Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) Hearings
0070-548.18 | Revision Date: 3/31/2023

Overview

This policy guide provides staff with guidelines on responding to and conducting Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) Hearings.

Table of Contents

Version Summary

This policy guide was updated from the 03/05/12 version, as part of the Policy Redesign, in accordance with the DCFS Strategic Plan.

POLICY

Gomez v. Saenz

Based on a settlement agreement in Gomez v. Saenz lawsuit, individuals are to be provided appropriate notice of their Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) listing as well as the right to appeal the listing via an administrative grievance review hearing. These grievance review hearings are conducted by a grievance review officer.

Grievance Review Officer

The grievance officer conducting the grievance hearing must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a staff member or other person who is not involved in the investigation of the alleged child abuse or severe neglect.
  • Have in the field knowledge of child abuse or neglect investigations and is capable of objectively reviewing the complaint.

The officer cannot be a co-worker or a person directly in the chain of supervision of any of the persons involved in the investigation of the alleged abuse or severe neglect unless the grievance officer is the Director or Deputy Director of DCFS.

The Chief Grievance Review Officer is authorized to perform the following tasks:

  • Process grievance requests and conduct the review hearings.
  • Prevent the presence and/or examination of a child at the grievance hearing for good cause. Good cause includes but is not limited to protecting the child from trauma or protecting his or her health, safety, and/or well-being.
  • Interview the child outside the presence of the parties to determine the following:
    • Whether the child’s participation is voluntary.
    • Whether the child is capable of providing voluntary consent.
    • Whether good cause exists for preventing the child from being present and/or testifying at the hearing.
  • Permit the testimony and/or presence of a child. This shall be permitted only if both the child’s participation in the grievance is voluntary and the child is able to provide voluntary consent.
  • Limit the questioning of a witness to protect the witness from unwarranted embarrassment, oppression, or harassment.
  • Allow the DCFS and/or the complainant to submit additional evidence as necessary to evaluate whether a finding of substantiated abuse is warranted.
  • Continue the hearing for a period not to exceed 10 calendar days if additional evidence or witnesses are necessary for determination of the issue.

The grievance officer does not have subpoena power. Should a grievance officer be unavailable to prepare the proposed decision, the County Director or his/her designee shall notify the complainant and the county that the case is being assigned to another grievance hearing officer to prepare.

  • The notice shall inform the complainant that he/she may elect to have a new grievance hearing held on the matter, provided that he/she agrees to waive the 10 day or 60 day period.

A grievance review officer must voluntarily disqualify him/herself and withdraw from any proceeding, in which he/she cannot give a fair and impartial hearing or in which he/she has an interest. A grievance review officer will be considered unable to conduct a fair and impartial hearing if he/she:

  • Is incapacitated.
  • Has ceased employment as a grievance review officer.
  • Upholds a party's motion for disqualification at the beginning or during the hearing. In such cases, the matter shall be postponed and shall be considered a postponement with good cause.
    • If after the hearing, but before the close of the record, the grievance review officer determines that disqualification is appropriate, he/she shall notify the claimant and the county that the case is being assigned to another grievance hearing officer.

A complainant may request, at any time, prior to the close of the record that the grievance review officer be disqualified upon the grounds that a fair and impartial hearing cannot be held or a decision cannot be rendered. The grievance review officer's determination is subject to rehearing review and judicial review.

Challenges to a Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) Referral

An individual may request a grievance hearing to challenge his/her referral to the CACI through the following steps:

  1. Request and complete a written and signed request for a grievance hearing.
    • The request for grievance hearing must set forth the facts that the individual believes provides a basis for reversal of DCFS’ finding of substantiated abuse.
  2. Mail the request to DCFS within 30 calendar days of the date the notice and request for grievance was mailed to the individual.
    • Failure to mail the request for grievance within the prescribed timeframe shall constitute waiver of the right to a grievance.
    • For individuals to whom no prior notification was mailed regarding his/her referral to the CACI, the request must be filed within 30 calendar days of the individual; becoming aware that he/she is listed on the CACI and/or becoming aware of the grievance process.
      • A complainant is deemed aware of the county action or finding when the county mails adequate notice to the complainant’s last known address.

