DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 1: INTAKE

1-9

Child Fatalities and Near Fatalities

 

Intake

1-9  Child Fatalities and Near Fatalities

Reference Points
Overview
Definition of "Near Fatalities"
Responsibility of Mandated Reporters
The SOC 826 Form
Child Abuse and Neglect Center (CANC) Screening Social Worker Procedures
CANC Social Work Supervisor Responsibilities
Timelines for Completing and  Submitting the SOC 826 Reporting Form
Filing and Distribution of the SOC 826 Reporting Form
Public Requests for Information Related to a Child Death
Public Requests for Information Related to a Near Fatality
Other References


Reference Points
Effective Date: In effect
Last Updated: 6/6/2013
 Legal Basis:
PDF CDSS All County Letter (ACL) 09-02: Regulations Implementing Senate Bill 39 Child Fatality Disclosure and Reporting Requirements
PDF ACL 08-13: Reporting and Public Release of Records in Cases of Child Fatality or Near Fatality as a Result of Abuse and Neglect
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 827
Popup Window WIC § 10850.4
Popup Window Penal Code § 11166(a)(2)
Popup Window

Penal Code Section 11174.34

Popup Window California Senate Bill 39
Popup Window Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
PDF Child Fatality/Near Fatality County Statement of Findings and Information (SOC 826)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Referral Management Section
bullet Client Notebook: Demographics


Overview  

The federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires that states disclose to the public, findings and information about cases of child abuse and neglect that result in fatalities or near fatalities.  In order to comply with this requirement, public child welfare agencies must provide relevant case specific information not only on child fatalities where there is reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect but also on near fatalities.

Pursuant to Penal Code Sections 11166.9(k) and (l), “law enforcement and child welfare agencies shall cross report all cases of child death suspected to be related to child abuse or neglect whether or not the deceased child has any known surviving siblings” and Penal Code 11174.34 requires that child welfare agencies create a record in the Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS) on such cases.  Reports must be taken on all children, including stillborns, who die in Santa Clara County, whether or not they are served by DCFS.

In addition to the record on CWS/CMS, and as part of its case reviews of child fatalities, the Children’s Services Operations Bureau of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) requires notification. This includes all child fatalities determined to be the result of child abuse or neglect in which there has been current or prior child services involvement and cases in which the deceased child has no siblings. Each county must identify a single point of contact responsible for completing and faxing the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Child Fatality County Questionnaire and submitting any needed additional information not available on CWS/CMS.  See CDSS web site, Child Fatalisties/Near Fatalities Resulting from Abuse and/or Neglect.


The purpose of these laws is to coordinate and integrate state and local efforts to address fatal child abuse and neglect and to create a body of information that can help prevent future child deaths.

It is the responsibility of the assigned social worker to investigate referrals concerning the fatality or near fatality of a child and to assess whether the incident was a result of child abuse or neglect by the child's parent or caregiver.  The assessment is made in conjunction with reports from collateral agencies such as law enforcement, the coroner, and hospitals.

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Definition of "Near Fatality"  

The definition of "near fatality" is "a severe childhood injury or condition caused by abuse or neglect which results in the child receiving critical care for at least 24 hours following the child's admission to a critical care unit."



The definition of "near fatality" for purposes of providing information to the public and reporting to the CDSS is different and more restrictive than the definition of "serious or severe injury" or "severe physical abuse", as defined in W&IC 300(e) and in the CDSS MPP Division 31-002(9)(C). 

"Near fatality", "serious or severe injury", or "severe physical abuse" all may include such injuries as head trauma, abdominal trauma, and severe neglect, which often result in critical care for a least 24 hours.  However, "severe physical injury" or "severe physical abuse" can also include such injuries as broken bones, which are non-life-threatening and may or may not be considered a "near fatality" injury, depending upon the circumstances.

All categories, ""near fatality", "serious or severe injury", or "severe physical abuse" activate a law enforcement response as written in the Santa Clara County Police Chief's Association Protocol for Severe Child Injury or Death (SCID).  However, a "serious or severe injury" or "severe physical abuse" may not reach the theshhold for "near fatality".  The terms "near fatality" and "serious or severe injury" or "severe physical abuse" are not interchangeable for purposes of providing information to the public and reporting to CDSS.

