Department for Community Based Services

Standards of Practice Online Manual

2.11 Investigation Protocol

Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Department for Community Based Services
Division of Protection and Permanency
Standards of Practice Online Manual
Chapter 2-Child Protective Services (CPS) Intake and Investigation
2.11 Investigation Protocol

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Legal Authority/Introduction





The child's safety is always the paramount concern for the child protective services (CPS) caseworker. There are at least two key decision points during which the child’s safety is evaluated.
•  At the first contact with the child and family, when the SSW must decide whether the child will be safe during the investigation.  This involves addressing the question, is the child in danger right now?

•  At the conclusion of the investigation, when the caseworker determines the validity of the report and the level of risk for further maltreatment.

Safety refers to a current condition within a home or family and considers whether or not there is an immediate threat of danger to a child. A threat of danger refers to a specific family situation that is out of control, imminent, and likely to have severe effects on a child. A child is assessed to be safe when there is no threat of danger within the family or home, or, if such a threat does exist, the family has sufficient protective capacities to protect the child and manage the threat.

Risk refers to the likelihood of maltreatment occurring in the future.  An assessment of risk includes the identification of risk factors, which are family behaviors and conditions that create an environment or circumstances that increase the chance that parents or caregivers will maltreat their children. Risk factors of various degrees and seriousness may exist within a single family, and some risk factors are better than others for indicating the likelihood of child maltreatment.
Examples of factors that have been associated with increased risk of child maltreatment include parental substance abuse, domestic violence, and parental childhood history of abuse. Young children and children with disabilities have also been found to be at greater risk for maltreatment because of their greater dependency on others for care.

Practice Guidance

General Practice Guidance
  • The SSW has access to all records and documentation to complete an investigation regarding the child alleged to have been abused or neglected and the alleged perpetrator. 
  • Throughout the investigation, the investigator and FSOS are responsible for assessing for safety threats imminent risk by considering the following: 
    • Children with (or indications there may be) serious injuries from physical abuse, particularly those in critical areas of the body (Refer to Inflicted Head Trauma Fact Sheet and Traumatic Skin Lesions Fact Sheet);
    • Children ages five (5) years and younger;
    • Children suffering from acute untreated medical condition(s) that demand urgent attention whose parent/caretaker is refusing to obtain treatment or cannot be located;
    • Self-referral from a parent/caretaker who states they are currently unable to cope or feel they may harm their child(ren);
    • A child who expresses fear of their current circumstances;
    • Sexual abuse allegations in which the perpetrator is suspected to have immediate access to the alleged victim or other children in the home;
    • Physical abuse or neglect appears imminent;
    • A child presently receiving bizarre forms of punishment, for example being locked in a closet or tied to a chair or bed;
    • A child at risk of immediate harm from a parent/caretaker who is behaving in a bizarre manner;
    • Abandoned (parent/caretaker has no intent to return) children who are currently without supervision of a responsible adult;
    • Children who are currently without supervision by a responsible person who are at risk of harm based on their age, environment, or other factors. The investigation determines the child’s level of maturity, development and ability to function safely alone and whether the family has an established plan of action in case of emergency;
    • Situations involving weapons; or
    • Other situations related to the caregiver's high risk behaviors that constitute immediate risk to the child in the judgment of the FSOS and SSW. 
  • The worker’s contact with the parent or caretaker should occur in the home promptly, or as soon as possible, after interviewing the child(ren) unless there are documented safety threats. issues.
  • The worker does not identify the reporting source to anyone, unless ordered to report such by a court of competent jurisdiction.  If included as a collateral interview, the reporting source should only be identified in the case record/TWIST as a collateral source, rather than the referral source in order to maintain confidentiality.
  • Additional information should not be shared with the reporting source, unless the reporting source is a person in a continuing and ongoing professional relationship with the child or family (such as a physician, therapist, family resource center staff, health department staff, or teacher) and meets the standard under KRS 620.050 as having a legitimate interest in the case.  The worker or FSOS consults with the regional attorney, as needed, when there are concerns regarding the sharing of information.  Workers and supervisors should note that drug treatment information and psychotherapy notes are protected under federal law and cannot be reproduced without a specific release from the client. 
  • When information is to be shared, the worker:
    • Informs the reporting source with legitimate interest that the information is being shared based upon the conditions of KRS 620.050 and information may not be further shared with others; 
    • Shares information that may be relevant with the person with legitimate interest that is specific to the child, summarizing services the parent/caretaker may be receiving to address abuse or neglect issues including:
    • Concerns related to safety threats issues for the child;
      • Domestic violence;
      • Substance use disorder;
      • Mental health history;
      • Learning disabilities of the parent/caretaker; or
      • The finding of an investigation.
  • If necessary, the worker or FSOS may seek assistance from the regional attorney and/or law enforcement if a family or individual fails to cooperate with an investigation. 
  • If the parent has already made an appropriate adoptive plan for the child, the SSW may work the investigation simultaneously with the adoptive plan continuing, and SSW may not need to seek emergency custody of the child with the appropriate adoptive plan in place. Contact the Adoption Services Branch at 502-564-2147 with questions or regarding the validity of the adoptive plan.