A grievance hearing request shall not be accepted under the following circumstances:

  • A court of competent jurisdiction (e.g. Dependency Court) has determined that the suspected abuse or severe neglect has occurred.
  • The allegation of child abuse or severe neglect resulting in a referral to the CACI is pending before the court.

In these cases, the Appeals Management Section Staff will place a submitted initial grievance request on hold and track the results of the court’s decision. If the court does not sustain the petition, the individual may contest the listing and request a hearing within the timeframe allowed per grievance procedures.

Grievance Review Hearings

The individual requesting the grievance hearing may have an attorney or other representative present at the hearing to assist them. The individual requesting the grievance hearing and their representatives must be permitted to examine all records and evidence related to the county’s investigative activities and findings associated with the original referral that prompted the CACI listing. This does not include information that is otherwise made confidential by law.

  • DCFS must obtain a copy of the signed authorization, prior to communicating with any attorney, or any other individual claiming to speak on behalf of the aggrieved party.

DCFS and the complainant must make available the documents and other evidence related to the original referral that they intend to rely upon at the grievance hearing at least 10 business days prior to the hearing to the extent permitted by law.

  • This excludes information that is otherwise made confidential by law.
  • The county must redact from the records names and personal identifiers as well as information regarding the mandated reporter's observations of the evidence indicating child abuse and/or neglect to protect the identity, health, and safety of those mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and/or neglect.
  • Failure to disclose evidence or witness lists in advance of the hearing can constitute grounds for objecting to consideration of the evidence at the hearing or to hearing the testimony of a witness during the hearing.

Each party and their attorney or representative and witnesses while testifying will be the only persons authorized to be present during the hearing unless all parties and the grievance officer provide consent. All testimony shall be given under oath or affirmation. Parties may call witnesses to the hearing and question the other party’s witness.

The grievance review hearing shall be conducted as follows:

  1. The grievance hearing must be, to the extent possible, conducted in a non-adversarial atmosphere.
  2. DCFS presents evidence supporting its findings of substantiated abuse or severe neglect.
  3. The complainant will provide evidence supporting their claim that DCFS’ finding(s) should be withdrawn or changed.
  4. DCFS is allowed to present rebuttal evidence in support of its finding.
  5. The Chief Grievance Officer may allow DCFS and/or the party filing the complaint to submit additional evidence.
  6. Either party may request a continuance of the grievance hearing not to exceed 10 business days. Additional continuances or a dismissal of the hearing will be granted with mutual agreement of all parties involved or for good cause.
  7. The Director of DCFS must issue a written final decision adopting, rejecting, or modifying the recommended decision within 10 business days after the recommend decision issues.
    • The director of DCFS must explain why a recommended decision was rejected or modified.
  8. The final decision must be based upon the evidence presented at the hearing.
    • DCFS may conduct an internal review of the case to address or rectify the matter identified in the request for grievance prior to the hearing.
    • The DCFS Chief Grievance Review Officer may resolve a grievance at any time by modifying a finding of substantiated abuse or neglect to unfounded and notifying DOJ of the need to remove the individual from the CACI.

Information disclosed at the grievance hearing may not be used for any other purpose unless otherwise required by law.

  • Any documents or other evidence disclosed by the county to the complainant and/or his or her attorney or representative for the hearing shall be returned to DCFS at the conclusion of the hearing.
  • The documents and information disclosed may be part of an administrative record for a writ of mandate challenging the final decision of the DCFS Director.
  • The administrative record shall be kept confidential, including if any of the parties request that it be filed with the court under seal.

Grievance Review Records

Grievance review proceedings are audio recorded as part of the official administrative record. The Chief Grievance Review Officer’s staff possesses and maintains the administrative record and transcript of the hearing. The contents of the transcript remain under seal.

The complainant or the complainant’s representative may inspect the transcript and/or recording. The costs for transcribing a recording of the hearing are charged to the complainant. DCFS must provide the administrative record to the court, if any party seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Director of DCFS.

The grievance hearing record shall be retained for a length of time consistent with current law, regulations, or judicial order that governs the retention of the underlying record. Regardless of the circumstance, the record must be retained for at least one year from the decision date. It must also include the documents and other evidence accepted as evidence at the hearing.

PROCEDURE

Responding to a Known or Suspected Child Abuser Who Disputes a CACI Submission

CSW Responsibilities

The CSW who conducted the investigation of the suspected child abuse or severe neglect must be present at the grievance hearing, if that person is employed by DCFS and is available to participate.

