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2130 Reporter Contact and Interaction

SWI Policy and Procedures December 2016

Reporter Confidentiality

DFPS staff must not disclose the reporter’s name to the victim, the victim’s family, or the public. The reporter’s name may be released verbally or in writing to the courts, the district or county attorney, law enforcement agencies, and DFPS staff.

Reporters’ identities need to be protected in the IMPACT narrative. The intake specialist writes the IMPACT narrative in a way that de-identifies the reporter. If there is confidential information that needs to be documented, the intake specialist documents the information in the reporter’s Person Notes. See 3130 Narrative Page.

When notification of an intake is sent to either law enforcement or Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC), the reporter’s information is omitted from the intake. The following message is included with the notification:

“SECTION 261.201 (T.F.C.) The name of the complainant (i.e. reporter or informant) is confidential. Consequently, identifying information about the complainant is not included in this report. If this information is needed to conduct the criminal investigation, the assigned Child Protective Services worker or supervisor may orally share information about the complainant’s identity with the assigned investigating officer.”

However, when SWI has completed an I&R for another agency such as DADS, DSHS, or law enforcement, the reporter’s information is included. In these situations, it is necessary to provide the reporter’s information in order to facilitate the other agency’s ability to investigate the reported concerns.

See 3630 I&R Assigned to Support Staff and 3631 I&Rs For Another Texas State Agency, Out-of State Agency, or Law Enforcement Agency.

For definitions of confidentiality and anonymity, see Texas Family Code §261.201.

Exception

The confidentiality of the reporter is not protected when sexual abuse (SXAB) is alleged to have occurred in a facility or by a provider under the jurisdiction of APS Provider Investigations.

See the APS Provider Investigations Handbook, 3150 Exception to the Confidentiality of the Identity of the Reporter

2130.1 Anonymous Reporters

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2015

Intake specialists must attempt to obtain identifying information from all reporters. However, if a reporter refuses to provide identifying information, the intake specialist does accept the anonymous call. The intake specialist encourages the reporter to provide his or her name by explaining that:

  •  when reporting abuse, neglect, or exploitation, the identity of the reporter is kept confidential;

  •  if the reporter declines to disclose his or her identity, SWI cannot provide a Call ID, making it difficult for the reporter to call back with additional information on the situation; and

  •  field staff may need critical information that only the reporter can provide, and not knowing the reporter’s identity can adversely affect the investigation.

If the reporter still wishes to remain anonymous, the intake specialist asks the reporter to provide the county from which he or she is calling for statistical purposes. 

An anonymous reporter is one who does not provide a first and last name.

  •  If the reporter provides his or her name and then requests to be anonymous, the intake specialist explains that the reporter cannot be anonymous because he or she already provided his or her name, and that the identity of the reporter is kept confidential when reporting abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The reporter’s name is documented in the First and Last Name fields on the Call Information page.

  •  If a reporter, who expressed a desire to remain anonymous, inadvertently provides his or her name, he or she is not considered anonymous. The reporter’s name is documented in the First and Last Name fields on the Call Information page.

Anonymous reporters are assigned the REL/INT code of AN. If the relationship of the reporter to the victim is disclosed, inadvertently revealed, or can be surmised from the information provided, that information is documented in the Person Notes. The person’s relationship remains AN on the Call Information page and the Call Person Detail page.

Anonymous reporters are not provided with a Call ID number. See 2130.2 Providing the Call Identification Number (Call ID).

2130.2 Providing the Call Identification Number (Call ID)

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2015

A reporter is given a Call ID number at the end of each call if he or she has provided:

  •  a first and last name, and either:

  •  a means of contact (his or her personal or business phone, or other designated phone such as neighbor, relative, employment, mailing address or PO Box), or

  •  a means of locating (to include personal residence, business, school, and so on).

If a reporter is unwilling to provide his or her name (first and last) and a means of contact or a means of locating, the reporter is not provided with the Call ID number for the report. 

2131 Acceptable Use of Caller ID Feature on SWI Phones

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2014

Intake specialists’ phones are equipped with a Caller ID feature. When an intake specialist answers a call, the reporter’s telephone number appears on a screen on the phone.

Absent a life-threatening situation (see below), an intake specialist may not document or use this number or feature.

When an intake specialist answers the phone, the specialist should ask for the reporter’s name, address, and phone number at the beginning of the call. This is extremely important in the event that the call is accidentally disconnected.

  •  If the reporter provides a phone number, the intake specialist may compare this number with the Caller ID number and may ask the reporter to repeat the number if there is a discrepancy.

  •  The specialist should not question or argue about the validity of the reporter’s given number, if there is a discrepancy.

  •  The specialist should be aware that the numbers will not always match (for instance, the number may display as a switchboard number if the reporter is calling from a hospital; number may be different if reporter is calling from a location different from the phone number given).

