DCF Agency Reform in the Handling of Reports of Abuse and Neglect

The Commissioner of the State Department of Children and Families (DCF), Joette Katz, issued an agency memorandum on February 27, 2012.  That memorandum was disseminated to all mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.  Mandated reporters include school teachers, principals, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals as well as registered or licensed practical nurses, psychologists, physicians, social workers, mental health professionals, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists. (Section 46a-11b(a)).

The purpose of the DCF memorandum was to inform all mandated reporters of DCF agency reform in the handling of reports of abuse and neglect through the DCF Hotline (now called the Careline).  In essence, DCF will now be implementing a Differential Response System (DRS) on all calls received through Careline.  The DRS is designed to improve family participation in their own case plans and treatment.

Under DRS, reports to the DCF Careline will be handled in one of two ways.  Reports of physical or sexual abuse will continue to receive a traditional forensic style investigation.  Investigations also will occur for reports involving potential criminal charges and for homes with two or more previous substantiated investigations, a previous Superior Court adjudication of abuse or neglect, or a previous assessment of high risk.  All cases will receive a safety and risk assessment.  Low and moderate risk cases meeting certain criteria will be assigned to the “Family Assessment Response” track.

It is important to note that the research and literature identifies that children with disabilities are 3 to 4 times more likely than their non-disabled peers to be abused or neglected.  A population based study by Sullivan and Knutson (2000) found that:

  • Children with visual impairments are at slightly greater risk to be neglected and      sexually abused and twice as likely to be emotionally maltreated than children without disabilities;
  • Children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing have twice the risk for neglect and      emotional abuse and almost four times the risk for physical abuse than      nondisabled peers;
  • Children with speech and language impairments have essentially five times the risk for neglect and physical abuse, almost three times the risk for sexual abuse, and almost seven times the risk for emotional maltreatment;
  • Children with intellectual disabilities have four times the risk for enduring      maltreatment in comparison to nondisabled children;
  • Children and youth with behavior disorders are seven times more likely to      experience neglect, physical abuse, and emotional abuse, and 5 times as likely to be sexually abused than children without disabilities;
  • Children with learning disabilities are essentially twice as likely to endure      maltreatment;
  • Children with health related disabilities are three times as likely to be neglected, physically, and emotionally abused and twice as likely to be sexually abused; and
  • Children with orthopedic disabilities are twice more likely to be emotionally      maltreated, sexually abused or neglected than children without disabilities.

In addition, there is a significant association between children with disabilities and academic achievement when children with disabilities who have experienced abuse or neglect are compared to their non-disabled peers who have experienced abuse or neglect.

To access the memo issued by Commissioner Katz, please see the following link:http://www.ct.gov/dcf/lib/dcf/mandatedreporter/pdf/drs_update_february_2012_mandated_reporters__3_.pdf

In addition, the Bureau of Special Education has a publication entitled Guidelines for Developing Policies and Procedures for Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect (2000) which can be found at http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Special/abuse.pdf.

To contact Maria Synodi, the author of this article, please call (860) 713-6941 or email her at maria.synodi@ct.gov.