 2151.04 of the Revised Code, means any child:

  • Who is homeless or destitute or without adequate parental care, through no fault of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian;
  • Who lacks adequate parental care by reason of mental or physical condition of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian;
  • Whose condition or environment is such as to warrant the state, in the interests of the child, in assuming the child's guardianship;
  • To whom both of the following apply:
    • The child is residing in a household in which a parent, guardian, custodian, or other member of the household committed an act that was the basis for an adjudication that a sibling of the child or any other child who resides in the household is an abused, neglected or dependent child.
    • Because of the circumstances surrounding the abuse, neglect, or dependency of the sibling or other child and the other conditions in the household of the child, the child is in danger of being abused or neglected by that parent, guardian, custodian, or member of the household.

Family in Need of Services Report is a report that services be rendered to a family. This report type includes requests which have been made for a PCSA to provide or to facilitate a specific set of services.

Child Abuse and Neglect Reports

After determining that the information contained in the referral constitutes a report of child abuse and/or neglect, the PCSA conducts an assessment/investigation to determine:

  • If the child's immediate safety is a concern and, if it is, the interventions that will ensure the child's protection while keeping the child within the family or with extended family members, if at all possible;
  • If child maltreatment occurred;
  • If there is a risk of future maltreatment and the level of that risk;
  • If continuing agency services are needed to address any effects of child maltreatment and to reduce the risk of future maltreatment.(1)

The PCSA shall determine the type(s) of assessment/investigation. There are four types of assessment/investigations:

  • An Intra-familial assessment/investigation is conducted by a PCSA in response to a child abuse and/or neglect report and includes an alleged perpetrator (AP) who is one or more of the following:
    • A member of the alleged child victim's (ACV) family.
    • Has sanctioned or continued access to the ACV (e.g., boy/girlfriend of the parent not living in the home, neighbor).
    • Is involved in daily or regular care of the ACV, excluding a person responsible for the care of a child in an out-of-home care setting (e.g., unlicensed/uncertified child care provider).

    The requirements for conducting an intra-familial assessment/investigation are contained within rule 5101:2-36-03 of the Administrative Code.

  • A Specialized Assessment/Investigationis an assessment/investigation conducted by a PCSA in response to a child abuse or neglect report and includes an alleged perpetrator who meets one or more of the following criteria:
    • Is responsible for the care of a child in an out-of-home care setting as defined in rule 5101:2-1-01 of the Administrative Code (e.g., a school teacher).
    • Is a person responsible for a child's care in out-of-home care as defined in section 2151.011 of the Revised Code (e.g., a day camp counselor, a foster parent, a pre-finalized adoptive parent, an employee of a residential facility, or a licensed/approved child care provider or facility).
    • Has access to the child by virtue of his/her employment or affiliation with an institution (e.g., a Boy/Girl Scout leader).

    The requirements for conducting a specialized assessment/investigation are contained within rule 5101:2-36-04 of the Administrative Code.

  • A Third Party Investigationis the requirement that a PCSA request the assistance of law enforcement or another PCSA or both when conducting an assessment/investigation due to the potential conflict of interest a PCSA may have assessing/investigating an entity when the following parties are involved as alleged perpetrators or principals of the report of child abuse or neglect:
    • Any employee of an institution or facility that is licensed or certified by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) or another state agency and supervised by the PCSA (e.g. PCSA's own licensed group home and child residential center).
    • A foster caregiver or pre-finalized adoptive parent that is licensed, certified, or approved by ODJFS and supervised by the PCSA (e.g., PCSA's own approved pre-finalized adoptive home or PCSA's own licensed foster caregiver).
    • Any employee, or agent of ODJFS or the PCSA as defined in Chapter 5153. of the Revised Code (e.g., PCSA's own employee or an ODJFS employee).
    • Any authorized person representing ODJFS or the PCSA who provides services for payment or as a volunteer.

    A third party investigation shall also be completed any time a PCSA determines that they have a conflict of interest.

    A third party investigation may be an intra-familial assessment/investigation or a specialized assessment/investigation depending upon the relationship of the alleged perpetrator with the alleged child victim.

    The requirements for conducting a third party investigation are contained within rule 5101:2-36-08 of the Administrative Code.

  • A Stranger Danger investigation is a type of investigation identified under the "Family in Need of Services" intake category and its definition is contained in the section below.

Dependency Reports

The requirements for conducting a dependent child assessment/investigation are consistent with the requirements for conducting an intra-familial assessment/investigation (for child abuse/neglect reports). The alleged child victim will be the child who is subject to the report and there will be no identified alleged perpetrator.

The requirements for conducting a dependent child assessment/investigation are outlined in rule 5101:2-36-09 of the Administrative Code.

Family in Need of Services Reports

In addition to child abuse, neglect, or dependency reports, an agency may also serve families when services are being requested and/or provided.

A Family in Need of Services is a report category in which a request has been made for a PCSA to provide or to facilitate one or more of the following types of services to a family:

  • Home Evaluations/Visitation Assessments

    A Home Evaluation is the collection of information requested by a court, other PCSA, or other child serving agency (CSA) regarding a prospective caregiver and his/her ability to provide care to a child. A court or out-of-county PCSA may request a PCSA to conduct such a home evaluation. Rule 5101:2-42-18 of the Administrative Code outlines the requirements for approval of such placements. A Home Evaluation may also be ordered by a court for the purposes of determining child visitation.

