Child Protection Hotline (CPH): Alleged Perpetrator Is Not the Child’s Legal Parent or Guardian
0050-503.70 | Revision Date: 3/24/2023


This policy reviews how referrals regarding alleged perpetrators, who are not the child’s parent, legal guardian or primary caregiver, are to be handled when reported to the Child Protection Hotline (CPH).

Table of Contents

Version Summary

This policy guide was updated from the 07/01/14 version to address the requirements of ACL 17-85 and to update instructions related to Structured Decision Making (SDM). The title was changed from "Child Protection Hotline: Alleged Perpetrator is No the Child's Parent or Primary Caregiver."


Cases of child abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exploitation, acts of cruelty, or when there is a substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness to a child by persons who are not their parent/legal guardian/primary caregiver, require DCFS intervention in any of the following circumstances:

  • The parent/legal guardian failed to, or was unable to, adequately supervise or protect the child from the custodian with whom the child had been left. 
  • The parent/legal guardian knew or reasonably should have known that their child was being harmed or placed at risk of harm.
  • The parent/legal guardian failed to, or was unable to, protect a child who was sexually trafficked, or who received food or shelter in exchange for, or who was paid to perform, sexual acts. 
  • If the alleged perpetrator has children of his or her own who may be at risk. 

Except for instances of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, the referral must be evaluated outwhen the child's parent/primary caregiver is not suspected to have caused or allowed the abuse, neglect or exploitation of their children, and it is determined that they have taken appropriate steps to protect their child(ren).


CPH CSW Responsibilities

  1. Assess the allegations to determine if there is any reasonable suspicion that the parent/legal guardian/primary caregiver:
    • May also be a perpetrator of abuse, neglect, or exploitation
    • Could have or should have known that the child was in danger
    • Failed to take adequate steps to protect the child.
  2. If any of the above are found to be true, determine if an in-person response is necessary using the appropriate SDM Hotline tool.
  3. If an in-person response is needed because the reporter has provided information that indicates caregiver knowledge, involvement and/or failure to protect that meets the threshold for response and the SDM Hotline tool has, therefore, recommended an in-person response, proceed as follows:
    1. Create a referral with separate allegations in CWS/CMS that name both the parent/legal guardian/primary caregiver and the third-party perpetrator in the referral.
    2. Use the SDM Hotline tool response priority decision tree(s) to determine the appropriate response time.
  4. Ask the reporting party if the alleged perpetrator has children of his or her own:
    1. If the alleged perpetrator has children, create a referral on the alleged perpetrator's own household.
    2. Assess whether allegations meet the threshold for an in-person response and determine response priority using the SDM Hotline tool.
  5. Create the Suspected Child Abuse Report (SCAR) (for allegations other than general neglect) and cross report to law enforcement.
  6. Cross-Report to additional agencies if necessary.
  7. Map the referral according to assignment criteria.

CPH SCSW Responsibilities

  1. Review the referral and the SDM Hotline tool used by the CSW for accuracy.
  2. If necessary, take steps to correct the referral before approval and assignment.

CPH SCSW Approval

  • Approve the SDM Hotline Tool
  • Approve the referral

0050-502.10, Child Protection Hotline

0050-503.15, Response Times for Referrals

0050-504.05, Referral Assignment Criteria

0070-515.10, Changing Response Times, Evaluating Out, and Re-Mapping Emergency Response Referrals by Regional Staff

0070-548.24, Structured Decision Making (SDM)


All County Letter (ACL) 17-85 – Describes the steps necessary when assessing and investigating referrals involving third party perpetrators of child abuse or neglect, including non-parent minor perpetrators, non-household perpetrators, and unknown perpetrators. It also provides guidance for coordinating such investigations with law enforcement.

California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP) Division - 31-105- states in part that, the social worker shall immediately initiate and complete the Emergency Response Protocol process to determine whether an in-person investigation is required. It further spells out the recording of all available and appropriate information on the Emergency Response referral.

Penal Code (PEN) Section 236.1 – Defines “human trafficking,” “commercial sex act,” and other related terms.

PEN 11166(j) - A county probation or welfare department shall immediately, or as soon as practicably possible, report by telephone, fax, or electronic transmission to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the case, to the agency given the responsibility for investigation of cases under Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and to the district attorney's office every known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect, as defined in Section 11165.6, except acts or omissions coming within subdivision (b) of Section 11165.2, or reports made pursuant to Section 11165.13 based on risk to a child which relates solely to the inability of the parent to provide the child with regular care due to the parent's substance abuse, which shall be reported only to the county welfare or probation department. A county probation or welfare department also shall send, fax, or electronically transmit a written report thereof within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident to any agency to which it makes a telephone report under this subdivision.

Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 300(b)(2) – States, in part, that a child who is sexually trafficked, as described in Section 236.1 of the Penal Code, or who receives food or shelter in exchange for, or who is paid to perform, sexual acts described in Section 236.1 or 11165.1 of the Penal Code, and whose parent or guardian failed to, or was unable to, protect the child, is within the description of this subdivision, and that this finding is declaratory of existing law. These children shall be known as commercially sexually exploited children.