Chapter 2 : Section 1

Disposition of Reports and Initial Response

Policy

Upon receipt of a Department of Child Safety (DCS) Report by a local office, a DCS Program Supervisor, OCWI Manager, or other designated staff acting in a supervisor role shall assign one of the following dispositions:

  • Field Assessment;

  • No Jurisdiction – Out of State;

  • No Jurisdiction – Tribal; or

  • No Jurisdiction - Military.

Upon receiving information that there is or may be a federal statute, state statute, or court order that prohibits or restricts the Department from fully investigating the Report (e.g. the alleged maltreatment occurred on Tribal reservation land), the DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Chief shall review the court order and/or consult the appropriate jurisdiction to determine whether the Department will have a role in investigating the Report.

The Department shall initiate the response to a DCS Report in a timely manner, according to the Report response time frames specified in Prioritizing Reports, Assigning Tracking Characteristics and Reviewing Intakes.

The DCS Specialist shall initiate the response to a DCS Report by having in-person contact with an alleged child victim identified in the DCS Report, or by attempting to have in-person contact with an alleged child victim at the child’s known or probable location.

The Department shall make reasonable efforts to have in-person contact with each alleged child victim within the assigned Report response time frame.

The response time frame may be mitigated after law enforcement, other emergency personnel, or a professional mandated reporting source makes in-person contact with the alleged child victim(s) and provides information to the assigned local DCS office that confirms: (1) the child(ren)’s current whereabouts, (2) that the child(ren) are not in present danger, and (3) that a mitigating factor is present. Mitigating factors are:

  • The child is hospitalized and will remain hospitalized during the mitigated response time frame.

  • The child is under continuous supervision of a responsible adult and will remain there during the mitigated response time frame.

  • The Report is of a child death and it is confirmed that there is no other child in the home or the alleged perpetrator has no access to another child.

The initial Report response time frame is measured from the time the local DCS office receives the Report from the Child Abuse Hotline (Hotline).

When the Department has received a DCS Report, the Department shall make reasonable efforts to locate the child victim and family.

The Department shall notify the appropriate law enforcement agency when the DCS Report contains allegations of criminal conduct, in accordance with joint investigation protocols. If during the course of an investigation the Department determines that a criminal offense may have been committed or a new allegation of abuse or neglect not previously reported is present, the Department shall immediately provide information to the appropriate law enforcement agency and the Hotline.

The Department shall report immediately, but no later than 24 hours after receiving, information on missing or abducted children or youth to law enforcement authorities for entry into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.

The Department shall report immediately, but no later than 24 hours after receiving, information on missing or abducted children or youth to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Procedures

Disposition of Reports

When the local DCS office receives a DCS Report from the Hotline, the DCS Program Supervisor or another designated staff acting in a supervisory role will review the Report to determine:

  • if there is agreement of the Hotline's decision to take the report based on the information provided or initiate an Intake Review; or

  • to disposition the Report as one of the following:

    • Field Assessment;

    • No Jurisdiction – Out of State;

    • No Jurisdiction – Tribal; or

    • No Jurisdiction - Military.

The DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator is required to respond to the DCS Report based on the information provided and within the Report response time frame. When the name of the family is discovered, search Guardian to determine if the family already has a history with DCS.

Upon receiving information that a federal statute, state statute, or court order does or may prohibit or restrict the Department from fully investigating the Report, the DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Manager will review the court order and/or contact the appropriate jurisdiction to determine whether the Department will have a role in investigating the Report.

After contacting the appropriate jurisdiction, if it is determined that the Department will not have a role in investigating the Report (for example, when the family resides on American Indian Tribal land, or upon confirming that a statute or court order prohibits the Department from taking investigative action) the DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Chief will disposition the Report as No Jurisdiction - Tribal.

The Department shall provide a copy of the Report to the responsible jurisdiction. This includes contacting tribal law enforcement and tribal social services and applies to both criminal conduct and non-criminal conduct Reports. For more information about coordination of investigations when a family is currently on Tribal land, see Identification of an Indian Child and Determination of Jurisdiction.

