Writing the Initial Hearing Report
0300-303.15 | Revision Date: 7/15/2022


This policy guide provides instructions and guidelines on writing the Initial Hearing Report for children taken into temporary custody, as well as for Non-Detained Petition filings.

Table of Contents

Version Summary

This policy guide (formerly entitled: “Writing the Detention Report”) was updated from the 01/17/17 version to reflect changes based on the submission of reports through the Intake and Detention Control (IDC) Petition Tracking System, the changes of Detained versus Non Detained hearing time frames, changes to DCFS’ duty to inquire about Native American heritage, and changes due to WIC 309 (efforts to identify, locate and give notice to relatives of a detention).


Detained and Non-Detained Petitions

A Detained petition is when a child has been taken into temporary custody/detained from BOTH parents. For detained petitions, DCFS will provide notice of the Detention Hearing. A Non-Detained petition will be filed on any child left in the home of at least one parent – even if the child was detained from the other parent. For non-detained petitions, the Court will provide written notice to all parties advising of the date/time/location for the Detention Hearing. If there is a sibling set and one of the siblings has been detained from both parents, the Initial Hearing for all siblings will be set using the Detained petition timeframe.

Initial Hearing Reports

The Initial Hearing Report is the primary evidentiary document submitted by DCFS and is written by the CSW to support the WIC Section 300/342/387 petition allegations. Detention reports are required when the child has been taken into temporary custody/detained from one or both parents/guardians as well as when the child is left in the home of one or both parents/guardians and DCFS is requesting court involvement via a WIC Section 300, 342 or 387 Petition. The Initial Hearing Report, whether it is a detained or non-detained petition, must be routed to Intake and Detention Control (IDC) no later than 10:00 A.M. on the judicial day prior to the arraignment/initial hearing. After reviewing the Report, IDC prepares the detained and/or non-detained petitions, as well as the Court Addendum report.

A detained petition and Court Addendum report will be submitted with the Initial Hearing Report and considered by the Court within seventy-two (72) judicial hours of a child's detention or of a Non-Detained Petition being called into IDC. Non-detained petitions will be scheduled for the Initial hearing 10 judicial days after IDC files the non-detained petition with Court. Weekends, court holidays, furlough days, and legal holidays are excluded in calculating these deadlines.

Detained Petitions: Filing and Hearing Timeframes

Day of Detention

Initial Hearing Report Due to IDC

Petition To Be Filed with the Court


Detention Hearing





























Contents of the Initial Hearing Report for the Detained Petition

The CSW must include in the Initial Hearing Report the following information:

  • If a child is removed, the reasons for the child’s removal from the parent/guardian’s custody – include names and statements from your interviews in detail, and your efforts to interview essential contacts with relevant information. Documentary evidence received by DCFS (medical records, drug test results, police records etc.) should be described and quoted in the report for the Court, and must be attached;
  • The need for continued detention – explaining to the court why the child should remain detained due to the reasons set forth above regarding risk and safety leading to detention;
  • The availability of services to facilitate return to the parent/guardian’s custody – were there reasonable efforts provided prior to the decision to detain that would have allowed the child to remain safely with their parent and if so, describe them (for example: VFM/VFR; parent minimizing risk posed by perpetrator and refusing services), and if unable due to exigency, state that immediate risk to the children for the court, then set forth services that would benefit the family; and
  • The availability of relatives to assume temporary custody of the child.
  • Date and time of the child's detention

Information that must also be addressed in the Initial Hearing Report, whether detained or non-detained, include the following:

  • Indicate, without compromising the confidentiality of the reporting party (ex: do not include pronouns), the concerns of abuse and neglect that were investigated as a result of the report to the hotline.
  • In chronological order, set forth the interviews in detail as well as any efforts to interview individuals; include all evidence received that support the reason(s) why the child was removed from the parent/legal guardians/relative or non-relative extended family member's custody.
  • Provide any exculpatory evidence that is favorable to the parent(s) from whom the child is being removed.
  • Describe any services available, which would prevent or eliminate the need for further detention and what efforts were made to provide those services.
  • If recommending continued detention, state the facts that indicate a danger exists in returning the child home that cannot be mitigated with a safety plan.
  • Describe the current placement of the child (i.e., with whom, relationship of caregiver, if any).
  • Provide the current address of parents; if unknown, state the last known address by indicating LKA followed by the address.
  • If the child is not detained with a relative, identify known relatives and efforts made to contact them in an effort to evaluate for placement.
  • If siblings are not placed together, explain the reason for separate placements and what the visitation plan will be between the siblings.
  • If the child is a "prenatally-exposed to drugs infant", provide specific information concerning their condition and a copy of the hospital's Newborn Risk Assessment of the mother.
  • For each statement included in the report, identify who said what to whom and when it was said.
  • Available services and the referral methods to those services, which could facilitate the return of the child to the custody of the child's parents or legal guardians.


For Initial Hearing Reports where the CSW has decided to take one or more children (related or unrelated) into temporary custody/detain while leaving one or more children (related or unrelated) in the home, the CSW must address in detail, in addition to the information contained above, the reasons why the child(ren) was/were not detained. The facts must also detail why the child(ren) is/are not at risk of abuse, and/or neglect if allowed to remain in the home. Additionally, the signature of the Assistant Regional Administrator (ARA) is required on the Detention Report to leave children in the home when siblings are detained. When a child(ren) is/are left in the care of a non-offending parent who resides in a different home, the signature of the Assistant Regional Administrator (ARA) is not required.

Initial Hearing

At the Initial hearing, DCFS bears the burden of establishing the need for detention and tThe Court must release the child to their parent/guardian if that burden has not been met. DCFS is required to provide prima facie evidence supporting the detention. Typically, a prima facie case will be established solely by the introduction of police reports, DCFS Initial Hearing Report, and/or other documents.:

The court may not order the child to remain detained or detain the child at the Initial Hearing unless it finds the following:

  1. A prima facie showing the child is described by WIC Section 300;
  2. Continuance in the home of the parent/guardian is contrary to the child’s welfare; and
  3. Any of the following circumstances exist:
    • There is a substantial danger to the physical health of the child or the child is suffering severe emotional damage and there are no reasonable means by which the child's physical or emotional health may be protected without removing the child from the parents' or legal guardians' physical custody.
    • There is substantial evidence that a parent, legal guardian or custodian of the child is likely to flee the jurisdiction of the court.
    • The child has left a placement in which they were placed by the juvenile court.
    • The child indicates an unwillingness to return home, if the child has been physically or sexually abused by a person residing in the home.

The court determines whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from their home and whether there are available services, which would prevent the need for further detention. For American Indian children, the court determines whether active efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal.

American Indian Children

DCFS has an ongoing and continuing duty to inquire about Native American heritage. This means that the duty to inquiry begins with the initial contact and continues throughout the case. The duty to inquire includes, but is not limited to, DCFS asking the child, the parents/legal guardian, Indian Custodian, extended family members, others having an interest in the child and the reporting party whether the child is or may be an Indian child and where the child, parents or Indian custodian resides. This duty to inquire must take place even when the parents deny Native American heritage.

If the inquiry reveals that there is “reason to know” the child is an Indian child, DCFS must abide by additional legal mandates throughout the dependency court case. Circumstances that provide reason to know the child is an Indian child include:

  • Information from Court Participant, Tribe or Indian Agency - A participant or officer of the court involved in the proceeding or an Indian tribe, organization or agency informs the court that the child is an Indian child or that it has discovered information indicating that the child is an Indian child.
  • Information from a Person Having an Interest in the Child - A person having an interest in the child, including the child, an officer of the court, a tribe, an Indian organization, a public or private organization or extended family member informs the court that the child is an Indian child.
  • Information from the Child - The child who is the subject of the proceeding gives the court reason to know he or she is an Indian child.
  • Residence or Domicile on Indian Land - The court is informed that the residence or domicile of the child, the child’s parents or the Indian custodian is on a reservation or in an Alaska Native village.
  • Tribal Identification Card - The court is informed that either parent or the child possesses an identification card indicating tribal membership or citizenship.
  • Ward of Tribal Court - The child is, or has been, a ward of a tribal court.

