DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 1: Intake
1-4  Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
1-4  Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
Reference Points
Definitions of Child Abuse/Neglect
Referrals Which Do Not Meet the Criteria for Child Abuse/Neglect
Other References

Reference Points
Effective Date: In Effect
Last Updated: 3/4/2015
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Penal Code (PC) § 11165.1-11165.4
Popup Window PC § 11165.9
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) §  300 (a-i)

California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP) Division 31-002 (c) (9) (A-D), (e) (9) and (n) (1)

 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
Bullet SC 22 - not online
 CWS/CMS Forms:

Referral Application: Screener Narrative Form

Bullet Referral Application: Emergency Response Referral Document

Overview   When a Child Abuse and Neglect Center (CANC) Screening social worker receives a telephone, written or in-person report at the CANC, there must be an allegation(s) in the report which falls under specific criminal and/or civil codes. These codes define categories of parental and/or custodial behaviors that allow for the involvement of protective services agencies such as DFCS. The general categories include, but are not limited to, reasonable suspicion of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Although many of the reports to the CANC contain specific allegations within the general categories, some reports do not present clear, current allegations. However, based on the family’s history of prior protective services and/or dependency court supervision, suggesting high risk to the child, especially to a newborn, a referral can be opened for assessment and preventative protective services.
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Definitions of Child Abuse/Neglect  

Child abuse

means the non-accidental commission of injuries against a person.  In the case of a child, the term refers specifically to the non-accidental commission of injuries against the child by or allowed by a parent(s)/guardian(s) (or other person(s) in whom the court has vested care, custody, and control of the child). The term includes emotional, physical, severe physical, and sexual abuse.

  • Emotional abuse

is nonphysical mistreatment, the results of which may be characterized by disturbed behavior on the part of the child, such as severe withdrawal, regression, bizarre behavior, hyperactivity, or dangerous acting-out behavior. Such disturbed behavior is not deemed, in and of itself, to be evidence of emotional abuse. Exposure to repeated violent, brutal or intimidating acts among household members (domestic violence) is emotional abuse.

  • Physical abuse

means non-accidental bodily injury that has been or is being willfully inflicted on a child. It includes willful harming or injuring of a child or endangering of the person or health of a child defined as a situation where any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation such that his or her person or health is endangered.

  • Severe physical abuse

includes any single act of abuse which causes physical trauma of sufficient severity that, if left untreated, would cause permanent physical disfigurement, permanent physical disability, or death; any single act of sexual abuse which causes significant bleeding, deep bruising, or significant external or internal swelling; or repeated acts of physical abuse, each of which causes bleeding, deep bruising, significant external or internal swelling, bone fracture, or unconsciousness.

  • Sexual abuse

is the victimization of a child by sexual activities including, but not limited to sexual assault, rape (statutory rape and rape in concert), incest, sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under 14 years of age, oral copulation, penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object, child molestation and unlawful sexual intercourse. Also, please be aware that it is sexual abuse if the parent or guardian has failed to adequately protect the child from sexual abuse when the parent or guardian knew or reasonably should have known that the child was in danger of sexual abuse.

  • Sexual exploitation

    involves any person or person who is responsible for a child’s welfare who knowingly promotes, aids or assists, employs, uses, persuades, induces or coerces a child, or knowingly permits or encourages a child to engage in, or assists others to engage in, prostitution or live performance involving obscene sexual conduct or to either pose or model alone or with others for the purpose of preparing a film, photograph, negative, slide, drawing, painting or other pictorial depiction involving obscene sexual conduct.

    NOTE: Unlawful sexual intercourse is defined as an adult who engages in an act of sexual intercourse with a minor or any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more that three years younger, or a person 21 years or older with a minor who is under 16 years old.

  • Non-sexual exploitation

    involves forcing or coercing a child into performing acts which are beyond his/her capabilities, such as being employed for long hours and/or in a job which is dangerous or beyond his/her capabilities or forcing or coercing the child into illegal or degrading acts such as stealing, panhandling, and/or drug sales. Generally, these acts benefit the perpetrator in some way.

  • Neglect

means the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by acts or omissions by a person responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child’s health or welfare, including physical and/or psychological endangerment. This includes parents or guardians who fail to, or are unable to protect a child from being sexually trafficked or who receives food or shelter in exchange for, or who is paid to perform, sexual acts.  The term includes both severe and general neglect.