Mitigating a Response Timeframe

The DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Manager may mitigate the Report response time frame when law enforcement, other emergency personnel, or a professional mandated reporting source made in-person contact with the alleged child victim(s) and provides information to the assigned local DCS or OCWI office to confirm:

  • each alleged child victim’s current whereabouts;

  • each alleged child victim is not currently in present danger;

  • there is no indication that any other child in the home is in present danger; and

  • one or more of the following mitigating factors is present for each of the alleged child victims:

    • the child is hospitalized and will remain hospitalized during the mitigated response time frame,

    • the child is under continuous supervision of a responsible adult and will remain there during the mitigated response time, or

    • the Report is of a child death and it is confirmed that there is no other child in the home or the alleged perpetrator has no access to another child.

The response time frame may be mitigated while the mitigating factor is present, and for no more than 24 consecutive hours. A response time frame of seven days (Priority and Response Time 4) may not be mitigated. The Department must make reasonable efforts to have in-person contact with each alleged child victim while the mitigating factor is present and within the mitigated response time frame.

Contact law enforcement to request a welfare check in the following circumstances:

  • An alleged child victim is currently outside of Arizona, across a state or federal border.

  • A two hour response time frame is assigned, but a child victim is two or more hours away from the assigned local office, so that DCS is not able to make in-person contact with the child within the response time frame.

  • There is concern for the safety of the DCS Specialist based on information in the Report or the criminal background of an adult in the home.

  • The DCS Program Manager has approved the welfare check to be requested for another reason related to the safety of a child or DCS staff.

Reprioritizing to Expedite Response Time

If a new Report contains allegations that require a more immediate response time than has been prioritized and assigned by the Hotline, the DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Chief should reprioritize the response time.

Reports that require a higher priority level and response time include but are not limited to:

  • in-home sexual abuse allegations where the alleged perpetrator has access to the victim(s);

  • the presence of bruises and/or injuries; and

  • potential need for urgent or immediate medical attention.

Assessing Previous Unable to Locate Findings

Prior to assigning a new Report to a DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator, the DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Manager must review the person prior history. If there is a previous investigation finding of Unable to Locate, the DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator must investigate the Unable to Locate allegations simultaneously with the allegations in the current Report. Upon completing the investigation, the DCS Specialist must change the Unable to Locate investigation finding to the appropriate finding. See Investigation Allegation Findings for more information.

Response to DCS Reports

The Report response time frame begins when a local DCS office receives the DCS Report from the Hotline either by telephone notification or when the Report is assigned (dispositioned) to the local office (appearing on the Supervisor’s Dashboard), whichever occurs first.

The DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator must initiate the response to a DCS Report within the assigned response time frame by having in-person contact with an alleged child victim identified in the Report, or attempting to have in-person contact with an alleged child victim at the child’s known or probable location.

The following examples do not constitute an initial response:

  • calling the reporting source for additional information;

  • requesting law enforcement to complete a welfare check; or

  • having a telephone call with a school nurse, school social worker, relative, neighbor, non-abusing parent, etc., who claims to ensure the safety of the child.

The DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator must make reasonable efforts to have in-person contact with each alleged victim within the assigned response time frame. When there are multiple children in the Report or a child’s location is not confirmed, initiate the response early enough to allow reasonable efforts to have in-person contact with all of the children within the Report response time frame. Reasonable efforts include actions to identify and respond to the probable location(s) of the child victims (such as the child’s home, non-custodial parent’s home, school or child care setting, and/or other probable locations identified in the Report or through other means). Prompt follow-up must occur until all alleged child victims and other children in the home have been seen in-person and the safety of each child has been assessed and managed, or reasonable efforts to locate each child have been made.

Locating the Child Victim and Family for Investigation

Reasonable efforts to locate the child and family for all cases assigned for investigation shall include:

  • Make at least three attempts to locate the alleged child victim(s) and any other children in the home through home visits at different times of day and on different days of the week during the Assessment.

  • Send a certified letter to the family's last known address.