When it is known or there is reason to know that an Indian child is involved, the detention report must include the following information:

  • A statement of the risk of imminent physical damage or harm to the Indian child.
  • Any evidence that the emergency placement continues to be necessary to prevent the imminent physical damage or harm to the child.
  • The steps taken to provide notice about the hearing to the child’s parents, custodians and tribe.
  • A detailed explanation of what efforts have been made to locate and contact any unknown parents or Indian custodians, including contact with the appropriate BIA regional director.
  • The residence and domicile of the Indian child.
  • If the residence/domicile of the Indian child is believed to be on a reservation/Alaskan Native village, the name of the tribe affiliated with the reservation/village.
  • The tribal/affiliation of the child and the parents or Indian Custodian.
  • A specific and detailed account of the circumstances that caused the Indian child to be taken into temporary custody.
  • If there is a belief that the child resides or is domiciled on a reservation where the tribe exercises exclusive jurisdiction over child custody matters, a statement of the efforts to contact the tribe and transfer the child to the tribe’s jurisdiction.
  • A statement of the efforts to assist the parents or Indian custodians so that the Indian child may safely be returned.

When there is reason to know that the child is an American Indian child, DCFS must provide active efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal. Both federal and California law detail 11 examples of active efforts which include:

  1. Conducting a comprehensive assessment of the circumstances of the Indian child’s family, with a focus on safe reunification as the most desirable goal;
  2. Identifying appropriate services and helping the parents overcome barriers, including actively assisting the parents in obtaining those services;
  3. Identifying, notifying, and inviting representatives of the Indian child’s tribe to participate in providing support and services to the Indian child’s family and in family team meetings, permanency planning, and resolution of placement issues;
  4. Conducting or causing to be conducted a diligent search for the Indian child’s extended family members, and contacting and consulting with extended family members to provide family structure and support for the Indian child and the Indian child’s parents;
  5. Offering and employing all available and culturally appropriate family preservation strategies and facilitating the use of remedial and rehabilitative services provided by the child’s tribe;
  6. Taking steps to keep siblings together whenever possible;
  7. Supporting regular visits with parents or Indian custodians in the most natural setting possible, as well as trial home visits of the Indian child during any period of removal, consistent with the need to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the child;
  8. Identifying community resources, including housing, financial assistance, transportation, mental health and substance abuse services, and peer support services, and actively assisting the Indian child’s parents or, when appropriate, the child’s family, in utilizing and accessing those resources;
  9. Monitoring progress and participation in services;
  10. Considering alternative ways to address the needs of the Indian child’s parents and, where appropriate, the family, if the optimal services do not exist or are not available;
  11. Providing post-reunification services and monitoring.

Transportation to Court

Initial Hearing (Arraignment/Detention Hearings)

All children who are 5 years of age or older need to be present in the court at 8:30 a.m. on the Initial or Detention Hearing date unless the child’s attorney indicates that the child does not need to be present.



Who provides transportation

DCFS Court Transportation Requests

RFA-community family (resource parent who is not a relative or NREFM or


All children who are 5 years of age or older need to appear in person unless the child’s attorney indicates that the child does not need

to be present.

DCFS Court Transportation will transport youth to court unless excused by CLC.

TThe request for transportation will be submitted by IDC staff.

Please refer to DCFS policy 0300-306.80: Transportation Requests to Bring Children Youth to Court (lacounty.gov)

RFA-Relative and NREFM

All children who are 5 years and older need to appear in person unless the child’s attorney indicates that the child does not need to be


The caregivers MUST transport youth to court for the initial hearing unless excused by CLC.


Parent/legal guardian

All children who are 5 years and older need to appear in person unless the child’s attorney indicates that the

child does not need to be present.

Parents and legal guardians MUST bring the youth to court for the initial hearing unless excused by CLC.


