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The Florida Statutes

The 2021 Florida Statutes

Title V
JUDICIAL BRANCH
Chapter 39
PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO CHILDREN
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F.S. 39.101
39.101 Central abuse hotline.The central abuse hotline is the first step in the safety assessment and investigation process.
(1) ESTABLISHMENT AND OPERATION.
(a) The department shall operate and maintain a central abuse hotline capable of receiving all reports of known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect and reports that a child is in need of supervision and care and has no parent, legal custodian, or responsible adult relative immediately known and available to provide such supervision and care. The hotline must accept reports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and such reports must be made in accordance with s. 39.201. The central abuse hotline must be capable of accepting reports made in accordance with s. 39.201 in writing, through a single statewide toll-free telephone number, or through electronic reporting. A person may use any of these methods to make a report to the central abuse hotline.
(b) The central abuse hotline must be operated in such a manner as to enable the department to:
1. Accept reports for investigation when there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is being abused or neglected or has been abandoned.
2. Determine whether the allegations made by the reporter require an immediate or a 24-hour response in accordance with subsection (2).
3. Immediately identify and locate previous reports or cases of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect through the use of the department’s automated tracking system.
4. Track critical steps in the investigative process to ensure compliance with all requirements for any report or case of abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
5. When appropriate, refer reporters who do not allege child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to other organizations that may better resolve the reporter’s concerns.
6. Serve as a resource for the evaluation, management, and planning of preventive and remedial services for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.
7. Initiate and enter into agreements with other states for the purposes of gathering and sharing information contained in reports on child maltreatment to further enhance programs for the protection of children.
8. Promote public awareness of the central abuse hotline through community-based partner organizations and public service campaigns.
(2) TIMEFRAMES FOR INITIATING INVESTIGATION.After the central abuse hotline receives a report, the department must determine the timeframe in which to initiate an investigation under this chapter. Except as provided in s. 39.302 relating to institutional investigations, the department must commence an investigation:
(a) Immediately, regardless of the time of day or night, if it appears that:
1. The immediate safety or well-being of a child is endangered;
2. The family may flee or the child may be unavailable for purposes of conducting a child protective investigation; or
3. The facts reported to the central abuse hotline otherwise so warrant.
(b) Within 24 hours after receipt of a report that does not involve the criteria specified in paragraph (a).
(3) COLLECTION OF INFORMATION AND DATA.The department shall:
(a)1. Voice-record all incoming or outgoing calls that are received or placed by the central abuse hotline which relate to suspected or known child abuse, abandonment, or neglect and maintain an electronic copy of each report made to the central abuse hotline through a call or electronic reporting.
2. Make the recording or electronic copy of the report made to the central abuse hotline a part of the record of the report. Notwithstanding s. 39.202, the recording or electronic copy may only be released in full to law enforcement agencies and state attorneys for the purposes of investigating and prosecuting criminal charges under s. 39.205, or to employees of the department for the purposes of investigating and seeking administrative fines under s. 39.206.

This paragraph does not prohibit central abuse hotline counselors from using the recordings or the electronic copy of reports for quality assurance or training purposes.

(b)1. Secure and install electronic equipment that automatically provides the central abuse hotline the telephone number from which the call is placed or the Internet protocol address from which the electronic report is received.
2. Enter the telephone number or Internet protocol address into the report of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect for it to become a part of the record of the report.
3. Maintain the confidentiality of such information in the same manner as given to the identity of the reporter under s. 39.202.
(c)1. Update the online form used for reporting child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to include qualifying questions in order to obtain necessary information required to assess need and the timeframes necessary for initiating an investigation under subsection (2).
2. Make the report available in its entirety to the central abuse hotline counselors as needed to update the Florida Safe Families Network or other similar systems.
(d) Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the reporting and investigating of suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect through the development and analysis of statistical and other information.
(e) Maintain and produce aggregate statistical reports monitoring patterns of child abuse, abandonment, and neglect.
(f)1. Collect and analyze child-on-child sexual abuse reports and include such information in the aggregate statistical reports.
2. Collect and analyze, in separate statistical reports, those reports of child abuse, sexual abuse, and juvenile sexual abuse which are reported from or which occurred on or at:
a. School premises;
b. School transportation;
c. School-sponsored off-campus events;
d. A school readiness program provider determined to be eligible under s. 1002.88;
e. A private prekindergarten provider or a public school prekindergarten provider, as those terms are defined in s. 1002.51(7) and (8), respectively;
f. A public K-12 school as described in s. 1000.04;
g. A private school as defined in s. 1002.01;
h. A Florida College System institution or a state university, as those terms are defined in s. 1000.21(3) and (6), respectively; or
i. A school, as defined in s. 1005.02.
(4) USE OF INFORMATION RECEIVED BY THE CENTRAL ABUSE HOTLINE.
(a) Information received by the central abuse hotline may not be used for employment screening, except as provided in s. 39.202(2)(a) and (h) or s. 402.302(15).
(b) Information in the central abuse hotline and the department’s automated abuse information system may be used by the department, its authorized agents or contract providers, the Department of Health, or county agencies as part of the licensure or registration process pursuant to ss. 402.301-402.319 and ss. 409.175-409.176.
(c) Information in the central abuse hotline may also be used by the Department of Education for purposes of educator certification discipline and review pursuant to s. 39.202(2)(q).
(5) QUALITY ASSURANCE.On an ongoing basis, the department’s quality assurance program shall review screened-out reports involving three or more unaccepted reports on a single child, when jurisdiction applies, in order to detect such things as harassment and situations that warrant an investigation because of the frequency of the reports or the variety of the sources of the reports. A component of the quality assurance program must analyze unaccepted reports to the central abuse hotline by identified relatives as a part of the review of screened-out reports. The Assistant Secretary for Child Welfare may refer a case for investigation when it is determined, as a result of such review, that an investigation may be warranted.
History.s. 2, ch. 2021-170.