    A Visitation Assessment is a summary of information regarding visitations between the child(ren) and parent or other individual(s) as ordered by a court or requested by a PCSA.

  • Courtesy Supervision

    Courtesy Supervision is a request made by a PCSA or CSA to another PCSA for assistance in providing protective services to a family who is residing in the jurisdiction of the second PCSA.

  • Required Non-Lead PCSA Interviews

    Required non-lead PCSA interviews are interviews of principals and collateral sources conducted as requested by a PCSA or CSA on behalf of the lead PCSA as required by rules 5101:2-36-03, 5101:2-36-04, and 5101:2-36-09 of the Administrative Code.

  • Child Fatalities that are not a result of abuse/neglect

    The PCSA may provide intervention services to a family when information is received that there has been a child fatality in the family that was not the result of child abuse and/or neglect (CA/N).

  • Unruly/Delinquent Youth

    Per section 5153.16 (A)(3) of the Revised Code, the PCSA shall accept custody of children committed to the PCSA by a court exercising juvenile jurisdiction. Furthermore, rule 5101:2-33-26 of the Administrative Code states that the county Child Abuse and Neglect Memorandum of Understanding shall include a system for receiving and responding to reports involving individuals who aid, abet, induce, cause, encourage, or contribute to a child or a ward of the Juvenile Court becoming an unruly or delinquent child.

  • Deserted Child (Safe Havens Law)

    Per rule 5101:2-1-01 of the Administrative Code, a deserted child is a child whose parent has voluntarily delivered the child to an emergency medical services worker, peace officer, or hospital employee without expressing an intent to return for the child and who, pursuant to sections 2151.35.16 and 2151.35.17 of the Revised Code, is less than seventy-two hours old and has no apparent signs of abuse or neglect. Rule 5101:2-36-06 of the Administrative Code outlines the PCSA requirements for a deserted child investigation.

  • Stranger Danger Investigation

    Per rule 5101:2-36-05 of the Administrative Code, a Stranger Danger Investigation is defined as a report to the PCSA alleging a criminal act against a child of assault or sexual activity as defined under Chapter 2907 of the Revised Code and includes an alleged perpetrator who is all of the following:

    • Is not a member of the ACV's family.
    • Has no sanctioned or continued access to the ACV.
    • Has no relationship with the ACV and family.
    • Is not involved in the daily or regular out-of-home care for the ACV.

    The alleged perpetrator is unknown to the alleged child victim/family prior to the act.

  • Preventive Services

    Services provided by the PCSA aimed at promoting awareness or preventing child abuse and/or neglect which have been requested by and provided to children and families who have no current allegations of child abuse, neglect, or dependency. Examples of these services include: parenting education; requests for emergency monetary funds; or positive toxicology screen of unborn child (no other children residing in the home).

  • Emancipated Youth

    Per rule 5101:2-42-19.2 of the Administrative Code, the PCSA shall, when requested, provide services and support to former foster care recipients, who emancipated from that agency's custody due to attaining 18 years of age. The services and supports are to complement the young adult's own efforts to achieve self-sufficiency, and shall be available until the young adult's 21st birthday.

  • Permanent Surrender

    Per rule 5101:2-42-09 of the Administrative Code, the PCSA may enter into an agreement with the parents, guardian, or other persons having custody of a child to voluntarily surrender a child into the permanent custody of an agency when there is a mutual agreement that a permanent surrender would be in the best interests of the child.

  • Post-Finalization Adoption Services

    Per rule 5101:2-1-01 of the Administrative Code, post-finalization adoption services are services provided or arranged by the PCSA to support, maintain, and assist an adopted child, adoptive family, or birth parent anytime after finalization of an adoption.

  • Postnatal Placement Services to Infants of Incarcerated Mother

    Per rule 5101:2-42-60 of the Administrative Code, the PCSA shall have the responsibility for helping the mother and the correctional facility plan for the infant including investigation and recommendation regarding whether a placement plan arranged by the mother provides for the infant's care and safety, and arranging substitute care for the infant.

Information and/or Referral

In accordance with rule 5101:2-1-01.1 of the Administrative Code,Information and/or Referral is an intake category in which information is provided to any person to assist in locating or using available and appropriate resources. At intake, this category is applicable when the PCSA determines the information received does not constitute a CA/N or Dependency report or a Family in Need of Services Report and the PCSA refers the reporter to the appropriate agency or service provider (e.g., Juvenile Court, mental health, educational services) or provides information to the reporter. Information and/or Referral may also include additional information received which does not constitute a new report of child abuse and/or neglect on an open intake or ongoing protective services case.

Guidelines for Screening

Screening decisions are critical decisions. Gathering the appropriate information at the screening level can greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency's response and can allow agencies to act quickly to protect children in danger.

When the referent/reporter believes the information he/she has provided constitutes a report of child abuse and/or neglect, dependency, or family in need of services, but the screener determines that the referral information does not meet the parameters of abuse and/or neglect, dependency, or family in need of services, the PCSA shall screen the referral out.

The PCSA shall not contact collateral sources prior to making the screening decision thereby accepting the referral as a report.

Definitions and examples designed to assist in making screening decisions are located in the Screening Guidelines.