Chapter 2 : Section 6

Investigation Allegation Findings

Policy

The Department shall enter an investigation finding and reason in the case record within 45 days of the date that the Department received the initial report information.

The Department shall propose substantiation if there is probable cause to believe a child was abused or neglected or, if not, shall unsubstantiate the allegation.

The Department shall not substantiate an investigation allegation finding for the sole reason:

  • a child who in good faith is being furnished Christian Science treatment by a duly accredited practitioner;

  • a child’s parent, guardian or custodian refuses to put the child on a psychiatric medication or questions the use of a psychiatric medication;

  • a child’s parent, guardian or custodian is seeking inpatient treatment or an out-of-home placement for a child whose behavioral health needs pose a risk to the safety and welfare of the family; or

  • a child’s parent, guardian or custodian brings a child into their home and that child’s behavioral health needs pose a risk to the safety and welfare of the family.

The Department shall notify the alleged perpetrator of the investigation finding in writing when:

  • the findings are entered as Unsubstantiated; or

  • a final administrative decision has been made on a Proposed Substantiated finding.

The Department shall advise the alleged perpetrator of the right to appeal the proposed substantiated finding before entry of the finding into the DCS Central Registry and of the right to receive a redacted copy of the report.

The Department shall notify the alleged perpetrator when entered into the DCS Central Registry after the time to request a hearing on the proposed substantiated finding has lapsed without the Department receiving a request for the hearing.

The Department shall notify the parent, guardian or custodian in writing of the investigation finding if the:

  • parent, guardian or custodian is the source of the report; or

  • parent, guardian or custodian is the subject of the investigation.

Unless the Department can demonstrate that disclosure would cause a specific material harm to the DCS investigation, the Department shall verbally provide a reporting source a summary of the outcome of an investigation upon request. The summary shall include:

  • the disposition of the report;

  • the findings of the investigation; and

  • a summary of the services offered or provided to the child and family.

If the investigation indicates it is probable the reporting source knowingly made a false report, the Department shall make a report to law enforcement pursuant to A.R.S. §13-2907.02.

Procedures

Making an Investigation Finding

Enter an investigation allegation finding and the reason in the case record within 45 days of the date that the Department received the Report.

Unable to Locate

Enter a finding of Unable to Locate if the investigation cannot be completed because:

  • despite reasonable efforts, the child victim cannot be located; and

  • there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the child was abused or neglected without interviewing or observing the child.

If the Department receives a subsequent Report in which the child victim is able to be located, the allegations subject to the Unable to Locate finding shall be concurrently investigated. The Unable to Locate finding should only remain until the investigation has been completed and an appropriate finding is entered. See Investigating Previous Unable to Locate Findings in Disposition of Reports and Initial Response.

Unable to Locate is not subject to the appeals process. Refer to Locating the Child Victim and Family for Investigation procedures in Disposition of Reports and Initial Response.

When the identity of either a parent or child is known, cases with an Unable to Locate finding cannot be closed without prior approval from the Program Manager.

For reports containing criminal conduct allegations, a finding of Unable to Locate cannot be entered without prior approval from the OCWI Chief or Program Administrator. See Disposition of Reports and Initial Response.

Probable Cause

Probable Cause means the information gathered during the investigation would lead a reasonable person to believe that an incident of abuse or neglect occurred and was committed by the parent, guardian or custodian.

Impending danger safety threats may still be present in the family when there is a lack of evidence to substantiate the allegation. Enter a finding of unsubstantiated when the information gathered during the investigation does not support that an incident of abuse or neglect occurred based upon a probable cause standard. See Family Functioning Assessment at Investigation for procedures on impending danger determinations.

Unsubstantiated

Enter a finding of Unsubstantiated when the information gathered during the investigation does not support that an incident of abuse or neglect occurred based upon a probable cause standard.

The unsubstantiated statement may include the following:

  • Police Involvement

    • Briefly describe police involvement and their conclusion to the case, i.e., (Did they decline to respond, did they take a report, detectives involved

    • Outcome of the case, any arrests made and if so for what

  • Medical Opinions

    • Doctor's name and office/hospital

    • Doctor's written opinion regarding the injuries or non-injuries

  • Forensic Medical Review

    • Date and time of review

    • Doctor's name

    • Doctor's written opinion regarding the injuries or non-injuries

  • Forensic Interviews

    • Name of child interviewed

    • Date and time of interview

    • Brief synopsis of non-disclosure, i.e., child did not disclose ever being sexually touched in anyway by the perp, child denied being physically abused and or child refused to talk.

  • Interviews of those pertinent to the case

    • Parents, guardians or custodians, witness statements regarding the allegations i.e. denied causing injury, was unaware of any injury

  • Drug Testing

    • Results of toxicology on all those tested

    • Any refusals to submit to any drug test

An allegation of child fatality cannot be unsubstantiated until the autopsy report from the medical examiner is received and the information indicates a finding of Unsubstantiated is appropriate.

