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Family Investigation Response

Every year, Minnesota counties and tribes accept about 18,000 reports of abuse or neglect. The majority of the reports are handled through the Family Assessment Response, but about 30 percent require a Family Investigation. An investigation is done when either a:

  • Child is in immediate or significant danger
  • Family will not participate in a Family Assessment, or take steps to ensure safety of their children.

Child protection investigators focus on child safety and strive to engage the family in a positive working relationship to resolve their issues. Most families successfully resolve the child safety issues and do not need services beyond the investigation.

During an investigation, the child protection social worker interviews:

  • The child who is the alleged victim of the maltreatment
  • The child's parents
  • The alleged offender of the maltreatment, and
  • Other people, such as school staff or medical providers, who may have information regarding the child's safety.

Social workers often coordinate their investigation with law enforcement, which may be involved if there are criminal allegations in the report. The worker assesses the child's safety and risk of possible future maltreatment. When needed, the worker and the family will create a safety plan to ensure that the child is safe.


Child protection social workers must make two decisions, known as determinations, in every Family Investigation. They determine if:

  • The child was abused or neglected
  • Child protection services are needed to ensure the child's safety in the future.

Social workers have 45 days to complete their investigation and make these determinations. They are required to notify the parent and the alleged offender of their decisions within 10 days.

If the parent or other interested party disagrees with the determinations, they have the right to ask the social service agency to reconsider the decisions. Parents have the right to ask for further reconsideration by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Child protective services

When child protective services are needed to ensure the child's safety, a child protection "ongoing" social worker will be assigned to work with the family. This social worker will:

  • Meet with the family to assess strengths and needs
  • Develop a service plan to address child safety and other issues that impact child and family well-being.

The social worker has 30 days to develop the service plan together with the family. The plan includes goals and steps to take to address the identified issues.

In most cases, the parents agree to work with child protection services. If a parent or caregiver refuses to participate, the social worker will consult with the county or tribal attorney, and a Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) petition may be filed. The CHIPS petition would seek either:

  • Temporary legal custody of the child
  • A court order that the parent or caregiver participate in services.

If a CHIPS petition is filed, court hearings will be held to determine if the family will be court-ordered to work with the child protection agency.

Placement of children in care

Placement in foster care may be considered if the child protection social worker or law enforcement believes that the child is not safe in the care of his or her parents. Only law enforcement and the courts have the authority to place a child in foster care.

If the social worker believes the child needs to be placed for their safety, they can ask the parent to sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement. If the parent does not agree to this, the worker can request that law enforcement place the child on a 72-hour hold, or they can file a CHIPS petition.

If a child is to be placed in care, the social worker will typically ask the parents for names of any relatives or friends who can provide a safe, temporary home for the child. Out-of-home placement is a very stressful experience for both the child and the parents. Any time this stress can be decreased by placing the child with a person known to the child and who can safely care for the child, the worker will strive to do this.

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