Several outcomes can occur as a result of the initial assessment/investigation: the referral is closed, the child remains at home and his/her parents accept services, or the child is separated from the parents.
Referral is Closed; No Case Opened
If the assessment/investigation finds no evidence of child maltreatment or insufficient evidence to determine whether child maltreatment occurred, the referral is closed.
Child Remains at Home and Parents Accept Services; Case Opened
If the assessment/investigation finds that the parents do not pose an immediate and high risk of maltreating their child or there is inconclusive evidence to substantiate abuse, the social worker can decide to leave the child at home and may offer the parents up to 30 days of emergency response services, or up to 6 months of voluntary Family Maintenance (non-Court) services. Voluntary Family Maintenance means that the family accepts services on a voluntary basis without court intervention; however, if the family situation does not improve within the 6-month period, a juvenile dependency court petition can be filed on the original allegations. If the investigation finds that the parents do not pose an immediate and high risk of maltreating their children, but the parents will not voluntarily accept services, the child may remain at home, but the Protective Services Worker may petition the court for an order to provide services (in other words, court-ordered family services) to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of the child.
Child is Separated from the Parents; Case Opened
If the Emergency Response 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 relative care or temporary shelter. The child can be placed into protective custody for up to 48 hours. A Team Decision-making Meeting (TDM) is immediately scheduled, which includes the family, Emergency Response social worker, and other community representatives to discuss the safety issues and placement needs. Throughout involvement with FCS, Protective Services Workers use a standardized, research-based risk assessment tool (known as Structured Decision Making or SDM) so that decisions about the child's welfare can be made as objectively as possible.