Practice Guidance Specific to Methamphetamine Labs

  • Initiation of a meth lab allegation investigation should take place within four (4) hours.
  • The investigator does not enter a meth lab location.  If worker or investigator encounters a meth lab during a case contact, the worker/investigator leaves immediately and contacts law enforcement for assistance.
  • The worker or investigator cooperates with law enforcement regarding meth lab protocol.  Law enforcement and a site safety officer may direct documentation of the scene and decontamination procedures.  In the absence of coordination by law enforcement, the worker may contact emergency medical services (EMS) as necessary to evaluate children found in a meth lab and decontamination procedures.  When EMS are not required, the worker ensures that all children that have been exposed to methamphetamine, or the chemicals used to produce methamphetamine, are taken to an emergency room or appropriate medical facility for a complete medical assessment and appropriate decontamination.  If decontamination procedures are not available at the scene, the worker: 
    • Leaves all of the child’s personal belongings (including shoes, blankets, toys, etc.) at the home, due to possible contamination by dangerous toxins;
    • Uses gloves, if possible, to clean the child’s face, hands, and hair with water;
    • Places a protective covering (paper suit), if available, over the child’s clothing for protection; and
    • The SSW may use a blanket, if available, to cover the car seat prior to placing the child in a car for transporting. 
  • The worker utilizes the DPP-106I Methamphetamine Exposure Medical Evaluation and Follow-Up Form to document the physical health and care of an exposed child.  Refer to the Meth Lab Protocol for CPS Workers-Intake and Assessment of Children in or Exposed to Meth Labs and Meth Lab Protocol-Medical Evaluation for Children and Adults.
  • Methamphetamine testing should be completed if possible, within two (2) hours, but no longer than twelve (12) hours, of removal since the drug may not be detectable after that time.  The worker requests from the medical facility the following diagnostic testing: 
    • Urine drug screening, including methamphetamine testing at a detection level;
    • Diagnostic lab work to include the following:
      • CBC with differential; and
      • Chemistry panel including BUN/creatinine and liver functions.
    • Additional tests should include the following:
      • Vital signs;
      • X-ray;
      • EKG;
      • Pulmonary function testing, if clinically indicated; and 
      • A thorough lung examination, including respiratory rate and oxygen saturation on room air.

Practice Guidance Specific to Sexual Abuse Investigations

  • Prior to finalizing the investigation, the SSW is encouraged to review the investigation with the local multi-disciplinary team.
  • Additional multi-disciplinary team members may be involved in the investigation per local protocol.

Practice Guidance Specific to Physical Abuse Investigations

  • SSW determines the level of pain felt by the child or how the child was impaired due to the reported incident (refer to the Physical Abuse Determination Tip Sheet and Pain Faces for Children Tip Sheet).
  • SSW requests that the parent or guardian have the child examined by a medical provider if the SSW is concerned about the extent of the child’s current or possible injuries upon interviewing the child.   
  • When there is physical evidence of abuse, a medical assessment should be conducted as early as possible in the investigation. The medical support section can also consult with the worker to strategize about what type of medical information is needed and if appropriate, assist with a referral to the division of forensic medicine.

Practice Guidance Specific to Assessments of Parenting Youth 

  • SSW will assess any parenting youth to ensure appropriate supports are provided if that parenting youth is placed in out-of-home care (OOHC) while parenting or expecting to give birth while in OOHC.
  • No petition should be filed on the parenting youth's child without specific allegations of abuse or neglect to that child.  A dependency petition may be filed if the parenting youth has treatment needs that would not allow the youth and their child to be placed together. 
  • Refer to the Parenting Youth Tip Sheet.

