Step Three: Evaluating The Complaint
At ACS field offices, caseworkers are assigned to make family visits, which include detailed interviews with all family members who are present during the visit, and a safety assessment of the home, including equipment (bars on apartment windows, for example) and whether ample food is in the refrigerator. A caseworker may also call the child's school, the person who filed the complaint, and the child's pediatrician for more information.
ACS has 60 days to evaluate the individual complaint. Once a child-protective investigation has begun, and the initial calls and home visit made, ACS workers are obliged to visit the child and family in person twice a month for the 60-day term of evaluation. One visit must be in the family home; the other can be at school or in the community. ACS investigated nearly 60,000 cases in 2010, a decline since 2006, when 63,500 cases were investigated.
The human factor:
How aggressively and energetically a caseworker investigates the complaint is again, at the discretion of the caseworker and supervisors. Regular phone contacts, for example, are possible but not mandated: There's no requirement that a caseworker speak with a family member or the child in the weeks between physical visits. Calls to other adults who know the child are also optional. The only requirement is that two visits be made in each month for the 60 days of the investigation; all else is discretionary. These days, ACS caseworkers typically handle about 12 child-abuse cases at a time – fewer than the average of 15 cases posted for 2007.