 

 
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Responsibility of Mandated

Reporters

  Under PC 11166 (a)(2), mandated reporters must make a report of child deaths and near fatalities to the child welfare agency as soon as practically possible by telephone and prepare and send a report by mail, fax, or electronic transmittal, within 36 hours, even if the child has expired, regardless of whether or not the possible abuse was a factor contributing to the death, and even if suspected child abuse was discovered during an autopsy.
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The SOC 826 Form  

The most recent version of the Child Fatality/Near Fatality County Statement of Findings and Information (SOC 826, rev. 8/09):

  • Fulfills federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) reporting requirement
  • Limits the submission of the form to the CDSS to when the fatality or near fatality is "determined to be" the result of abuse and/or neglect.
  • Includes additional information in Part C for near fatality reporting to include the findings.



The revised SOC 826 (8/09) must be used starting 11/10/09 for all original submissions for all fatalities or near fatalities that are determined to be the result of abuse and/or neglect occurring on or after November 10, 2009.

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Screening Social Worker Procedures  

When a report of a child fatality or near fatality is received in the Child Abuse and Neglect Center (CANC), the Screening social worker:

  • Gathers information to generate a referral.

  • If the report is made by a law enforcement officer, asks the following clarifying questions. 
    1. Is this a Severe Child Injury or Death (SCID) Protocol call?
      • The SCID Protocol requires that DFCS be contacted and notified by law enforcement when a severely injured child or a deceased child’s body is located at a potential crime scene.

    2. Are you requesting information/history or an in-person response at this time?
      • If law enforcement is requesting information only, the screening social worker must state to the law enforcement referent:

      “Based on the information you have provided, we are not initiating an in-person response at this time and are taking this as an Information Only notification.  If new information is obtained or you believe that in in-person response is indicated, you will need to call us back to initiate a referral.”

    3. (in the event of child death) Are you treating this death as a homicide at this time?

    4. Are you rendering a medically supported conclusion?

    5. Are you able to rule out neglect or abuse at this time?

    6. Have you assessed the individual safety and well-being of each minor in the home and family?

    7. Do you currently have any concerns about the safety of siblings or other children in the home?

    8. Does anyone in the home (adult or minor) have a criminal history of substance abuse or violence?  (Note: this does not require specific rap sheet information.  A ‘yes” response will require an in-person response.)

    If it is determined by the questioning that the report will not be prioritized for an in-person response, and the report is taken for Information Only, then the Screening social worker must state to the law enforcement officer:

    “Based on the information you have provided, we are not initiating an in-person response at this time and are taking this as an Information Only notification.  If new information is obtained or you believe that in in-person response is indicated, you will need to call us back to initiate a referral.”

  • Immediately informs a CANC social work supervisor or After-hours supervisor (when there is not a CANC Supervisor on duty) that a report concerning a child fatality or near fatality has been received and apprises the supervisor of the circumstances of the report.

  • Generates a referral for every report of a child fatality or near fatality when there is reasonable suspicion that the event was the result of abuse or neglect.
    • If the child is in the CWS/CMS database, update the child’s client notebook.
    • If the child does not exist in the CWS/CMS database, create the client notebook for the child.
    • When another reporter calls in the same child’s death, generate a secondary referral.
     
    • If a near fatality, the date of the near fatality is entered in the Near Fatality field.
    • If a fatality, the date of and information regarding the fatality is recorded in the Deceased fields.
    • If the referral is opened or already assigned to an Emergency Response (ER) or Dependent Intake (DI) social worker or if the case is open to a Continuing social worker at the time of the child’s death, it is the assigned social worker's responsibility to ensure that the information in the client notebook is accurate.  However, it remains the responsibility of the Screening social worker to complete the Deceased fields on the Demographics Page of the Client Notebook when a report is called in.