Writing the Initial Hearing Report

ER CSW Responsibilities

  1. Ask the parent(s) to sign the DCFS 179, Parental Consent and Authorization for Medical Care and Release of Education Records, DCFS 179-MH, Parental Consent for Child's Assessment & Participation in Mental Health and/or Regional Center Developmental Services, and DCFS 179-PHI, Authorization for Disclosure of Child's Protected Health Information (PHI).
    1. Obtain information regarding the child(ren)'s medical, mental, emotional and school history and potential needs.
      • The Revocation section of the DCFS 179, DCFS 179-MH and DCFS 179-PHI should only be signed when the parent would like to revoke their consent.
  2. Ask the parent(s) if their child may be an American Indian from a federally or non-federally recognized tribe and complete the ICWA-010(A).
    • The ICWA-010(A) must be completed for each child who is taken into temporary custody, and attached to the Initial Hearing Report.
    • DCFS must also inquire of the child, any relatives, extended family members, and the RP as to any Native American heritage.
  3. Within two (2) hours of detaining a child, or when reasonably safe to do so, create the Petition Request Referral in the IDC Petition Tracking System..
  4. The process for creating a Petition Request Referral for children detained afterhours by Regional/ERCP/MART staff is the same. Create the Petition Request Referral in the IDC Petition Tracking System within two (2) hours of detaining a child, or when reasonably safe to do so.
  5. If detaining the child of a Nonminor dependent, indicate this on the Initial Hearing report and include the NMD's case number. The case will be assigned to Department 418. Provide the case number in the Petition Tracking System when documenting the detention.
    1. ensure that notice has been provided to the NMD's attorney.
  6. If appropriate, submit a Medical HUB referral to the Hub located closest to the caregiver's home, for every child taken into temporary custody and include a Medical Hub Services Recommendation in the Initial Hearing Report. Include a Medical Hub Services Recommendation for those children who remain home and there is a recommendation to detain pursuant to WIC 319.
  7. Receive from IDC Petition Tracking System, the date and time of the detention/arraignment hearing and/or the Non-Detained Petition Hearing; as well as when the Detention Report must be submitted to IDC.
    • The detention/arraignment hearing for a detained petition takes place three (3) business days from the date the child was taken into temporary custody.
    • The Non-Detained Petition hearing takes place ten (10) judicial days from the date IDC filed the petition with the court.
  8. Provide either oral or written notice to all the parties, including tribes, of the detention/arraignment hearing.
    • For detained petitions, CSW will provide notice to parents that their case will be heard one judicial day after the petition is filed. (Refer to the detained petition chart for hearing timeframes). Instruct parents to contact their assigned LADL attorney if there is an active dependency court case. If they do not have an assigned attorney or do not know who their assigned attorney is, provide them with the main phone number for LADL: (323) 262-0472. Families may also call the Superior Court Call Center (323) 307-8800 for information regarding courtroom assignments and general information.
    • For a non-detained petition, the court will provide notice of the hearing.
    • CSWs must advise every child four (4) years or older of their right to attend court hearings, and arrange transportation for them to court.
    • This includes any child who may be incarcerated or institutionalized.
    • All children who are 5 or older must be brought to court for the Initial Detention hearing unless their attorney indicates otherwise. See chart regarding children being transported to court for the Detention hearing.
    • For all children placed out of LA County, prior arrangements must be made by the CSW in order to get the child to Court.
    • A notification letter is only necessary if oral notice was not provided.
    • Include the notice method and date of notice in the Detention Report or on a DCFS 4216, Last Minute Information for the Court.
    • Arrangements should be made to have parents who are incarcerated locally to be transported to the hearing.
  9. Prior to creating the Initial Hearing Report complete the following:
    • Review the on-line case record to ensure that all identifying information (i.e., names and addresses) is recorded and current. If necessary, update the case record.
    • Complete the SDM Safety and Risk Assessment tools.
      • In the Initial Hearing Report, do not reference the SDM tools specifically (just include the detailed facts that support your risk and safety determinations) and do not attach any SDM tools to the Initial Hearing Report unless ordered by court to do so.
  10. Complete all appropriate fields on the Initial Hearing Report populated by the database.
    • Enter "Non-Detained" at the top of the Initial Hearing Report if the report is for a Non-Detained Petition.
    • If necessary, enter additional headings.
    • Provide the information as outlined in the attached Detention Report Sample.
  11. Complete the Initial Hearing Report by 5:00 p.m. on the due date given by the IDC Petition Tracking System to ensure timely filing of petitions with the court.
  12. Obtain ARA approval if one or more of the following conditions exist:
    1. The recommendation is to allow one or more of the child(ren), regardless of their age, to remain in the home when one or more children in the same case or an associated case are taken into temporary custody.
    2. When placing a child age six (6) or younger in congregate care.
    3. A child under the age of five (5) is left in the home (59 months or younger).
    4. When parents reside in the same home, the child(ren) is detained from one parent, and the child remains with the non-offending parent because either the offending parent or non-offending parent has left the home.
      • ARA signature is not required when parents reside in two separate homes and the child is detained from one parent and remains in the care of the non-offending parent.
    5. If the recommendation is for a child(ren) to remain in the home and it is a sexual abuse case.
  13. Request on-line approval for the Initial Hearing Report and print it. Sign and date the hard copy.
  14. Submit the hard copy/e-version of the Initial Hearing Report with any supporting documents and any attachments to the SCSW for approval.
    • If the report was not approved, take necessary corrective action.
  15. When the report is approved/e-signed, route the Initial Hearing Report with any attachments, including the ICWA-010(A) for each child through the IDC Petition Tracking System to IDC by 5:00 p.m. on the due date given by the IDC Petition Tracking System..
    • The Initial Hearing Report should be electronically submitted to IDC utilizing the IDC Petition Filing Tracking System.

