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Law Offices of Benita Ventresca408-395-8822
20 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Suite 212, Los Gatos, CA 95030
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Mediation and Litigation

Appealing a CANRA/CACI Finding of Child Neglect or Abuse

Posted on in Family Law

Los Gatos CACI defense attorneyThe California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) requires teachers, doctors, and others who work with children to report any “reasonable suspicion” of child neglect or abuse. Reports can also come from other sources. For example, allegations of child abuse or neglect are sometimes made maliciously in the course of a bitter divorce or child custody battle. Accusations may also be made out of an excess of caution, or due to a misinterpretation of something a child says or does. Whether true or not, the mere accusation can be hurtful and affect your access to your children. 

Child abuse reports are investigated by a child protective services agency in the county where the child lives. In Santa Clara County, that would be the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). These investigations must be taken seriously, because they could result in your name being put on the state’s Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). This will show up on a pre-employment background check for any job that involves working with children.

A child abuse investigation will conclude with a finding of unfounded, inconclusive, or substantiated. If a finding of “substantiated” is entered against you with the California Department of Justice, your name will be added to the state’s Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), where it will remain for your lifetime.

When you receive a written notice that your name has been added to the CACI, you have the right to request a grievance hearing to contest that decision. However, you have a very short window of time to make your request for a hearing, so you must act quickly. 

If you have not already had an attorney advising you during the DCFS investigation, it is recommended that you consult one as soon as you receive notice of a “substantiated” finding or a notice that your name has been added to the CACI. While a grievance hearing is not in front of a jury, it is still an important legal proceeding that will determine whether or not your name remains on the CACI.

When you file a request for a grievance hearing, you can do so on any of these grounds:

  • That the alleged acts of abuse or neglect did not occur.
  • That you were not the person who committed the alleged acts.
  • Even if the alleged acts occurred, they do not meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.
  • Some other reason.

Once the request for a hearing is filed, your attorney will begin preparing for the hearing, which may take some time. Your attorney will review the state’s evidence against you and look for ways to refute it. Your attorney will also try to gather evidence that the state may have overlooked, usually by re-interviewing people or interviewing additional people. Your attorney will strive to develop the strongest possible arguments in your favor.

The hearing will be conducted by a Grievance Review Officer. DCFS will present the evidence supporting its “substantiated” finding, and your attorney can present counter-evidence. Following the hearing, the grievance review officer will submit a written recommendation to the county’s DCFS director. The director has the option to accept, reject, or modify that recommendation and will then issue their final decision. If the decision is made to reverse the “substantiated” decision, then the state Department of Justice will be directed to remove your name from the CACI.

Consult a Los Gatos, CA Child Abuse Defense Attorney

If you have received a notice that DCFS has filed a “substantiated” child abuse report on you and that your name will be added to the CACI, consult an experienced Los Gatos CACI defense lawyer immediately. Attorney Benita Ventresca has decades of experience in family law and will be a persuasive advocate for you in a CACI hearing. For a free consultation, call our office at 408-395-8822.


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20 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Suite 212
Los Gatos, CA 95030

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