CSWs are to contact their out stationed County Counsel when documents and/or evidence is requested that support the CACI submission to DOJ and when a CSW is required to attend a grievance hearing. At no time shall records requests be handled by CSWs without the assistance of County Counsel.

  1. Refer the caller to the SCSW responsible for the investigation.
    • Discuss the dispute with that SCSW.
  2. If assistance is requested by the complainant, assist in preparing the grievance request.
  3. Contact the out stationed County Counsel for the following reasons. If there is not an out stationed County Counsel assigned to the office, contact CACI paralegals at (323) 526-6224 or (323) 526-6109:
    1. To discuss the dispute.
    2. To discuss the Chief Grievance Officer’s request for additional documents and/or evidence that supports the CACI submission to the DOJ.
    3. To prepare for the hearing.

SCSW Responsibilities

  1. If the known or suspected child abuser contacts the CSW to dispute the submission of his or her name to Department of Justice, discuss the dispute with the CSW responsible for the investigation.
  2. Discuss the submission of the SOC 832, SOC 833, and SOC 834 with the known or suspected child abuser. If s/he is unsatisfied with the outcome of this discussion, advise him/her to submit a written request for a review to the Chief Grievance Review Officer at:
    • DCFS Appeals Management Section, Attention: Chief Grievance Review Officer, 501 Shatto Pl., Suite 373, Los Angeles, CA 90020.
  3. If contacted by the Chief Grievance Office for additional documents and/or other evidence to support the CACI submission to DOJ, contact the out stationed County Counsel regarding the request. If there is no out stationed County Counsel, contact CACI paralegals at (323) 526-6224 or (323) 526-6109.

Responding to a Request for a Grievance Hearing

Chief Grievance Review Officer Staff Responsibilities

  1. Determine whether the following have occurred:
    • The SOC 834, Request for Grievance Hearing, was not submitted in a timely manner.
    • A superior court found that the suspected abuse or severe neglect has occurred.
    • The allegation of child abuse or severe neglect results in a referral to the CACI that is pending before superior court.
      • If any of the above conditions exists, notify the requesting individual by letter that their request for a grievance hearing is being denied and provide the reasons for the denial.
  2. If the SOC 834 does not have all the necessary information, assist the individual in completing the SOC 834 correctly.
  3. Determine if the matter identified in the request for grievance hearing can be rectified by a review of the case record.
    • If the finding of substantiated abuse or severe neglect must be changed to unfounded report, notify the Department of Justice of the correction to the CACI.
  4. If the SOC 834 has been submitted in a timely manner, it contains the necessary information, and it is determined that the matter cannot be resolved without a grievance hearing, conduct the grievance hearing.

Conducting a Grievance Hearing

Chief Grievance Review Officer Staff Responsibilities

  1. Schedule the grievance hearing within 10 business days and no later than 60 calendar days from the date the request for grievance is received, unless otherwise agreed to by the individual and DCFS.
  2. At least 30 calendar days prior to the scheduled grievance hearing:
    1. Mail a letter to the complainant, informing him/her of the date, time and place of the grievance hearing.
    2. Notify the investigating CSW by e-mail and by telephone that their presence is required at the grievance hearing.
      1. Inform the CSW of the date, time, and place of the hearing.
      2. If the CSW is no longer an employee of DCFS, attempt to locate that CSW’s former SCSW at the time of the investigation. Request that he/she be present at the grievance hearing.
    3. Inform the CSW’s SCSW and ARA by e-mail and telephone of the scheduled grievance hearing.
  3. If the complainant is planning to have an attorney at the hearing:
    1. Instruct the investigating CSW to have their out station County Counsel present, or
    2. Contact the designated Advise County Counsel Attorney to assist the Chief Grievance Review Officer in the grievance hearing.

Chief Grievance Review Officer Responsibilities

  1. Record and conduct the grievance review hearing.
  2. Administer the oath to all witnesses.
  3. If a child is a witness, interview the child outside the presence of the parties to determine whether the child’s participation is voluntary and/or whether good cause exists for preventing the child from being present or testifying at the hearing.
  4. Review and evaluate documentary evidence.
  5. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, determine whether the allegation of abuse or neglect is an unfounded report, inconclusive report or substantiated report.
  6. Provide a written recommended decision to the Director or Chief Deputy within thirty (30) calendar days of the close of the grievance hearing.
    • Include in the decision a summary statement of the facts, the issues involved, findings, and the basis for the decision.