ER SCSW Responsibilities

  1. Review the packet, Initial Hearing Report, and any supporting documents, including all SDM tools used:
    1. If approved, sign/e-sign and date the Initial Hearing Report. Approve the Initial Hearing Report on-line and return the packet to the CSW if ARA approval is not required.
    2. If ARA approval is required, sign/e-sign the Initial Hearing report and send the packet to the ARA without approving the Initial Hearing report on-line.
      • If approved by the ARA, approve the Initial Hearing Report on-line and return the packet to the CSW.
      • If the ARA did not approve the report, take necessary corrective action, or, if necessary, return the packet to the CSW for corrective action.

ER ARA Responsibilities

  1. Review the Initial Hearing Report and any supporting documents and attachments, including all SDM tools.
    1. If approved, sign/e-sign and date the report and return the packet to the SCSW for on-line approval.
    2. If not approved, return the packet to the SCSW for corrective action.

Supervisor Approval

  • Initial Hearing Reports

ARA Approval



Timeframes for submitting Detention Reports to Intake and Detention Control (IDC)

Detention Report Sample

Medical Hub Services Recommendation

IDC Petition Tracking System

ITA 21-03, Adobe e-Sign for Court Report


LA Kids

DCFS 179, Parental Consent and Authorization for Medical Care and Release of Education Records (also available in Spanish)

DCFS 179-MH, Parental Consent for Child: Mental Health/Developmental Assessment and Participation in Mental Health/Developmental Services (also available in Spanish)

DCFS 179-PHI, Authorization for Disclosure of Child's Protected Health Information (also available in Spanish)

DCFS 4216, Last Minute Information for the Court

ICWA-010(A), Indian Child Inquiry Attachment

JV-501, Paternity Finding and Judgment

Medical HUB Referral Form

Relative Notification Letter (also available in Spanish)

JV 285, Relative Information


Detention Report

ICWA-010(A), Indian Child Inquiry


0070-548.01, Child and Family Teams

0070-548.20, Taking Children into Temporary Custody

0070-570.10, Obtaining Warrants and/or Removal Orders

0080-502.25, Court Family Maintenance and Voluntary Family Maintenance

0080-505.20, Health & Education Passport (HEP)