  •  If the reporter or SWI disconnects the call before the reporter has provided a telephone number, the intake specialist may not use the Caller ID feature to call back the reporter except in life-threatening situations (examples below).

  •  If the intake specialist forgets to ask for the reporter’s phone number during the call, the intake specialist may not document the Caller ID number in IMPACT except in life-threatening situations (examples below).

  •  If the reporter chooses to remain anonymous, the intake specialist should complete the interview and document the report as if SWI did not have the Caller ID information available. The intake specialist may not document the Caller ID number in IMPACT or share the number with anyone except in life-threatening situations (examples below).

  •  If the reporter asks whether SWI has Caller ID, the intake specialist should explain that SWI does have Caller ID, but that the displayed telephone number will not be documented or shared except in life-threatening situations.

Life-Threatening Situations

Life-threatening situations may include:

  •  a reporter who is suicidal or homicidal;

  •  a child who is or has been severely abused or neglected;

  •  an individual aged 65 or older who is or has been severely abused or neglected (for example, starvation or a head injury);

  •  an individual with a disability who is or has been severely abused or neglected (for example, starvation or a head injury);or

  •  a reporter is making a bomb threat to any public or private establishment

In any life-threatening situation an intake specialist may use all possible tools to locate a client or family, including information found on Caller ID, regardless of whether the reporter has chosen to remain anonymous. In life-threatening situations, the number found on Caller ID may be shared with law enforcement and with DFPS staff, and documented in an I&R or intake.

Intake specialists are required to obtain supervisory approval before sharing or documenting Caller ID information in life-threatening situations.

2132 Reporter Calls Back Requesting the Call ID or the Status of a Previous Report

SWI Policy and Procedures May 2015

If a reporter calls SWI requesting the Call ID number of a report, the intake specialist verifies that the caller was the original reporter by asking the reporter to provide all of the following:

  •  The reporter’s name and either:

  •  address, or

  •  phone number

  •  The date (or approximate date) that the original report was made

  •  The name of the client or family that is the subject of the report

  •  General information about the content of the report

If the information provided matches the original report, the intake specialist may provide the Call ID to the reporter. If a reporter calls SWI requesting the status of a report, the intake specialist may only share if the report was referred to a DFPS regional office or was closed at SWI. If the reporter has the Call ID number, it is only necessary to verify the identity of the reporter by asking the questions in the first bullet above before providing this information.

The intake specialist may not discuss if a case that was referred to a regional office is open or closed.

The reporter’s request for the Call ID, information regarding a previous report, or status of a case is documented as an I&R General Information.

It is important to explain the call decision to every reporter during the initial call. It is not appropriate to advise the reporter to call back to check on the status of the case. See 2135 SWI Feedback to Reporter.

If the reporter was anonymous, the intake specialist explains that anonymous reporters are not provided with a Call ID number. See 2120 Assessing Reports.

See:

I&R and CRSR Types and Requirements

3620 Processing an I&R That Is Saved and Closed at Intake

2133 Calling Back a Reporter

SWI Policy and Procedures August 2014

There are times when an intake specialist may need to call back a reporter.

  •   Intake specialists must obtain supervisory approval to call back nonprofessional reporters.

  •   Supervisory approval is not needed to call back professional reporters.

2133.1 Confidentiality and Safety of the Reporter

SWI Policy and Procedures August 2014

Any time an intake specialist calls a reporter back there is the possibility that the reporter’s confidentiality, and even the reporter’s safety, could be compromised. Therefore, an intake specialist must make a call back to a reporter (especially a nonprofessional reporter) only when necessary for assessing or processing a report. See:

2133.2 Calling Back Professional Reporters

2133.3 Calling Back Nonprofessional Reporters

2133.2 Calling Back Professional Reporters

SWI Policy and Procedures August 2014

An intake specialist calls back a reporter who is employed in a professional capacity (such as school, medical, child care, mental health, or law enforcement staff) if the reporter is disconnected while making a report. This keeps the reporter from having to call back and wait in the queue again.

An intake specialist may also call back a reporter who is employed in a professional capacity if the specialist needs to clarify locating information or other information essential to assessing or processing the report.

Limited Information from LE Dispatch

Sometimes a law enforcement officer will request that the dispatcher contact SWI on the officer's behalf. A dispatcher will often call SWI with little or no information to make a report. However, the dispatcher needs to inform SWI that an officer at the scene is requesting assistance.

Under these circumstances, the intake specialist:

1.   obtains the information for the officer on the scene;

2.   calls the officer to get more information to determine what type of assistance the officer requires; and

3.   processes the report accordingly. 

The contact with the dispatcher is documented in IMPACT as an I&R, Other Business Call.

2133.3 Calling Back Nonprofessional Reporters

SWI Policy and Procedures August 2014

Supervisory approval is required for an intake specialist to call back a nonprofessional reporter.

