It is the purpose of this article, through the complete reporting of child abuse and neglect, to protect the best interests of the child, to offer protective services in order to prevent any further harm to the child or any other children living in the home, to stabilize the home environment, to preserve family life whenever possible, to promote adult responsibility for protecting children and to encourage cooperation among the states to prevent future incidents of child abuse and neglect and in dealing with the problems of child abuse and neglect.
(a) Any medical, dental or mental health professional, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer, school teacher or other school personnel, social service worker, child care or foster care worker, emergency medical services personnel, peace officer or law-enforcement official, humane officer, member of the clergy, circuit court judge, family court judge, employee of the Division of Juvenile Services, magistrate, youth camp administrator or counselor, employee, coach or volunteer of an entity that provides organized activities for children, or commercial film or photographic print processor who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is neglected or abused or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect shall immediately, and not more than forty-eight hours after suspecting this abuse or neglect, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the Department of Health and Human Resources: Provided, That in any case where the reporter believes that the child suffered serious physical abuse or sexual abuse or sexual assault, the reporter shall also immediately report, or cause a report to be made, to the State Police and any law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint: Provided, however, That any person required to report under this article who is a member of the staff or volunteer of a public or private institution, school, entity that provides organized activities for children, facility or agency shall also immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, entity that provides organized activities for children, facility or agency, or a designated agent thereof, who may supplement the report or cause an additional report to be made.
(b) Any person over the age of eighteen who receives a disclosure from a credible witness or observes any sexual abuse or sexual assault of a child, shall immediately, and not more than forty-eight hours after receiving such a disclosure or observing the sexual abuse or sexual assault, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the Department of Health and Human Resources or the State Police or other law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the report. In the event that the individual receiving the disclosure or observing the sexual abuse or sexual assault has a good faith belief that the reporting of the event to the police would expose either the reporter, the subject child, the reporter's children or other children in the subject child's household to an increased threat of serious bodily injury, the individual may delay making the report while he or she undertakes measures to remove themselves or the affected children from the perceived threat of additional harm: Provided, That the individual makes the report as soon as practicable after the threat of harm has been reduced. The law-enforcement agency that receives a report under this subsection shall report the allegations to the Department of Health and Human Resources and coordinate with any other law-enforcement agency, as necessary to investigate the report.
(c) Nothing in this article is intended to prevent individuals from reporting suspected abuse or neglect on their own behalf. In addition to those persons and officials specifically required to report situations involving suspected abuse or neglect of children, any other person may make a report if such person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected in a home or institution or observes the child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.
(b) The Department of Health and Human Resources shall develop and implement the above described procedure on or before the first day of January, two thousand six.
(a) Reports of child abuse and neglect pursuant to this article shall be made immediately by telephone to the local state department child protective service agency and shall be followed by a written report within forty-eight hours if so requested by the receiving agency. The state department shall establish and maintain a twenty-four hour, seven-day-a-week telephone number to receive such calls reporting suspected or known child abuse or neglect.
(b) A copy of any report of serious physical abuse, sexual abuse or assault shall be forwarded by the department to the appropriate law-enforcement agency, the prosecuting attorney or the coroner or medical examiner's office. All reports under this article shall be confidential. Reports of known or suspected institutional child abuse or neglect shall be made and received as all other reports made pursuant to this article.
Any person, official or institution required by this article to report a case involving a child known or suspected to be abused or neglected, or required by section five of this article to forward a copy of a report of serious injury, who knowingly fails to do so or knowingly prevents another person acting reasonably from doing so, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail not more than thirty days or fined not more than $1,000, or both.
(b) The local child protective services office shall investigate all reports of child abuse or neglect: Provided, That under no circumstances shall investigating personnel be relatives of the accused, the child or the families involved. In accordance with the local plan for child protective services, it shall provide protective services to prevent further abuse or neglect of children and provide for or arrange for and coordinate and monitor the provision of those services necessary to ensure the safety of children. The local child protective services office shall be organized to maximize the continuity of responsibility, care and service of individual workers for individual children and families: Provided, however, That under no circumstances may the secretary or his or her designee promulgate rules or establish any policy which restricts the scope or types of alleged abuse or neglect of minor children which are to be investigated or the provision of appropriate and available services.
