An “investigation” is a response to a report of child abuse or neglect where the child appears to be in serious danger. It begins with gathering information to determine whether the abuse or neglect has actually occurred. An investigation will include a formal decision as to whether the reported abuse or neglect has occurred. (See 33 V.S.A. § 4912(7).)
DCF will visit the child’s home and interview the child. The interview with the child may take place without approval or permission of the child’s parent or guardian. DCF’s investigation will include a determination of the nature, extent and cause of any abuse or neglect. It will identify any person DCF believes is responsible for the abuse or neglect.
DCF will also look for any other children who may be at risk, whether or not those children live in the same home. These children may also be interviewed. DCF will also decide if there is immediate and long-term risk to each child if they remain in the home.
During an investigation, DCF may take photos of a child if they can see where a child has been hurt. Or DCF may work with a doctor. If the doctor feels it is appropriate, DCF may ask for a radiological exam (such as an x-ray) without the permission of a parent or guardian. (See 33 V.S.A. § 4915(b).)
When the investigation is done, the report of abuse or neglect will either be “substantiated” (determined to be true) or “unsubstantiated.” Either way, DCF will provide help to the child and family.
- If the case did involve abuse or neglect, DCF may ask the State’s Attorney to request an Emergency Care Order (see last section below). Services may be provided to the family whether or not the child remains in the home.
- If the case did not involve abuse or neglect, DCF may provide help to the child and the family. If there is neglect that is due only to the family’s lack of money, DCF may not formally rule that there is neglect. Instead they may work with the family to address their financial problems. (See 33 V.S.A. § 4915(b).)