0100-510.21, Voluntary Placement

0100-510.60, Placement Considerations for Children

0100-510.61, Placement Responsibilities

0100-520.10, Evaluating a Prospective Caregiver

0100-520.70, Exemptions for Criminal History Records

0300-301.05, Filing Petitions

0300-303.07, Non-Disclosure Orders

0300-306.05, Noticing Process for Juvenile Court Proceedings

0300-306.20, Notice Requirements for Alleged Fathers

0300-306.80, Transportation Requests to Bring Children/Youth to Court

0300-306.45, Removal Orders

0300-306.75, Due Diligence

0300-318.05, Obtaining Restraining Orders

0300-508.30, Identifying and Notifying the Court of Recurring Efforts to Locate Relatives and Non-Relative Extended Family Members (NREFMs)

0400-504.00, Family Time

0600-500.00, Medical Hubs

0600-500.20, Health and Medical Information

0600-501.09, Consent for Mental Health and/or Developmental Assessments and Services

0700-500.10, Education of DCFS-Supervised Children

1200-500.05, Adopting and Serving Children Under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

FYI 10-52, New Petition Filing Timeframes


Welfare and Institutions Code Section 224.2(a)(b) – States, in part, that (a) The court, county welfare department, and the probation department have an affirmative and continuing duty to inquire whether a child for whom a petition under Section 300, 601, or 602 may be or has been filed, is or may be an Indian child.

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 224.2(d) – States in part that no proceeding shall be held until at least ten (10) days after receipt of notice by the parent, Indian custodian, the tribe, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs, except for the detention hearing, provided that notice of the detention hearing is given as soon as possible after the filing of the petition initiating the proceeding, and proof of the notice is filed with the court within ten (10) days of the filing of the petition.

WIC Section 290.1 and 291 – Addresses who is required to be noticed upon filing an initial petition with the juvenile court.

WIC Section 300 – Describes the criteria for a child becoming a dependent of the court.

WIC Section 306 – Describes the duties of the social worker and Indian Tribes entreated to them while working within the scope of their regular duties under the directions of the Juvenile court.

WIC Section 306.5 – Describes the placement of minor in custody with any siblings or half siblings.

WIC Section 308 – Explains the notification requirements and rights to the parents and the child when a child is taken into temporary custody.

WIC Section 309 – States in part that the social worker shall use due diligence in investigating the names and locations of the relatives pursuant to paragraph (1), including, but not limited to, asking the child in an age-appropriate manner about relatives important to the child, consistent with the child’s best interest, and obtaining information regarding the location of the child’s adult relatives. Each county welfare department shall create and make public a procedure by which relatives of a child who has been removed from their parents or guardians may identify themselves to the county welfare department and be provided with the notices required by paragraphs (1) and (2).

WIC Section 319 – Explains the process of the arraignment/detention hearing (also known as the Initial Petition hearing).

WIC Section 342 – Describes the procedures when a subsequent petition is filed based on new allegations or circumstances other than those under the original sustained petition.

WIC Section 349(d) – States that children are entitled to attend court hearings. Every child four years or older must be advised of his or her right to attend court hearings by the children's services worker and/or his or her attorney of record. A child must attend court hearings unless his or her appearance is waived by his or her attorney of record. The reasons for non-appearance shall be recorded in the minute order. The children's services worker is responsible for arranging transportation of the child to the court. In all cases, the attorney for the child shall consult with the child and explain the outcome of the proceedings.

WIC Section 361.7 – States that active efforts must be unsuccessful before taking an Indian child into temporary custody (except when child is in imminent danger) and prior to termination of parental rights.

WIC Section 385 – States that any order made by the court in the case of any person subject to its jurisdiction may at any time be changed, modified, or set aside, as the judge deems met and proper, subject to such procedural requirements as are imposed by this article.

WIC Section 387 – States that an order changing or modifying a previous order by removing a child from the physical custody of a parent, guardian, relative, or friend and directing placement in a foster home, or commitment to a private or county institution, shall be made only after noticed hearing upon a supplemental petition.