An intake specialist calls back a nonprofessional reporter (such as a family member, neighbor, or friend) if the reporter is disconnected or the specialist needs to clarify locating information or other information essential to assessing or processing the report.

2134 Guidelines for Calling Back a Nonprofessional Reporter

SWI Policy and Procedures August 2014

When an intake specialist calls back a non-professional reporter the following guidelines must be observed:

If the intake specialist reaches an answering machine or voice mail, the intake specialist:

  •   does not leave a message; and

  •   documents the attempt in the narrative.

If someone answers the phone, the intake specialist:

  •   asks to speak to the reporter by name;

  •   gives the specialist’s first name only; and

  •   does not identify the specialist as being with SWI (for example, say: This is Beth, may I speak to Pam, please?).

If the reporter answers, the intake specialist:

  •   explains what additional information is needed; and

  •   documents the conversation in the existing narrative (or on the Person List, if it is demographic information).

If the intake specialist reaches a person who is not the reporter, the intake specialist:

  •   does not leave a message or identify themselves except to inform the person speaking that the specialist will try back later; and

  •   documents the attempt in the narrative.

When the person believed to be the reporter denies having made a call to SWI, the intake specialist:

  •   informs the person, without disclosing any details of the report, that someone gave his or her name and number to SWI; and

  •   documents that the person denies being the reporter.

In all cases in which the intake specialist does not reach the reporter the intake specialist assesses the call based on the information that was originally obtained.

See 2300 Determining if Information Is an Intake, Special Request, or Information and Referral.

2135 SWI Feedback to Reporter

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2014

The feedback shared with the reporter is determined by the type of report the call generates. The intake specialist assesses the information and determines which of the following procedures is appropriate.

I&R Clearly Not Reportable

The intake specialist:

  •  informs the reporter that the information does not meet guidelines for investigation at this time;

  •  encourages the reporter to call back if there are any changes, or if the reporter learns new information; and

  •  assures the reporter that his or her information has been documented.

See 2323 Information & Referrals.

I&Rs Faxed to Another Agency

If the I&R is going to be faxed to another agency such as DADS, DSHS, or law enforcement, the intake specialist informs the reporter of such. See:

2700 Reports for Other Texas State or Community Agencies

3630 I&R Assigned to Support Staff

3631 I&Rs For Another Texas State Agency, Out-of State Agency, or Law Enforcement Agency

CPS PN

The intake specialist tells the reporter that, at this time, the intake is being sent to the field office to be reviewed. The decision to open an investigation will be made in the field office.

See 4300 CPS Assessment of Priority, for the definition of a PN.

Intake

The intake specialist:

  •  tells the reporter that an intake will be sent to the field office; and

  •  informs the reporter that it is up to the field office to determine how the case will proceed.

Unable to Determine

If by the end of the call the intake specialist is unsure whether the call will be an I&R or an intake, the intake specialist:

  •  tells the reporter that he or she is unable to determine whether or not a report should be sent to the field;

  •  tells the reporter that he or she will consult with an intake supervisor or program administrator for assessment determination; and

  •  assures the reporter that his or her information has been documented.

This should occur only on rare occasions.

2136 Notification to Reporter About Investigation Results

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2014

Reporters often ask what kind of information or updates they will receive during the course of an investigation, and after an investigation is complete.

Generally, an intake specialist explains that details of an investigation are confidential, that SWI will not provide any information on investigation findings, and that each DFPS program has policy regarding what information is shared with reporters.

2136.1 Reporter Notification From CPS

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2014

In most instances, CPS provides oral or written notification to the reporter about the investigation results.

See the Child Protective Services Handbook, 2293 Notification of Investigation Findings.

2136.2 Reporter Notification From Child Care Licensing

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2014

Once the inspection and/or investigation is complete, the reporter will receive notification of the outcome unless:

  •  the reporter has indicated otherwise;

  •  notification would jeopardize the reporter’s safety; or

  •  the reporter will receive notification in another capacity.

See the Licensing Policy and Procedure Handbook,6633 Notifying the Reporter of Investigation Results.

2136.3 Reporter Notification From APS In-Home

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2014

Reporters of abuse, neglect, and exploitation in the APS in-home program are not provided with case information unless otherwise entitled to records. APS only provides the reporter with pertinent case information necessary to:

  •  confirm whether allegations will be accepted for investigation;

  •  collect evidence and gather relevant information related to allegations and the client’s overall situation and risk; and

  •  arrange for protective services to reduce risk or alleviate abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

See the Adult Protective Services Handbook, 2344 Interviewing the Reporter.

2136.4 Reporter Notification From APS Facility

SWI Policy and Procedures July 2014

Within 30 calendar days of completion of the investigation, the investigator will notify the reporter in writing of the findings of the investigation.

See the APS Provider Investigations Handbook, 7310 Notifying the Reporter.

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