This policy reviews the distribution of authority and coordination of efforts required when law enforcement and DCFS investigate the same child abuse referrals, as well as the situations in which a concurrent investigation may be required.
Table of Contents
This policy guide was updated from the 07/01/14 version to clarify that when law enforcement has taken a child into custody, DCFS must conduct a safety assessment to determine if child protective services are required.
Concurrent Investigations with Law Enforcement
Both DCFS and law enforcement have the authority to investigate cases of suspected child abuse or neglect and to take children into temporary custody when required.
Completing concurrent investigations with law enforcement requires that DCFS and law enforcement make efforts to communicate from the earliest opportunity, coordinate investigations, limit repeat interviews by different agencies, and continue to share information throughout the investigation of the case.
When law enforcement and DCFS are completing concurrent investigations, each agency must adhere to its’ separate mandates. Law enforcement has authority to determine whether a crime has occurred. DCFS has authority to determine whether the child requires protective services.
When law enforcement detains or delivers (not detained) a child to DCFS, per WIC 306 and/or 309, a safety assessment must be conducted by the CSW to determine if the child should be taken into temporary custody. To take a child into temporary custody, a CSW must have one of the following:
- exigent circumstances
- court order
When law enforcement has taken a child into temporary custody and it is determined by DCFS that the child(ren) can return home permanently or pending a removal order, ARA approval and notification to law enforcement is required.
If the situation warrants it, a CSW should call law enforcement for assistance when investigating a child abuse referral and/or taking a child into temporary custody.
Concurrent Investigation Referrals
A concurrent investigation with law enforcement must be conducted, whenever possible, on any of the following types of referrals:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Severe neglect
- Domestic violence (in some instances)
- Any type of referral where law enforcement and DCFS mutually agree to conduct a concurrent investigation.
- MART CSWs
- Regional CSW responding to a referral (ER or FM/R)
- Law enforcement co-located CSWs
- Law enforcement co-located CSWs must adhere to Emergency Response policies & procedures and respond to referrals within the community of the law enforcement agency.
- ERCP CSWs
- When Emergency Response Command Post (ERCP) transfers a referral or case in which a Concurrent Investigation with law enforcement was conducted, the newly assigned CSW has the responsibility of informing the officer and/or detective of the new assignment.
Responding Without a Referral
In some situations, DCFS has a legal obligation to receive temporary custody of a child who has been delivered by a peace officer, with or without a referral. If a child (dependent or non-dependent) is transported by law enforcement to a DCFS office and a child abuse referral has not been made, law enforcement must call the Child Protection Hotline to make a child abuse referral.
CSWs are authorized to protect children without a referral and take them into temporary custody as long as there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is:
- A minor who has been declared a dependent child of the juvenile court under Section 300.
- A minor as described in subdivision (b) or (g) of WIC Section 300 and the social worker has reasonable cause to believe any of the following:
- The child has an immediate need for medical care.
- The child is in immediate danger of physical or sexual abuse.
- The physical environment poses an immediate threat to the child’s health or safety.
CSWs are allowed to conduct a concurrent investigation with law enforcement without a referral, per WIC 306(a). MART CSWs and co-located ER CSWs are the primary CSWs that respond without a referral; however law enforcement may directly contact a regional office for ER CSW assistance. As soon as the CSW responds to the location to meet law enforcement, the CSW must inquire if law enforcement called in the referral to the hotline. If it was done, the CSW must obtain the 19 digit referral number from law enforcement. If it was not done, the CSW must request that law enforcement call in the referral immediately and the CSW must obtain the 19 digit referral number prior to leaving the location.
CSWs may only assist with the placement of child(ren) whose parents have been arrested if law enforcement has detained a child(ren) under WIC 300, 305(a-d), and/or 309 and a referral has been generated to investigate child abuse or neglect. A referral needs to be generated for CSWs to complete a criminal history check on relatives or nonrelative extended family members identified as a temporary caretaker by the arrested parent(s).
Communication and Confidentiality
When DCFS and law enforcement are both investigating the same child abuse referral, the documents that generated the child abuse referral may be shared without law enforcement having to complete the Declaration in Support of Access to Juvenile Records.
Documents that generate a child abuse referral may include the following:
- Medical reports and documents
- Therapist reports
- Police reports
All subsequent incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect must be cross-reported to law enforcement. Additional disclosure of cross-reported information must be discussed among the professionals affiliated with the case.