Practice Guidance Specific to Neglect Allegations

  • Valid evidence collection sources include medical witnesses, such as a physician, physician’s assistant, or a nurse regarding:
    • Whether the caretaker is providing necessary medical care;
    • Any action or inaction of the caretaker that has placed the child’s health or welfare at risk; and
    • Likely consequences of further action or inaction, (e.g., missed appointments, shots, failure to medicate) on the child’s health.
  • The SSW refers allegations of withholding medically indicated treatment of disabled infants with life threatening conditions in hospitals or health care facilities to the central office medical support section.
  • For educational neglect, valid documentation may include a record of unexcused absences and documentation of prior attempts to intervene in an effort to stop unexcused absences. 
  • For physical neglect, valid documentation may include:
    • Photographs, which show health or safety hazards, of the home;
    • Collateral accounts about the condition of the home, appearance or condition of the child(ren), food supply, or supervision;
    • The presence or extent of domestic violence that is occurring in the family; and
    • Documentation of parents repeatedly leaving child alone or failing to provide essential care.

Practice Guidance Specific to Risks Associated with Domestic Violence


    • SSW conducts an in-depth assessment of the:
      • Danger posed to the child;
      • Safety of the child due to the high risk behaviors of the perpetrator; and 
      • Physical, emotional, and developmental impact on the child.
    • SSW assesses the protective capacity of the non-offending parent to ensure the child's safety.
    • SSW provides victims of domestic violence with educational materials through the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
    • Refer to the CPS Reports with Risks Associated with Domestic Violence Tip Sheet for detailed guidance.
    • Refer to SOP 7.4 CPS Prevention Planning SOP 1.8 for non-offending parent/caregiver prevention planning. safety planning.  


  Practice Guidance Specific to Asssessments of Parenting Youth

    • SSW will assess any parenting youth to ensure appropriate supports are provided if that parenting youth is placed in out-of-home care (OOHC) while parenting or expecting to give birth while in OOHC.
    • No petition should be filed on the parenting youth's child without specific allegations of abuse or neglect to that child. A dependency petition may be filed if the parenting youth has treatment needs that would not allow the youth and their child to be placed together. 
    • Refer to the Parenting Youth Tip Sheet. 



Sequence of Interviews

In the following sequence whenever possible, the SSW: 

  1. Conducts unannounced face-to-face interviews with all household members including:
    1. The alleged victim;
    2. All other children in the home;
    3. The non-offending parent/caretaker; and
    4. All adults living in the home. 
  2. Conducts face-to-face interviews, or phone interviews at a minimum if face-to-face is not practical, with collaterals, including:
    1. School personnel, within two (2) working days, when school is in session and the child is of school age; and
    2. Other collaterals who can assist in the determination of the incident and provide information to assist with a safety and risk assessment, as necessary. 12
  3. Conducts a face-to-face interview with the alleged perpetrator/caretaker:
    1. If the alleged perpetrator of abuse, neglect, or dependency is a child age twelve (12) to age eighteen (18), and the child/youth was in a caretaking role, the alleged perpetrator is not interviewed without notification to the parent/custodian of the alleged perpetrator. The parent/custodian can require that they, or an attorney, be present for the alleged perpetrator’s interview; and
    2. Provides the alleged perpetrator during their interview (pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 5106a) with:
      1. Notice of the basic allegations, void of any specifics that may compromise the investigation;
      2. Notice that they will be provided notification of the findings upon completion of the investigation; and
      3. A copy of the DPP-155 Request for Appeal of Child Abuse or Neglect Investigative Finding explaining the alleged perpetrators rights to appeal a substantiated finding and who they can contact to file a complaint.

Content of Interviews and Information to be Collected


The SSW:

  1. Collects evidence and information for specific documentation in TWIST including:
    1. The identity of every household member, and their relationships to one another;
    2. The date, time, and location of each interview;
    3. A summary of each interview to include the subject’s version of the sequence of events, their account of any observable impact on the child, and details relevant to a safety and risk integrated safety assessment;
    4. Environmental information, particularly as it relates to the allegations;
    5. References to photographs taken or other information collected from collateral sources, including medical records as necessary; and  
    6. Clinical consultations with other professionals as warranted by the case circumstances, i.e. mental health professionals, medical personnel, etc.;
  2. Discusses with the parent/caretaker or children, as appropriate, past agency and/or criminal history;
  3. Determines if the family/household member has resided out of the state within the previous seven (7) years;
  4. Utilizes the Adam Walsh State Contacts for Child Abuse Registries as a resource to contact other states to request records, if the family/household member has resided out of state in the last seven (7) years; and
    1. Discusses the prior history with the family and considers the significance when determining their level of intervention for the current report and findings; and
    2. Contacts the Child Protection Branch at or 502-564-2136 if experiencing difficulty obtaining information from the other state.
  5. Assesses, during each interview, for risk factors related to domestic violence, substance misuse, mental health issues, cognitive delays, or learning disabilities;
  6. Evaluates interview content to determine whether or not accounts of the incident are consistent, and whether or not those accounts conflict with any objective information (i.e. TWIST history, AOC history, medical records, law enforcement records, etc.); and
  7. Visits the child's residence or residences as often as necessary to ensure the child's safety in that setting. 3

Safety and Risk Assessment and Consultation Throughout the Course of the Investigation


The SSW:

  1. Continuously evaluates for safety threats and risk throughout interviews and contacts with the family to determine if there are safety threats or risk factors issues that require intervention;
  2. Consults, as necessary, with the FSOS to strategize around any immediate safety threats issues, barriers to the investigative process, and additional information collection that are necessary to the investigation/assessment;
  3. Utilizes the Determination of Findings Matrix to assess whether the child is at serious or imminent risk of removal (472)(i)(2) of the Social Security Act);
  4. When the determination is made that a child is at an immediate safety threat exists risk at any point during contact with the family:
    1. Negotiates a safety prevention plan with the family clearly documenting the provisions and tasks needed to protect the child as agreed upon by the family;  preventive services and interventions agreed upon with the family;
    2. Utilizes the family preservation program (FPP) and other in home services to prevent removal whenever possible and documents why less restrictive alternatives were not utilized in the assessment;
    3. Considers filing a petition (removal or non-removal) in court (Refer to SOP 11 CPS Court); and
    4. Assesses other services that may be of assistance to the family to prevent removal, which may include:
      1. Preventive assistance;
      2. A food bank referral;
      3. Child care assistance; and
      4. Or other supportive services as outlined 922 KAR 1:400;
  5. After identifying safety threats which may prohibit the child(ren) from remaining in the home: Upon determination that the child cannot safely remain in the home:
    1. Consults with regional office utilizing the DPP-20 Safety and Risk Consultation form;  to include at least one masters level practitioner and utilizing the DPP 20 Utilization Review Consult Form.
    2. Participates with the FSOS, and regional office staff in consultation.  The FSOS, chief, acting and/or covering supervisor facilitates the request for the consultation.  For emergency and on-call situations, the FSOS, and regional office staff may consult without the SSW. 
      1. If available, a master's degree level practitioner is recommended as a participant in the consultation.  If one is not available, the SRAA/SRCA or designee is appropriate.  Regional office maintains a copy of the signed DPP-20
      2. Participants should be in agreement with the consultation outcome. If participants are not in agreement, the regional SRCA or SRA (if SRCA is involved with the initial consultation) will be consulted; and
      3. The consultation is not required when the court awards DCBS custody of a child(ren) when DCBS did not request or recommend custody.
    3. Provides the custodial parent with a copy of the When Your Child is Removed from Your Care-Guide for Parents Brochure when a child is removed from their home; and
    4. Follows placement considerations (Refer to SOP 4.9);
  6. Integrates a safety assessment into the investigative narrative that considers:
    1. The age of the child(ren);
    2. Harm or threats of harm, and severity;
    3. Vulnerability and protective capacities of the child(ren);
    4. Capacity of the parent/caretaker to protect the child(ren);
    5. The caregiver's high risk behaviors;
    6. Family interactions and support systems;
    7. Features of the family or individuals that add stressors to the family;
    8. The perpetrator’s access to the child(ren);
    9. The household composition;
    10. The physical household environment; and
    11. The attitude and level of cooperation exhibited by household members;
  7. Determines:
    1. The circumstances leading up to the incident;
    2. The individuals present during the incident;
    3. The sequence of events as the incident transpired;
    4. The observable impact on the child; and
    5. The likelihood of future maltreatment to the child based upon the risk factors identified during the assessment.
  8. Consults with the FSOS immediately to discuss the discontinuance of the safety/ prevention plan when the safety threats requiring the provisions within the plan have been mitigated prior to the fourteen (14) working day expiration of the plan, and;   Consults with FSOS immediately to discontinue the prevention plan when there are no remaining safety threats that require the provisions of the prevention plan, and:
    1. Informs the family and other involved individuals within forty eight (48) hours, by phone call, if the safety/prevention plan will be discontinued prior to the expiration date.  If the family is not available by phone within forty eight (48) hours, SSW will send notification by mail, or conduct a home visit. Conducts an immediate a phone call with the parent/caregiver;
    2. Sends a letter to parent/caregiver discontinuing the prevention plan if all safety threats and risks are eliminated.
  9. Completes a face-to-face interview with the parent/caregiver within forty eight (48) hours if the safety orprevention plan needs to be renegotiated based on safety threats or risks to the child(ren). 5

