Multiple Response System (MRS)
North Carolina’s Multiple Response System (MRS) is our state’s on-going effort to reform the entire continuum of child welfare services, beginning with the first report of concerns about a child and his or her family and continuing all the way through the finding of a permanent home for those children who enter foster care. MRS, as a reform effort, is not one single program. Rather, it is comprised of seven separate strategies delivered to families through a practice model grounded in the use of Family-Centered practice and System of Care principles. Adopting multiple methods or strategies allows North Carolina county departments of social services to tailor its services to meet families’ complex and changing needs throughout the life of their case. When a Child Protective Services report meets that legal definition of neglect, Cabarrus County Department of Social Services will decide whether to conduct a Traditional Investigation Response or whether a Family Assessment Response may be more appropriate.
The Family Assessment Response:
The Family Assessment Response is a family-centered approach based on family support principles, incorporates System of Care principles, and offers a much less adversarial approach to a CPS report. Families can be better served, and children protected, by focusing more on establishing a partnership with them and less on the authoritarian approach. Cabarrus County DSS cannot change families, but if they are approached through an assessment that looks for their strengths, support systems, motivation to change, and supportive interventions, they will be more capable of providing safe care for their children. The family assessment social worker still thoroughly assesses the children's safety in the home. The family assessment social worker and the family will develop true partnerships to ensure safety of the child and this is the goal of the family centered approach.
When conducting a family assessment, the social worker will make all efforts to meet with the family as a whole. The social worker along with family members will complete safety, risk, and strength/needs assessments. The family assists the social worker with gathering significant information from other family members, schools or outside agencies. This information is also necessary to complete a thorough assessment.
The family assessment process is usually completed within 45 days. At the conclusion of the assessment, one of four case findings can be made. Services Not Recommended (case is closed with no further action necessary); Services Recommended (family advised to complete services on a voluntary basis); Services Needed (family has to participate in mandatory services) and Services Provided/No longer needed (family received services during the assessment, and therefore continued CPS intervention is no longer needed to ensure the child's safety).
The Investigative Assessment Response:
The investigative social worker responds to child maltreatment referrals that meet North Carolina standards for abuse and serious neglect. The investigative social worker conducts a thorough assessment by interviewing family members, collateral contacts, and by gathering other sources of data so that children’s safety can be assessed and so that the referral information can be validated or refuted.
All reports alleging any type of abuse, abandonment, and any “special type of report” must be assigned as Investigative Assessments.
According to North Carolina DHHS, if a child has the ability to speak, the child must be interviewed, preferably in private and, under no circumstances, in the presence of the person or persons alleged to have caused or allowed abuse or neglect. Efforts should be made to establish rapport with the child and to help the child feel comfortable in disclosing information about himself/herself and family.
The interviewing sequence in an Investigative Assessment that is generally considered to be the least likely to present further harm to the child is: 1. Interview all of the children living in the home, 2. the non-perpetrating parent, 3. the alleged perpetrator, and 4. Collaterals. There are times when this order may not be feasible or the most appropriate. It is important to consider the individuals and allegations involved in each situation and to conduct the interviews in the order that seems least likely to increase the risk of harm to the alleged victim child or other children in the home.
While the child and other family members are the primary sources of information in abuse, neglect, and dependency assessments, other agencies or individuals may have additional information or may be able to validate information received from the family or the reporter. Collaterals that shall be considered in the information gathering process include: extended family members, friends, neighbors, employers and co-workers, and community agencies (medical facilities, law enforcement, juvenile courts, schools, health departments, etc.). Information gathered during the Investigative Assessment process may identify additional collateral contacts. These collateral contacts often provide accurate information regarding the maltreatment of the child. Parents/Caretakers should also be provided the opportunities to name possible collateral contacts.
In an investigative assessment the social worker does have the right to meet with a child/ren without permission of the parent/caretaker and outside of the presence of the parent/caretaker. Social workers can go to schools, daycare, after school programs, facilities, and etc. to meet with the child/ren. In addition, collateral contacts are made in the absence of the parent/caregiver so that the collateral can give information without fear of retaliation.
All abuse reports or neglect reports with allegations of sexual acts that were performed on a child by a child will be referred to law enforcement and the district attorney. Law enforcement and the district attorney’s office will determine if they will accept the case as a criminal investigation and if charges will be pursued.
The investigative assessment process is usually completed within 30 days. There may be circumstances beyond the social worker’s control where this timeframe may not be achieved. At the conclusion of the investigative assessment, one of two case findings can be made. A case decision can be made to substantiate or unsubstantiate.
If your case is substantiated it will be referred to CPS In-Home Services for further monitoring and the completion of mandatory services. If your case is unsubstantiated then your case will be closed with no further monitoring by our agency.
As stated by the NC Division of Social Services, the Child Protective Services program strives to ensure safe, permanent, nurturing families for children by protecting children from abuse and neglect by caretakers, while attempting to preserve the family unit.
Child Protective Services helps prevent further harm to children from intentional physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, and neglect by persons responsible for a child's health or welfare.
Child Protective Services also helps protect children who have no parent, guardian, or custodian to provide care and supervision or whose parents or guardians or custodians are unable to provide care or supervision.
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, please contact the Cabarrus County Department of Social Services at 704-920-2277 (2CPS).