    Complete the Demographic Page with the following information:

      • Date of fatality
        • If the actual date is unknown, use the date of the referral as the date in the Deceased field and indicate in the Death Circumstances Comment that the actual date is unknown.
        • Do not check the box to indicate Date of Death Verified.
      • Death Circumstances Type
        • The social worker discusses the child’s cause of death with his or her social work supervisor in order to make a determination regarding the selection of “Death Circumstances Type.”
        • If unknown, or medical evidence or confirmation is pending, select “undetermined” or “suspected abuse” as appropriate, and enter in the Death Circumstances Field;
        • Select “Homicide” only if law enforcement has determined that the child was killed by murder or manslaughter, and there is no suspicion of abuse or neglect by the caregiver;
        • If law enforcement or a physician suspects that the child died as a result of abuse and/or neglect by a caregiver, select “suspected abuse;”
        • If a physician verifies that a child died of natural causes and no abuse or neglect is suspected, select “natural causes;”
        • Use “accidental” only after the fatality has been investigated by law enforcement or DCFS, and no caregiver abuse and/or neglect was suspected;
        • Select “suicide” if verified by a physician and/or law enforcement;
        • If, after investigation, DFCS and/or law enforcement, and/or the medical examiner have concluded that child abuse and/or neglect occurred, select "confirmed abuse."
          • The conclusion must be corroborated by law enforcement and/or the medical examiner.
        • Briefly explain what is known about the fatality in the Death Circumstances Comments Field.
      • Place of Death
        • Enter the name of the medical facility where death was pronounced. 
          • If the child did not die at a medical facility, enter the address where the death occurred.
      • Death Circumstances Comment
        • Include the actual date of the death or the date the death became known in this section.
     
  • In the Screener Alert box in the CWS/CMS referral, enters “Child Fatality Referral”  or "Near Fatality Report."
  • Completes a CWS/CMS database search on all known members of the family or on any relevant substitute caregivers, the family or caregiver's home address, and the address where the fatality occurred, if other than a medical facility.
     
  • Completes the Screener Narrative and include the following information and responses to questions:
    • “Child Fatality Referral”
    • Date of death or near fatality
    • Are there other children in the home who need to be assessed?
    • Does the family currently have an open case with DCFS?
      • If yes, provide the name and phone number of the assigned social worker.
    • Is there a history of protective services with DCFS or other child protective agencies? If possible, summarize the nature of the prior referrals.
      • If possible, summarize the nature of the prior referrals and the date range for the prior referrals/cases, including whether or not there is history on the parents when they were children.
    • Indication of whether this is the first time that the family/child has ever been referred to DCFS and/or any other child protective agency.
    • A clear synopsis of response determination, including reasoning for a downgrade, including the facts and assessment relied upon by the manager who is overriding a default response (expalined below).
      • Do not simply indicate that the downgrade was made per instructions of a manager.
  • Completes the referral and cross-reports to the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the fatality or near fatality occurred.
    If... then the... takes the following action...
    the deceased child has no siblings and there is no open services case
    Screening social worker

    Evaluates-out the referral, unless law enforcement has requested an in-person resonse, in which case the referral is designated as an Immediate Response (IR) priority.

     

    Screening social work supervisor
    Gives a hard copy of the referral documents to a Social Services Program manager (SSPM) or his/her designee for review and approval, prior to supervisor approval, to Evaluate-out or to downgrade an Immediate Response (IR) priority to a 10-Day Response priority.
    SSPM

    Reviews the case with the Screening social worker, social work supervisor, and DFCS law enforcement liaison, taking into consideration:

    • The responses to the questions given by the reporting party to the Screening social worker and statements made by the Screening social worker;
    • The potential risks and liabilities of not responding; and
    • DFCS' ability to provide support and community referrals and resources.