Responding to Changes Made to the CACI

Chief Grievance Review Officer Staff Responsibilities

  1. Mail the DCFS 5632, Response Letter to Child Abuse Central Index Inquiries to:
    • Each complainant that requested a grievance hearing
    • The complainant’s attorney or representative (if applicable)
    • The California Department of Social Services at: California Department of Social Services Attn: Child Welfare Policy and Program Development Bureau 744 P Street, MS 11-87 Sacramento, CA 95814
  2. If the finding of substantiated abuse or neglect is changed because of the grievance hearing, advise the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the change.
    • Request that DOJ remove the complainant’s name from the CACI or that the designation of substantiated abuse or neglect be changed accordingly.
  3. Within 5 business days of making the change, complete a new BCIA 8583.
    1. The new BCIA must include supplementary information that has been provided for a previously submitted BCIA 8583.
    2. Check the appropriate box in Section C. “Amended Report Information.”
    3. Send the new BCIA 8583 to the DOJ at:
  4. Update the Allegation Notebook in CWS/CMS when there is a change in investigation disposition due to a case review or grievance review hearing.
    • Document on the ID page of the referral both that there was a request for a grievance hearing and the results of the hearing.
APPROVALS
None
HELPFUL LINKS

Forms

CWS/CMS

BCIA 8583, Child Abuse or Severe Neglect Indexing Form

LA Kids

DCFS 5632, Response Letter to Child Abuse Central Index Inquiries

SOC 832, Notice of Child Abuse Central Index Listing

SOC 833, Grievance Procedures for Challenging Reference to the Child Abuse Central Index

SOC 834, Request for Grievance Hearing

REFERENCED POLICY GUIDES

0070-548.17, Completion and Submission of the BCIA 8583, Child Abuse or Severe Neglect Indexing Form

0500-501.20, Release of Confidential DCFS Case Record Information

STATUTES AND OTHER MANDATES

All County Information Notice (ACIN) 1-22-08 – Implementation Activities for Gomez V.

Saenz Lawsuit Settlement.

Assembly Bill 717 – Details the reporting requirements to the Child Abuse Central Index

(CACI).

California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP) Division 31 Section 31-021.54 – States, in part, that a grievance review offer may be a “staff or other person who is able to conduct a fair and impartial hearing. A grievance review officer shall voluntarily disqualify him or herself and withdraw from any proceeding in which he or she cannot give a fair and impartial hearing or in which he or she has an interest.”

CDSS MPP Division Section 31-021.55 – States, in part, that a grievance review offer may be a person who is available to prepare the proposed decision and lists the situations under which a person would be unavailable.

CDSS MPP Division Section 31-021.62 – States, in part, that the county “shall be permitted to examine all records and evidence related to the county’s investigative activities and investigative findings associated with the original referral that prompted the CACI listing, except for information that is otherwise made confidential by law.”

CDSS MPP Division 31Section 31-021.621 – States “the county and the complainant shall make available for inspection all records and evidence related to the original referral that prompted the CACI listing, except for information that is otherwise made confidential by law, at least ten (10) business days prior to the hearing.”

CDSS MPP Division 31Section 31-021.621(a) – States, in part, that the “County shall redact such names and personal identifiers from the records and other evidence as required by law and to protect the identify, health, and safety of mandated of those mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and/or neglect.”

CDSS MPP Division 31Section 31-021.64 – States, in part, that “the information disclosed at the grievance hearing may not be used for any other purpose unless otherwise required by law.”

Penal Code (PC) Section 11165.12 – Provides definitions for an unfounded report, a substantiated report, and an inconclusive report.

PC 11169 – (a) States, in part, that an agency shall forward to the Department of Justice a report in writing of every case it investigates of known or suspected child abuse or severe neglect which is determined to be substantiated; (b) that the agency shall also notify in writing that the known or suspected child abuser has been reported to the Child Abuse Central Index; (c) that agencies shall retain child abuse or neglect investigative reports that result in a report filed with the Department of Justice.