  • Interview the reporting source or other persons who may have information about the location of the child victim or family such as the landlord or neighbors.

  • Review the Family Assistance Administration (FAA) AZTECS database in Guardian to determine if a current address is available for the child and the child's family.

  • Contact the County Jail and the Department of Corrections if the DCS Report or other information indicates current or recent incarceration.

  • Review public records and other open sites.

  • Contact the parent and/or Indian child’s tribe or the Indian custodian, if applicable.

  • Complete the DPS background check and review Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) information, when available, to determine if a current or recent address is available for the child's family.

  • Telephone calls to last known phone numbers.

  • If approved, conduct a search of social media.

Complete the following additional reasonable efforts to locate the child if the circumstance applies to the child or family:

  • if the child is of school age;

    • contact the child’s school or school district, if known; or

    • complete a search with the Arizona Department of Education; and

    • contact other schools in the area of the family’s last known address.

  • if the child is attending child care;

    • contact the child care provider, if known; or

    • contact the Department of Economic Security (DES) Child Care Administration to determine if the child is enrolled in another child care facility.

Request law enforcement assistance in locating:

  • the victim(s), or sibling(s) or

  • a child who is a ward of the court.

If the family is believed to have left the State of Arizona and the state to which the family is or may be moving is known, contact that state’s child protection agency.

If preliminary information gathered during the Assessment indicates the child victim is in present danger and/or impending danger and the whereabouts of the child and family remain unknown, consult with the Attorney General’s Office regarding filing a dependency petition.

Requesting Locate Assistance

If reasonable efforts to locate the family were unsuccessful, document locate effort attempts in a Note within Guardian, prior to submitting a family locate referral.

The DCS Specialist will submit a family locate referral if the DCS Report response time frame is priority 1 or 2. A family locate referral may be used as part of reasonable efforts to locate a parent, guardian, or custodian for DCS Reports with priority 3 and 4 time frames, but is not required if the search efforts outlined above in Locating the Child Victim and Family for Investigation have been completed.

The DCS Specialist will confirm that the absent or missing person is identified as a participant in Guardian. The Assessment must remain open while the referral is being processed.

The Person Record ID for the absent or missing person must be included in the referral. To increase the likelihood of a successful and timely locate outcome, provide as much information as possible on the locate referral form such as:

  • date of birth (DOB);

  • Social Security Number (SSN);

  • physical description; and

  • last known address (LKA), etc.

The requestor's section must be completed to serve as a contact mechanism should additional facts and/or clarification be needed to appropriately conduct the search.

Submit the locate referral as follows:

Upon receipt of the Family Locate results, the DCS Specialist shall review the results and take action to attempt to locate the family using the contact information identified. If the child and family are not located with the additional information, the DCS Specialist shall staff the case with the DCS Program Supervisor. The DCS Program Supervisor will confirm that sufficient efforts to locate were made.

Missing Children, Notification, and Entry into Databases

The Department of Child Safety is required to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency when DCS receives a Report made pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-3620 or receives information during the course of providing services to the child and family that indicates a child is at risk of serious harm and the child’s whereabouts are unknown (missing). A missing child may be determined to be at serious risk of harm based on the following:

  • the DCS Report narrative and/or additional information from the reporting source or other collateral contacts and a thorough review of the family’s history with DCS, including any law enforcement involvement; or

  • an assessment that the child is in present danger or unsafe due to impending danger based on information collected from collateral sources and interviews conducted with family members or others.

When a child is at serious risk of harm and is missing or has been abducted, the DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator shall consult with the DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Manger to determine whether the child is a “missing child.”

If it is determined that a child is missing, follow the applicable procedures relating to notification to law enforcement and OCWI, and entry into databases in Locating Children Abducted from State Custody.

Missing Child is Located

If notified by the Hotline that the missing child has been located by law enforcement:

  • immediately contact the law enforcement officer to determine the child’s location and information concerning the child’s current circumstances; and

  • respond to the location of the child to assess the child’s safety and determine the need for a protective action.