Contingencies and Clarifications

  1. In addition to notifying the school when a report is accepted (see Procedure 2A), the SSW should also notify the school within two (2) working days of the conclusion of the agency's work with the family, if school is in session. 
  2. If an investigation is not completed within thirty (30) working days, the SSW has monthly contact with the family until the investigation is complete and the agency's work with the family is done, or until an ongoing case is opened.
  3. If the cabinet receives custody of a child, the SSW:
    1. Notifies the school principal, assistant principal, or guidance counselor verbally and via e-mail on the day a court order is entered and again on any day a change is made regarding who is authorized to contact or remove the child from school, or on the following school day if the court order or change occurs after the end of the current school day; and
    2. Provides written notification via e-mail within ten (10) calendar days following a change of custody or change in contact or removal authority.
  4. If information is discovered resulting in the basis of the report no longer meeting the acceptance criteria, the SSW can request to discontinue the investigation with a “no finding” determination within ten (10) working days of receipt of report.  A no finding determination cannot: 6
    1. Be utilized for reports received prior to June 28, 2019;
    2. Be utilized with reports designated as specialized investigations, including fatality or near fatality reports, as defined in SOP 2.15; or
    3. Be utilized if multiple interviews have been conducted.
  5. A no finding determination can only be used in familial investigations, and when there are no other risk factors identified in the report, found during interviews with the child(ren) and/or caregivers, or during worker observations of the family and environment.  7
    1. The SSW:
      1. Consults with the FSOS and SRA or designee;
      2. Does not conduct any additional interviews if FSOS and SRA or designee are in agreement that the report meets for a no finding determination;
      3. Submits a determination of no finding and includes a statement in the assessment conclusion narrative box within ten (10) working days of receipt of report; and 8
      4. Sends the DPP-152C notification letter to alleged perpetrator and parent or caregiver within ten (10) working days after final approval from SRA or designee.
    2. The SRA or designee:
      1. Approves the no finding determination in TWIST within ten (10) working days of receipt of report; and
      2. Notifies the child protection branch at of receipt of the report for tracking purposes.


  1. Appropriate collaterals may include persons in the community such as school personnel, police officers, relatives, child's physician, family's service/treatment providers, etc. SSW interviews collaterals on behalf of any non-verbal/intellectually impaired child.
  2. Per 2017 Ky. Acts chapter 188, schools and childcare facilities shall provide the cabinet access to interview children without parental consent during an investigation.
  3. Workers may not visit, if through consultation with the FSOS, a residence is unsafe.
  4. The phone call, face-to-face renegotiation (if applicable), and written notification (if applicable) are documented in the ADT, and the written notification (if applicable) is filed in the case file. 
  5. Examples of scenarios in which a no finding determination may be appropriate include but are not limited to:
    1. An allegation that a child has inflicted bruises; however, upon medical examination, the bruises are observed and documented as Mongolian spots, and there are no other risk factors.
    2. Parent of a young child was reported to have a positive drug test for heroin; however, reporting source calls back to state the reporting source erroneously provided the wrong individual’s name, and there are no other risk factors.
  6. Examples of additional risk factors include but are not limited to, the family’s high-risk patterns of behavior, history or current indicators of substance misuse, family violence, mental health issues, agency history, AOC results, worker observations of injuries, unsafe environment, and/or indicators of maltreatment, etc.
  7. Similar to the unable to locate determination, the ADT does not populate with a no finding determination.  SSW includes a statement in the assessment conclusion narrative box documenting that the report no longer meets the acceptance criteria, there are no other risk factors or indicators of maltreatment identified or observed to continue the investigation, and the no finding determination was agreed upon and approved by the SRA or designee within ten (10) working days of receipt of report. 


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