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What to Expect If You Are Involved in a Child Abuse Investigation

Posted on in Family Law

California family lawyerChildren deserve to have their health and safety protected, whether they are at home, at school, or under the supervision of a daycare provider, coach, or doctor. In order to safeguard children from the threat of abuse, the state of California has put legal measures in place to ensure that potential cases of child abuse or neglect are reported and investigated. When a person is being investigated for suspected child abuse, they should understand the processes that will be followed, their rights in the investigation, and the potential outcomes.

Reports of Suspected Abuse or Neglect

According to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), a person who reasonably suspects that a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect can make a report to a law enforcement agency. Certain “mandated reporters,” such as teachers, doctors, therapists, members of the clergy, or day care center employees, are required by law to make these reports.

After receiving a report, the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) will perform an investigation, which will likely include interviews with the alleged abuser, the child, and anyone else involved, as well as visits to the home and reviews of relevant family histories or criminal records. During an investigation, the person being investigated will be informed of the allegations against them, and the identity of the person who made the report of suspected child abuse or neglect will not be disclosed.

The Outcome of an Investigation

At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will make a report with one of three possible findings:

  • Unfounded - The investigator believes the alleged abuse did not occur. They may decide that the report of abuse or neglect was false or “inherently improbable,” that a child received injuries through an accident rather than because of abuse, or that the person’s actions did not constitute abuse or neglect.
  • Inconclusive - While the investigator cannot say that the alleged abuse did not occur, they were unable to obtain sufficient evidence showing that abuse or neglect took place.
  • Substantiated - Based on the evidence, the investigator believes that it was more likely than not that the alleged abuse actually occurred. In legal terms, this is known as a “preponderance of the evidence,” with at least 51 percent of the evidence indicating that the alleged abuse or neglect took place.

A substantiated report will result in certain actions being taken, including having the alleged abuser’s name listed in California’s Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Depending on the findings, criminal charges may be involved, and DFCS may take steps to protect children’s safety, including asking parents to meet certain requirements (such as receiving counseling or enrolling in a substance abuse program) or removing children from the home.

Contact a Los Gatos Family Lawyer

If you are being investigated for alleged child abuse or neglect, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Benita Ventresca, we will work to protect your rights, defend you against the charges, and help you avoid the personal and professional consequences that can result from a substantiated report. Contact a Los Gatos child abuse and family law attorney today at 408-395-8822 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.sccgov.org/sites/ssa/dfcs/abuse/Pages/intervention.aspx

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&division=&title=1.&part=4.&chapter=2.&article=2.5.

http://www.docyp.org/pdf/pub132.pdf

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