Propose Substantiate

Enter a finding of Propose Substantiate if there is probable cause to believe the child victim was abused or neglected. When the information gathered during the investigation supports that an incident of abuse or neglect occurred based upon a probable cause standard, consult with and obtain the approval of the DCS Supervisor to determine the investigation finding. Consult with the Protective Services Review Team (PSRT) Specialist when there are questions regarding whether the evidence supports the finding. For additional assistance with substantiation, see Substantiation Guidelines.

The proposed finding is subject to an appeals process completed by PSRT, which may involve a hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings. The alleged perpetrator may exercise the right to an appeal. PSRT will notify the alleged perpetrator of due process rights by sending an Initial Notification Letter with the proposed finding.

Proposing Substantiated Pending Dependency Adjudication

Use this finding when DCS or a private party files a dependency petition alleging abuse or neglect.

Notify PSRT when DCS files a dependency petition alleging abuse or neglect, and all parties agree that it is a child’s best interest to establish Permanent Guardianship without a dependency adjudication pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-871. Provide PSRT with the dependency petition, order granting permanent guardianship, and the DCS report number.

Proposing Substantiation on a Child Fatality

Enter a finding of Propose Substantiate of a child fatality allegation, including pending dependency adjudication, under any one of the following circumstances:

  • the medical professional or medical documentation confirms the following:

    • the child's injury or condition is most consistent with a non-accidental injury or due to parent, guardian or custodian neglect, and

    • based on the information provided at the time, it is the physician’s opinion that the child likely died as a result of this injury or condition;

  • the results of the autopsy concluded that the child fatality was the result of abuse or neglect;

  • the parent, guardian or custodian admits to causing the child fatality;

  • the parent, guardian or custodian has been arrested, indicted, charged or convicted for causing the child fatality; or

  • the child's surviving siblings are Adjudicated Dependent based on the child fatality.

The finding statement must establish a causal connection between the fatality and the alleged perpetrator's actions causing the abuse or neglect. If there is no causal connection, consider if a different category of substantiation is appropriate.

When completing fatality investigations, the autopsy report must be obtained prior to entering the finding(s) on the DEATH CHILD ABUSE or DEATH CHILD NEGLECT allegation(s), unless investigative information establishes probable cause to propose substantiation, absent the report from the Office of the Medical Examiner. When entering a finding absent the report from the Office of the Medical Examiner, the case shall be staffed with a Program Administrator or OCWI Chief prior to the entering of findings.

Proposing Substantiated Perpetrator Deceased

After an investigation, when the evidence supports that an incident of abuse or neglect occurred based upon a probable cause standard, and the perpetrator dies before the entry of the finding, the DCS Specialist will select Propose to Substantiate Perpetrator Deceased.

Proposing Substantiated Perpetrator Unknown

Enter a finding of Propose to Substantiate Perpetrator Unknown after an investigation when the information gathered during the investigation supports that an incident of abuse or neglect occurred based upon a probable cause standard and the alleged perpetrator’s identity cannot be confirmed.

Determining if the reporting source knowingly made a false report

To determine if the reporting source may have knowingly made a false report, consider the following:

  • there is a likelihood of financial gain or another benefit to the reporting source;

  • the reporting source has admitted to making a false report;

  • the reporting source has made a prior report where the evidence indicated the report to be false;

  • there is a history of family disputes;

  • there are custody issues being decided concurrently with the report;

  • there is evidence that the report was made to harass, embarrass, intimidate or harm another; and

  • there is evidence to indicate retaliation.

If there is a reasonable suspicion a reporting source made a false report, consult with the DCS Program Manager and Program Administrator to determine if law enforcement should be notified pursuant to A.R.S. §13-2907.02.

Providing Written Notification

The DCS Specialist or OCWI Investigator will provide written notification at the conclusion of the investigation at the following times:

Documentation

Record all information obtained from persons interviewed and correspondence received, in Notes or as an Artifact in Guardian. See Documenting Evidence to Support Proposed Substantiated Findings tool for guidance on how to fully document the investigation finding.

Document the finding statement on the Allegation form of your Assessment in Guardian. See Protective Services Review Team (PSRT) Finding Statement Templates tool for guidance on how to document the investigation allegation finding.

Document services offered or provided to the family when entering the finding statement. See Protective Services Review Team (PSRT) Finding Statement Templates and Protective Services Review Team (PSRT) Finding Statement Examples tools to assist with documenting the Finding Statement.

Document all efforts to locate the child victim when entering a finding of Unable to Locate.

File a copy of the notification letters in the case file and as an Artifact in Guardian.

Supervisors

Review the case record to ensure that the evidence supports the finding and that the finding statement is written in accordance with policy.

For Proposed Substantiated findings, supervisor approval is required. Review and approve or modify the proposed finding within five days of completion of the investigation, unless it is concerning an out-of-home care provider or child welfare agency. If it is concerning an out-of-home caregiver or child welfare agency, review and approve or modify the proposed finding within one day of completion of the investigation.

All findings of Unable to Locate must have a case note entered by the appropriate approver documenting the approval.

Document a false report by making the appropriate selection and providing an explanation on the Intake Disposition Screen.

Effective Date: March 21, 2022
Revision History: November 30, 2012, February 21, 2014, July 31, 2017, March 8, 2017, February 1, 2021