     

    There is the ability to evaluate a call as a "No-report" when natural deaths have been medically attended by a physician or when there is documented evidence (i.e. Videotape) to prove no abuse/neglect.

    the deceased child has siblings
    Screening social worker
    • Creates a referral for the siblings, as victims or as at risk or abuse or neglect

    • Designates the referral as an Immediate Response (IR).
    Social work supervisor
    • Gives a hard copy of the referral documents to a Social Services Program manager (SSPM) or his/her designee for review and approval, prior to supervisor approval, to Evaluate-out or to downgrade an Immediate Response (IR) priority to a 10-Day Response priority  or to make the referral a Non-Report.
    SSPM

    Reviews the case with the Screening social worker, social work supervisor, and DFCS law enforcement liaison, taking into consideration:

    • The responses to the questions given by the reporting party to the Screening social worker and statements made by the Screening social worker;
    • The potential risks and liabilities of not responding; and
    • DFCS' ability to provide support and community referrals and resources.

     

    There is the ability to evaluate a call as a "No-report" when natural deaths have been medically attended by a physician or when there is documented evidence (i.e. Videotape) to prove no abuse/neglect.

     

 

 

  • Makes the referral Sensitive in CWS/CMS.
  • Forwards the referral to ER clerical for ID-ing. 
  • If given an Immediate Response (IR) priority, assigns the referral to the IR social worker or Joint Response social worker, as appropriate.
    • If the referral is a 10-Day Response, forwards it to the ER clerical for ER unit assignment.

       

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CANC Social Work Supervisor or Afterhours Supervisor Procedures  

The responsibilities of the Child Abuse and Neglect Center (CANC) social worker supervisor are to:

  • Receive notice from the Screening social worker that a report was received regarding a child fatality or near fatality.

  • Immediately, upon being informed of the report, telephones the CANC program manager and gives the following information:
    • That a report was received regarding a child fatality or near fatality
    • The identifiers and circumstances of the report
    • The response priority determination
    • A brief synopsis of any child welfare history in CWS/CMS.

      • The Afterhours supervisor (Monday through Friday, 5 pm to 9 pm):
        • Telephones the Emergency Response/Afterhours program manager with the above information).
        • Sends an e-mail notification to the in-box titled "Child Fatality or Near Fatality Notification" with the following information:
          • Notification that a report was received concerning a child fatality or near fatality
          • The referral name and number
          • The name and birth date(s) of the involved child(ren)
          • The circumstances reported in the referral
          • The response priority determination
          • The assigned investigating social worker
          • The involved law enforcement agency
          • A brief synopsis of any child welfare history from CWS/CMS.

  • Review all referral documents and all associated documents.

  • Confirm that all children in the family are accounted for in the referral documents.

  • Confirm that the Demographics Page of the CWS/CMS referral has been completed correctly.
If the referral... then the CANC supervisor...
Is incomplete Returns it to the screening social worker for corrective action.
Has been completed correctly Gives a hard copy to the CANC Program Manager

 

  • Obtain approval from the Program Manger prior to approving the referral being evaluated out.
  • If the referral is Evaluated-out, consider making a DR Path 1 referral.
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Timelines for Completing and  Submitting the SOC 826 Reporting Form  

The Child Fatality/Near Fatality County Statement of Findings and Information (SOC 826) is used by county child welfare agencies to report child fatalities and near fatalities to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).  The Santa Clara County contact person for reporting fatalities and near fatalities is the Department of Family and Children's Services Administrative Support Bureau Social Services Program Manager (SSPM).

     
  • For a fatality that is determined to be as a result of abuse or neglect.
    • The staff person completing the SOC 826:
      • Completes Parts A and B of the SOC 826  immediately upon notification of the final determination by the child welfare agency or by a medical examiner, law enforcement officer, probation officer, or other investigating agency.

  • For a near fatality that is determined to be as a result of abuse or neglect.
    • The staff person completing the SOC 826:
      • Completes Parts A and C of the SOC 826 immediately of notification of the final determination by the child welfare agency or by a medical examiner, law enforcement officer, probation officer, or other investigating agency.
  •  
       
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Filing and Distribution of the SOC 826 Reporting Form  

The social worker or supervisor who completes the SOC 826:

  • Makes six copies of the SOC 826 and places one in the case file.
  • Hand delivers:
    • The original SOC 826 and three copies to the Administrative Support Bureau Social Worker, Ronni Smith, 373 W. Julian St., 5th floor.  Tel: 975-5746.
    • A copy to his or her supervisor and manager.