Many of the documents and proceedings relating to minors are confidential by statute, case law, and/or court order. Dependency court proceedings and records are confidential; however, criminal court proceedings are not confidential. When the crime involves a sexual offense, the victim’s identity can remain confidential upon request and not be disclosed on any public records. In addition, the victim may, at the judge’s discretion, be addressed as Jane or John Doe in court records and in court.
Crime Scene Preservation
During concurrent investigations, CSWs are to avoid disturbing potential forensic evidence and communicate the existence and location of potential forensic evidence to law enforcement. Potential forensic evidence may include but is not limited to:
- Computer hardware and software
- Sex toys
- Cell phones
- Blood or bodily fluids
- Drugs and/or drug paraphernalia
- Other items which corroborate the child’s allegation
During the course of a concurrent investigation with law enforcement where there is evidence/suspicion of or , a medical examination of the child should be performed by health care providers with expertise in the area of detecting and diagnosing abuse and neglect. Medical examinations are an important component of investigations in that they can yield forensic evidence and/or expert testimony that is admissible in both dependency and criminal court.
Medical exams (either forensic or to detect and treat child abuse injuries and neglect) are prohibited unless one or more of the following conditions exist:
- Parental consent
- A court order
- Exigent circumstances which demonstrate either:
- A medical emergency (urgent problem requiring immediate medical attention)
- That the examination is necessary to preserve evidence (e.g. sexual assault occurring within the previous 72 hours)
Children over 12 must consent to the exam themselves. The exam should not be performed by force on children of any age.
Conducting a Concurrent Investigation with Law Enforcement
Emergency Response (ER) CSW Responsibilities
- Respond to the request to conduct a concurrent investigation as follows:
- With a Referral:
- When a copy of the referral is received and it is determined that a concurrent investigation with law enforcement is needed, contact law enforcement as soon as possible to request a concurrent investigation.
- Without a Referral:
- When a request from law enforcement is received to conduct a concurrent investigation without a referral, request that law enforcement call in the referral to the DCFS Child Protection (CPH) as soon as possible and ask law enforcement to inform the hotline to assign the referral to the responding CSW. As soon as you have responded to the location to meet law enforcement, inquire if law enforcement called in the referral:
- If the referral was called in, obtain the 19 digit referral number from law enforcement.
- If the referral was not called in, request that law enforcement call in the referral immediately and obtain the 19 digit referral number prior to leaving the location.
- If the referral was not called in by law enforcement, call in the referral and inform the Child Protection Hotline that you have already responded to the referral and to assign the referral to you.
- Inform SCSW as to law enforcement’s request to complete a concurrent investigation without a referral.
- With a Referral:
- Obtain and document the name, badge number, phone number, and cell phone number of the officer that will participate in the concurrent investigation.
- Confirm the information on the referral, including the:
- Name of parent(s)
- Name and number of children involved and ages
- Address of home or where the children are located
- Language of the family
- If necessary, request an officer that speaks the language of the family.
- Remind the officer that the identity of the mandated reporter is confidential.
- Clarify the purpose of the home call and expectations, including:
- The allegation(s) that needs to be investigated.
- Identifying any possible risks to the child’s safety according to the referral.
- Sharing with law enforcement any documents that generated the child abuse referral, such as medical exam, therapist report, etc.
- These documents can be shared without the completion of the Declaration in Support of Access to Juvenile Records form .
- Ask the investigating officer if there is other information on the family that the CSW should be aware of, such as:
- Criminal history
- Law enforcement’s prior contact with the family due to drugs, domestic violence, gang affiliation, etc.
- Discuss how to assess for any risks to the child’s safety and determine whether exigency exists or whether there is a need to obtain a .
- Discuss who will take the lead in interviewing all parties involved in the referral.
- CSWs must defer to the judgment of law enforcement officers/deputies on matters pertaining to forensic interviewing.
- Law enforcement may prefer to conduct the interviews in the investigation or may direct the CSW not to interview the perpetrator, which the CSW must comply with and document.
- Agree on the time to meet at the address of where the child(ren) is located. Request that the police officer wait for CSW to start interviews
- Document all contact with law enforcement including the officers work phone number and cell phone number.
- Depending on the type of referral you are investigating, follow appropriate and document the results.
- Conduct a safety assessment to determine if protective services are necessary, even if law enforcement has already taken the child(ren) into temporary custody.
- If necessary, utilize the Child and Family Team Meeting (CFTM) to address law enforcement’s concerns.
- If after completing a thorough safety assessment it is determined that the child can be released back to the parent(s), seek ARA approval.
- Notify law enforcement of the Department’s decision to release the children back to the parent(s) after ARA approval.
