Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Child and Family Services (PA-CFS) 3: Screening

Reports of child maltreatment are screened and evaluated in a prompt and consistent manner.
NA The agency does not provide child abuse/neglect hotline services or initial child abuse/neglect screening.
2020 Edition




Child and Family Services promote child and family well-being, protect children’s safety, stablilize and strengthen families, and ensure permanency.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions; exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement. 
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented.  
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.  
Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  
  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.   
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner. 
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.   
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Screening procedures
  • Copy of decision-making tools/criteria
  • Procedures for identification of children with American Indian and Alaska Native heritage and collaboration with tribes on ICWA cases
  • Education and outreach materials
  • Coverage schedule for personnel that screen reports for the past six months 
  • Aggregate report of screening data for the previous 12 months (e.g., PA-CFS Data Sheet)
  • Copies of tribal-state agreements, when applicable
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
  • Review case records

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 3.01

The agency:
  1. maintains a 24-hour access line to receive reports of suspected child abuse and neglect; and
  2. conducts ongoing education and outreach addressing how to recognize and report cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. 


Education and outreach should address:
  1. state statutes and agency guidelines related to child maltreatment, and the types of cases that should be reported to child protective services;
  2. the type of information needed in a report; and 
  3. how to file a report.  

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 3.02

When a report of suspected abuse or neglect is received, the agency obtains: 
  1. information needed to identify and locate the child and family;
  2. an account of the alleged maltreatment, including any imminent risks that might require an immediate response or referral to law enforcement;
  3. a description of the child, including condition, behavior, and functioning;
  4. a description of the alleged perpetrator, including condition, behavior, functioning, and history;
  5. a description of the family as a whole, including family members, dynamics, functioning, and supports; and
  6. information regarding any other safety concerns or hazards.


The description of the alleged perpetrator and the family should include attention to both general parenting skills and disciplinary practices, as well as any presence or history of domestic violence.


PA-CFS 3.03

Reporters of abuse and neglect are informed about: 
  1. the agency's responsibilities, including protection of reporters’ identities;
  2. the process for screening and investigation;
  3. whether reporters can have any ongoing role in the screening or investigation process; and
  4. the result of the screening or investigation, unless prohibited by law or court order.
Examples: Methods for informing reporters about the result of the screening or investigation may vary. For example, while some jurisdictions may require active follow-up with reporters, others may expect reporters to call back to the hotline if they wish to find out about the results of the process. 

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 3.04

Within 24 hours of receiving a report, standardized decision-making criteria and supervisory/clinical consultation are used to determine if a report meets the state’s statutory definition of child maltreatment and if it will be: 
  1. accepted for agency response;
  2. screened out; and/or
  3. reported to other authorities.


Procedures should include provisions for expedited decision-making when the information reported indicates that an immediate response, or an immediate referral to law enforcement, may be necessary.
Examples: Some agencies may establish differential response systems whereby they employ two different pathways for responding to reports of child abuse and neglect based on the severity of the allegation – a traditional “investigation” track for more serious maltreatment allegations, or an alternative “assessment” track for lower-risk cases.

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 3.05

When reports are accepted for CPS response, standardized decision-making criteria and supervisory/clinical consultation are used to establish how quickly the agency should respond to the referral, based on the family’s situation and the nature of the alleged maltreatment.
Note: See PA-CFS 4.01 for more information regarding timeframes for the initial visit with the child. 

Fundamental Practice

PA-CFS 3.06

The agency identifies American Indian and Alaska Native children and has a process to ensure outreach and collaboration with the tribe or Indian organization to:  
  1. determine jurisdiction; 
  2. ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act; 
  3. provide families with information regarding their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act; 
  4. facilitate their participation in the investigation, safety planning, assessment, and service planning to determine the most appropriate plans for children and families; and 
  5. maintain connections between children, their extended family, and their tribes.


The agency should have established procedures for identifying American Indian and Alaska Native children to determine if the child or his/her biological parent(s) are members of a federally recognized tribe, or if the child is eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. Physical appearance, blood quantum, and perceived presence or absence of cultural cues within the family are not appropriate determinants of ICWA applicability. The agency should document efforts to identify and contact children’s tribes, and if tribes are unknown, the agency should contact the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to identify, locate, and notify the child's tribe.