Family & Children’s Services operates an Emergency Response Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to receive reports of alleged child abuse and neglect on children ages 0 to 17. The four broad categories of child abuse are: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.
When a child abuse or neglect report is made to Family and Children’s Services, a team of professionals review the report and determine the level of response required to investigate the allegations and protect the child if necessary. If the referral meets standards that are determined by the State of California, a Social Worker is assigned to investigate the report immediately or within 10 calendar days of the report. Some referrals require joint investigations with law enforcement.
Investigations are conducted in a thorough and professional manner and family interventions are completed in the least intrusive manner necessary for the protection of the child. While investigating a report of child abuse or neglect, the Social Worker works with the child and family to determine if child abuse or neglect occurred and if so, whether the family situation requires the child to be removed from the home and placed in a safe environment.
When a social worker engages with a family in crisis, the primary concern of the social worker involves the development of a safety plan for the child. In some cases, that plan involves placing the child into protective custody, which could mean the child is placed in foster care or with a relative or non-related extended family member who can ensure the safety of the child until it is safe for the child to be returned home. Other plans may allow the child to stay in the home provided that immediate steps are taken to reduce the risk of danger to the child. Family Team Meetings may be held which bring together the family, their support network, such as relatives, friends, neighbors, etc., and the social worker to identify the harm and danger to the child, what is working well with the family and specific actions that need to occur to ensure the child’s safety. The investigation process is usually concluded within 30 days.
If the determination is made that child abuse or neglect has occurred and the family needs support and assistance over a period of time, the Social Worker has two options to choose from in order to turn the referral into a case.