It may be necessary to make arrangements for the child’s immediate placement if the child has been taken into protective custody by law enforcement. Obtain a copy of the Temporary Custody Notice from the law enforcement officer.

If the child is located by means other than law enforcement:

  • respond to the location of the child, assess the child’s safety, and determine the need for a protective action; and

  • immediately notify the appropriate law enforcement agency that the missing child has been located.

If a missing child on an open case is located, the Hotline will:

  • issue an Intake to the unit where the case is open; and

  • contact the local DCS office where the child is located for an immediate response.

If a missing child on a closed case is located, the Hotline will:

  • take a report based on the primary parent’s residence; and

  • contact the local DCS office where the child is located for an immediate response.

Documentation

The DCS Specialist will print the results of the DPS check and place in the hard copy record in a sealed envelope marked “Confidential”.

The DCS Program Supervisor or OCWI Manager shall document the decision to assign a report as follows:

  • Field Assessment;

  • No Jurisdiction – Out of State;

  • No Jurisdiction – Tribal; or

  • No Jurisdiction - Military

Reports Dispositioned as No Jurisdiction

Document how and when the report information was provided to the appropriate jurisdiction, including the reason for no jurisdiction, in the Disposition Explanation narrative box.

Document the DCS Program Supervisor’s or OCWI Chief’s review and approval or denial of a decision not to take additional investigative action because there is a federal statute, state statute, or court order that prohibits or restricts the Department from fully assessing the report.

Document the following:

  • the specific jurisdiction contacted (i.e. tribe, other state's child welfare agency, local law enforcement, etc.);

  • the name of the person contacted and their title;

  • the date and time of the notification; and

  • the police report or incident number if applicable.

Documentation of a Mitigated Response Timeframe

Document information obtained from law enforcement, other emergency personnel, or a professional mandated reporting source who made in-person contact with the alleged child victim(s) and confirmed the Report met the criteria for a mitigated response time frame. Documentation shall include:

  • the name and profession of the person providing the information;

  • the date and time when the information was provided directly to the assigned local DCS office;

  • the date, time, and location of contact with each child victim;

  • information that indicates each alleged child victim is not currently in present danger;

  • information that indicates no other child in the home is in present danger;

  • information that indicates a mitigating factor is present for each child victim.

Document the name of the DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator who made the initial Department response. Document the date and time the DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator had in-person contact with an alleged child victim, or attempted to have in-person contact with an alleged child victim at the child’s known or probable location.

Documentation of Response Initiation by Child Safety Specialist or OCWI

For unmitigated Reports, Document the name of the DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator who made the initial Department response. Document the date and time the DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator had in-person contact with an alleged child victim, or attempted to have in-person contact with an alleged child victim at the child’s known or probable location.

Documentation of In-Person Contact with Children

Document the actions taken to initiate the response, and reasonable efforts to have in-person contact with each alleged victim within the assigned response time frame, including actions to identify and respond to the known or probable location(s) of the child victims.

Document continuing efforts to have in-person contact with all alleged child victims and other children in the home, and to assess and manage the safety of each child.

Program Supervisor missing child documentation

Document in the Missing Person Details Tab information regarding the report to law enforcement including the date the youth went missing, the name of the law enforcement agency, the date of the report, the report number, and the name and phone number of the law enforcement point of contact. Document notification of all parties and specific attempts to locate the child.

If law enforcement does not accept a “missing” child or adult person report, document efforts to make the report in the Missing Person Detail. Include contact made by the assigned Program Manager elevating the decision to the next supervisory level within the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Within 24 hours of a missing child being located:

  • update Guardian to reflect that the child has been located;

  • update the Tracking Characteristic; and

  • if the child was located by means other than law enforcement, ensure that the appropriate law enforcement agency has been notified.

Effective Date: February 1, 2021
Revision History: July 1, 2013, November 30, 2012, September 13, 2013 , October 28, 2014, April 4, 2015, May 6, 2016, March 30, 2017, October 31, 2018 , November 09, 2018, January 3, 2019, May 1, 2019. October 10, 2019.