Each local child protective services office shall:
(1) Receive or arrange for the receipt of all reports of children known or suspected to be abused or neglected on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis and cross-file all such reports under the names of the children, the family and any person substantiated as being an abuser or neglecter by investigation of the Department of Health and Human Resources, with use of such cross-filing of such person's name limited to the internal use of the department;
(2) Provide or arrange for emergency children's services to be available at all times;
(3) Upon notification of suspected child abuse or neglect, commence or cause to be commenced a thorough investigation of the report and the child's environment. As a part of this response, within fourteen days there shall be a face-to-face interview with the child or children and the development of a protection plan, if necessary for the safety or health of the child, which may involve law-enforcement officers or the court;
(4) Respond immediately to all allegations of imminent danger to the physical well-being of the child or of serious physical abuse. As a part of this response, within seventy-two hours there shall be a face-to-face interview with the child or children and the development of a protection plan, which may involve law-enforcement officers or the court; and
(5) In addition to any other requirements imposed by this section, when any matter regarding child custody is pending, the circuit court or family law master may refer allegations of child abuse and neglect to the local child protective services office for investigation of the allegations as defined by this chapter and require the local child protective services office to submit a written report of the investigation to the referring circuit court or family law master within the time frames set forth by the circuit court or family law master.
(c) In those cases in which the local child protective services office determines that the best interests of the child require court action, the local child protective services office shall initiate the appropriate legal proceeding.
(d) The local child protective services office shall be responsible for providing, directing or coordinating the appropriate and timely delivery of services to any child suspected or known to be abused or neglected, including services to the child's family and those responsible for the child's care.
(e) To carry out the purposes of this article, all departments, boards, bureaus and other agencies of the state or any of its political subdivisions and all agencies providing services under the local child protective services plan shall, upon request, provide to the local child protective services office such assistance and information as will enable it to fulfill its responsibilities.
(f)(1) In order to obtain information regarding the location of a child who is the subject of an allegation of abuse or neglect, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources may serve, by certified mail or personal service, an administrative subpoena on any corporation, partnership, business or organization for the production of information leading to determining the location of the child.
(2) In case of disobedience to the subpoena, in compelling the production of documents, the secretary may invoke the aid of: (A) The circuit court with jurisdiction over the served party if the person served is a resident; or (B) the circuit court of the county in which the local child protective services office conducting the investigation is located if the person served is a nonresident.
(3) A circuit court shall not enforce an administrative subpoena unless it finds that: (A) The investigation is one the Division of Child Protective Services is authorized to make and is being conducted pursuant to a legitimate purpose; (B) the inquiry is relevant to that purpose; (C) the inquiry is not too broad or indefinite; (D) the information sought is not already in the possession of the Division of Child Protective Services; and (E) any administrative steps required by law have been followed.
(4) If circumstances arise where the secretary, or his or her designee, determines it necessary to compel an individual to provide information regarding the location of a child who is the subject of an allegation of abuse or neglect, the secretary, or his or her designee, may seek a subpoena from the circuit court with jurisdiction over the individual from whom the information is sought.
(g) No child protective services caseworker may be held personally liable for any professional decision or action thereupon: Arrived at in the performance of his or her official duties as set forth in this section or agency rules promulgated thereupon: Provided, That nothing in this subsection protects any child protective services worker from any liability arising from the operation of a motor vehicle or for any loss caused by gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct or intentional misconduct.
Subject to appropriation in the budget bill, the state department shall conduct educational and training programs for persons required to report suspected abuse or neglect, and the general public, as well as implement evidence-based programs that reduce incidents of child maltreatment including sexual abuse. Training for persons require to report and the general public shall include indicators of child abuse and neglect, tactics used by sexual abusers, how and when to make a report, and protective factors that prevent abuse and neglect in order to promote adult responsibility for protecting children, encourage maximum reporting of child abuse and neglect, and to improve communication, cooperation and coordination among all agencies involved in the identification, prevention and treatment of the abuse and neglect of children.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2012 1st Special Session