The Administrative Support Support Bureau Supervisor:

  • Reviews the SOC 826 for accuracy and completeness.
  • Faxes the SOC 826 to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) within ten (10) business days of notification of final determination from the investigating agency.

  • Mails the original SOC 826 to CDSS.

  • Forwards a copy of the SOC 826 to the:
    • Social worker or manager who submitted the SOC 826
    • Supervisor or manager of the staff person who submitted  the SOC 826
    • DFCS Director
    • DFCS Deputy Director
    • Program Manager of the QIET Unit
      • Stanley.Lee@ssa.sccgov.org
    • SSA Director's Executive Assistant
      • Conni.Nicosia@ssa.sccgov.org

  • Places one copy in the Administrative Support Bureau files for Fatalities and Near Fatalities.
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Public Requests for Information Related to a Child Fatality  

Upon receiving a request to release records to the public regarding a child fatality, DFCS staff must immediately forward the request via email to:

  • Stanley Lee, Policy and Planning Manager, Government Relations

and copy the email to:

  • Jaime Lopez, Acting Director, Development and Operations Planning
  • Lori Medina, Director, Department of Family and Children's Services

DFCS is required to release to the public, upon request, the following information within five (5) business days of learning of a child fatality wherein there is a reasonable suspicion that the fatality was a result of abuse or neglect.

  • The age and gender of the child
  • The date of the fatality
  • Whether the child was in foster care or in the home of his/her parent/guardian at the time of the fatality
  • Whether an investigation is being conducted by law enforcement or DFCS

If the investigation determined that the fatality was NOT a result of abuse or neglect, no further information is released to the public.

If the investigation concludes that the fatality was the result of abuse or neglect, specified documents specified under SB 39 must be released to the public, upon request, within ten(10) business days of the request or completion of the investigation, whichever is later. 

  • Any supplemental documents not covered still require a court order under WIC § 827. 
  • The SOC 826 meets the mandated release criteria under SB 39 for suspected cases of child abuse or neglect that result in fatality and may be used for the public release of information.  The boxes that are shaded on the SOC 826 must be redacted prior to release. 
  • Prior to the release of any documents, the custodian of records must redact any personal identifying information, any information that would jeopardize a criminal investigation or proceeding, or any information that is privileged, confidential, or not subject to disclosure pursuant to state or federal law.  The names, addresses, telephone numbers, ethnicity, religion, or other identifying information or any person or institution other than the county or the CDSS shall be redacted prior to releasing any document.
  • Upon receiving a request for documents from the deceased child's juvenile case file, the custodian of records must notify and provide a copy of the request to counsel for any child connected with the file.
  • Once documents have been released regarding a child fatality, the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) may comment on the case within the scope of release.

Any inquires to the CDSS for release of information is referred to the county with reporting responsibility.

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Public Requests for Information Related to a Near Fatality  

Senate Bill 39 requires that local child welfare agencies respond directly to public requests for information related to child fatalities that are the result of abuse or neglect.  It is not the responsibility of DFCS to respond to any public request for information regarding near fatalities

All public requests for information regarding near fatalities is referred to CDSS, which is responsible for responding to such requests.  Information submitted by DFCS on the SOC 826 is used by CDSS for the pertinent information.  Upon receiving a request to release records to the public regarding a child fatality, DFCS staff must immediately forward the request via email to:

  • Stanley Lee, Policy and Planning Manager, Government Relations, Nicole.Huff@ssa.sccgov.org

Tele: 755-7773

and copy the email to:

  • Jaime Lopez, Acting Director, Development and Operations Planning, Jaime.Lopez@ssa.sccgov.org
  • Lori Medina, Director, Department of Family and Children's Services, Lori.Medina@ssa.sccgov.org

 

If the information is requested directly from CDSS, CDSS notifies DFCS that the request has been made, provides the name of the person or entity making the request, and informs DFCS of when the information is to be released.

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Other References  
bullet2 OPP Chapter 1-5: Emergency Response Protocol
bullet2 OPP Chapter 2-6: ER: Referrals on Children Under DFCS Supervision
PDF SSA Media Contact Policy
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