Protective Services are services providing responses to reports of child abuse and neglect. They include receipt and assessment of reports and support to children and families when children are determined to be unsafe.
State law requires the following persons to report child abuse as defined in SDCL 26-8A-3, these persons are also referred to as mandatory reporters:
Failure by a mandatory reporter to report child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor. Anyone who has reasonable cause to suspect a person under age 18 has been abused or neglected may make a report. The report is made to the Department of Social Services, law enforcement or the state’s attorney.
The Division of Child Protection Services and law enforcement agencies are required by law to investigate reports of child abuse or neglect. Any person who knows or suspects a child has been physically or emotionally injured, neglected or sexually abused should report it immediately.
When a report of abuse and neglect is assigned, the Division of Child Protection Services completes an initial family assessment. An initial family assessment is a neutral approach to gathering information about the report. Information is gathered through interviews, observations and reviewing documents. If it is determined the child is unsafe or there are foreseeable threats of harm, a Family Services Specialist will work jointly with the parents on a plan to improve the situation. Normally, a child would not be removed from the home. However, if a child appears to be in immediate danger, a judge may order removal of the child from the situation or a law enforcement officer may take protective custody.