Washington Law Review


Mark Hardin


This article addresses the legal dimensions of an important and difficult problem sometimes faced by social workers employed with child protection agencies: noncooperation with investigations. This problem can arise when the child's family denies access to the home or the child, or when others, such as schools and health providers, decline to cooperate with the investigation. This article identifies the constitutionally based procedural requirements that are applicable to child abuse investigations. It then proposes specific legislative reforms consistent with these constitutional requirements. The discussion of procedural requirements for child protection proceedings necessarily considers whether existing criminal and administrative procedures apply to the child welfare context. The article covers three related areas in child abuse investigations: First, methods for gaining access to the child's residence and to other places where evidence regarding child abuse may be found; second, methods for gaining access to the child for an interview, for observation, or for lay or medical examination; and third, methods for obtaining records or other information relevant to the investigation. The focus of the article is limited to the period of time prior to the drastic step of filing a child abuse petition or placing a child away from home.

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