What to Expect
When DCFS receives a call on our Child Protection Hotline, we determine if the report meets the requirements of an investigation according to the law. If it does, a thorough investigation will be conducted to assess child safety and ensure the well-being of every child in the family.
No two reports are handled the same way and are based on each child’s situation. Child abuse and neglect investigations can be conducted by DCFS and/or law enforcement. DCFS focuses on the welfare of the child and family, while law enforcement focuses on determining whether a crime has been committed. Not all DCFS reports require an investigation by law enforcement.
During an investigation:
An emergency response social worker will visit your home within five days and determine whether your child can safely stay in your home during the course of the investigation. DCFS’s first objective is to enable your children to remain safely with you at home. However, if that is not possible, DCFS in partnership with parents may make temporary arrangements for your child to stay with an approved relative or family friend while the investigation continues.
If it is determined that your child must be immediately removed from your home because they need immediate medical care or are in danger of serious harm, Emergency Removal procedures will be enacted.
Over the next 30 days or less, the social worker will continue to investigate your child’s situation to determine whether or not a case should be opened. They will:
- Review your family’s history with DCFS
- Contact the reporter of the concern
- Conduct home visits
- Interview all parties involved, including the parents, children, siblings, and other adults in the home to assess child safety.
If the investigation is unfounded:
If no credible evidence of mistreatment or neglect is found, you and your family can choose to participate in voluntary support services with a community organization that is designed to help your family overcome struggles and maintain stability. The investigation will then be closed.
If the investigation finds credible evidence:
If there is evidence of mistreatment or neglect, a DCFS social worker will be assigned to your family. Depending on the severity of the situation, a petition may be filed with the Los Angeles County Juvenile Dependency Court, or DCFS may open a voluntary case without court involvement.
If a petition is filed, the court will hold hearings to determine if the allegations in the petition are true or not true. The court will then decide whether or not to place your child under its jurisdiction and become a dependent of the court. You still maintain parental rights, even while the case is open.
At that point, your case will fall into one of two categories:
Your child will remain at home with one or both parents, however you may be court-mandated to complete required trainings or services. DCFS will work with you to develop a prevention plan and connect you with support services.
Your child will be temporarily placed out-of-home, away from one or both parents, either with a relative caregiver or in foster care. DCFS will then work with you to develop a reunification plan and connect you with services so that you may work toward being reunited with your child.
It is important to remember that if you have an open investigation with DCFS, you have the right to talk with the social worker assigned to your case, your attorney, or our Parent Partners at any time. Navigating this process can be stressful, and confusing, and they can be a useful resource.