- During the course of the concurrent investigation, the CSW should:
- Avoid disturbing potential forensic evidence
- Communicate the existence and location of potential forensic evidence to law enforcement
- If necessary, request that law enforcement take pictures of the injuries on the child or parent (in the case of domestic violence), condition of the home, and/or other items that pose a risk to the child’s safety
- If law enforcement has not thoroughly assessed for the child’s safety, interject during the interview to complete a thorough safety assessment of the child
- Be present during the interview to hear all statements made by the parties interviewed.
- Discuss the situation with the SCSW, if a decision is made to remove the child(ren), take the child(ren) into
- If the child(ren) was detained:
- Ensure the initial medical examinations are conducted.
- In cases of sexual abuse, attempt to arrange for the forensic exam to take place at a Medical Hub, as soon as possible, but no later than 24 hours of removal in cases where the last incident of sexual abuse has occurred within the last 72 hours.
- Inform the officer that the child will be taken into protective custody and to contact the CSW should a follow-up with the child(ren) be needed.
- If a decision is made not to detain, devise a (if necessary) and/or provide the family with appropriate community resources to meet their needs, such as or .
- Request that law enforcement complete an incident report or crime report.
- Throughout the investigation of the referral, maintain contact with the assigned detective/officer and complete the following tasks (if applicable):
- Request a copy of the incident or crime report from law enforcement.
- Request photographic evidence if taken at the scene.
- If a crime was committed, confirm whether charges will be filed against the perpetrator and the court date for the hearing.
- Discuss the status of the criminal case including location of perpetrator and charges.
- Inform law enforcement if additional disclosures were made by the child(ren).
- Inform law enforcement as to the disposition of the referral.
- Inform law enforcement as to the placement of the child(ren) to facilitate further (if needed).
- Assist law enforcement in arranging for the child(ren) to participate in any related criminal proceedings.
- Complete all required cross-reports:
- Child Abuse Central Index
- BCIA 8583, Child Abuse or Severe Indexing Form
- Document all contacts and the results of the investigation.
- Taking Children into Protective Custody
- If releasing child(ren) back to parent(s) after law enforcement detained the child(ren)
BCIA 8583, Child Abuse or Severe Indexing Form
Referenced Policy Guides
0070-529.10, Assessing Allegations of Physical Abuse
0070-532.10, Assessing Allegations of Sexual Abuse
0050-503.15, Response Times for Referrals
0070-548.00, Community-Based Resources
0070-548.01, Child and Family Teams
0070-548.09, Multi-Agency Response Team (MART) Referrals
0070-548.10, Investigation, Disposition and Closure of Emergency Response Referrals
0070-548.17, Completion and Submission of the SS BCIA 8583, Child Abuse or Severe
Neglect Indexing Form
0070-548.18, Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) Review Hearings
0070-548.20, Taking Children into Temporary Custody
0070-548.25, Structured Decision Making (SDM) Safety Plans
0070-570.10, Obtaining Warrants and/or Removal Orders
0100-510.60, Placement Considerations for Children
0500-501.20, Release of Confidential DCFS Case Record Information
0500-509.10, Permission to Interview Children/Youth
0600-500.00, Medical Hubs
0600-501.10, Medical Consent
CDSS MPP Division 31-115 – States the circumstances under which the social worker shall conduct an in-person immediate investigation.
Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 300 – Provides descriptions in which any child is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court which may adjudge that person to be a dependent child of the court.
– States circumstances and conditions, under which any peace officer may, without a warrant, take a minor into temporary custody and when they must notify a social worker in the county welfare department to assume custody of the child
WIC Section 306 – States circumstances and conditions under which a social worker in a county welfare department may take a minor into temporary custody and required safety considerations to determine whether the child can remain safely at home
WIC Section 324.5 – Permits either law enforcement or the social worker to authorize a forensic exam to detect and/or treat child abuse injuries and neglect, if deemed necessary/appropriate by the forensic specialist, whenever a child is detained due to allegations of physical or sexual abuse.
WIC Section 16504(a) – States that any child reported to the county welfare department to be endangered by abuse, neglect, or exploitation shall be eligible for initial intake and evaluation of risk services. Each county welfare department shall maintain and operate a 24-hour response system. An immediate in-person response shall be made by a county welfare department social worker in emergency situations in accordance with regulations of the department. The person making any initial response to a request for child welfare services shall consider providing appropriate social services to maintain the child safely in his or her own home. However, an in-person response is not required when the county welfare department, based upon an evaluation of risk, determines that an in-person response is not appropriate.