  • Severe neglect

includes the negligent failure to protect a child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed non-organic failure to thrive and/or to permit the child or the child’s health to be endangered by intentional failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care.

  • General neglect

includes the failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, and/or medical care, supervision when no physical injury to the child occurs.

NOTE: A child receiving treatment by spiritual means or not receiving specified medical treatment for religious reasons, shall not for that reason alone be considered a neglected child. An informed and appropriate medical decision made by a parent or guardian after consultation with a physician or physicians who have examined the child does not constitute neglect. See Assessment of Medical Neglect.

  • Caretaker absence/incapacity

is specific to the caregiver’s situation rather than to the child’s and may be used in addition to general neglect or substantial risk of harm allegations. This allegation type shall be used in either of the following circumstances:

    • Caretaker absence: The child’s parent has been incarcerated, hospitalized or institutionalized and cannot arrange for the care of the child; parent’s whereabouts are unknown or the custodian with whom the child has been left is unable or unwilling to provide care and support for the child.
    • Caretaker incapacity: The child’s parent or guardian is unable to provide adequate care for the child due to the parent or guardian’s mental illness, developmental disability or substance abuse.
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Referrals Which Do Not Meet the Criteria for Child Abuse/Neglect  

However, It is important to clearly identify the types of calls which constitute appropriate child abuse referrals pursuant to state law. Though all callers to the CANC, including both mandated reporters and other individuals, shall have the information regarding their suspected child abuse or neglect report received and accepted by the Screening social worker (Penal Code (PC) § 11165.9), in some cases, callers should be directed to other agencies such as law enforcement and Student Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) for investigation. Screening social workers shall engage in an in-depth inquiry on the telephone with the caller in order to screen out inappropriate referrals and non-referral contacts.

The following is a list of situations which generally do not meet the criteria for child abuse/neglect. Absent other factors, which indicate a risk of abuse or neglect, the following, alone, will usually not constitute a basis for intervention. If there is no basis for intervention, the Screening social worker receives the report and determines if it is documented as a No Report or as a referral to be entered into CWS/CMS and evaluated out.

  • Out of home abuse - abuse by persons not living in the child’s home where parents have taken appropriate action to protect child ( if a licensed facility, refer to the agency responsible for licensing)
  • Emancipated minor - Victim is an emancipated minor and no siblings or other children at risk of abuse or neglect
  • Bruises with no indication of abuse
  • Young children left unattended for 2-3 hours in the daytime or early evening where no clear and present danger can be cited; factors that should be considered include: the child's age, maturity, access to parent (e.g, by telephone) and any vulnerabilities, such as a developmental disability
  • Death of a child where there are no other children in the family
  • Drug/alcohol abuse by parents and no other evidence of child endangerment
    • See assessment regarding drug-exposed infants.
  • Fetal abuse, acts of negligence affecting the unborn, including substance-abusing/using drugs where there is no stated detriment to the child
  • Non-familial rape
  • Consensual sex between children of certain ages
  • History of childhood physical or sexual abuse of a child who is now an adult (refer referent to law enforcement agency), unless there are indications that other children are currently at risk
  • Mandated reporter calling to fulfill legal obligations but indicating no abuse has occurred
  • Minors with mental health problems, unless the parent is neglecting the mental health needs of the child or the parent's conduct is causing the child to suffer or be at risk of serious emotional damage
  • Parents sleeping or bathing with children,consider the age of the child, sex and circumstances
  • Families or children reported as a nuisance in a neighborhood
  • Mutual affray between children where parent/guardian/caretaker takes appropriate action
  • School attendance problems
  • Pregnant minor (age of the minor to be considered)
  • Head lice with no related problems where parent/guardian/caretaker takes appropriate action (refer to Public Health Dept.)
  • Teen/parent conflict where there is no evidence of abuse
  • Reasonable and age appropriate spanking to the buttocks where there is no evidence of serious physical injury
  • Parent's disability (such as blindness or deafness) where the disability does not prevent the parent from exercising care and control
  • Religious objection to medical treatment unless necessary to protect the child from suffering serious physical harm or illness
  • Children living with caretakers who are not their parents
  • Neglect cases closed as unfounded or inconclusive within past month and no new allegations or evidence
  • Physical or sexual abuse referrals that have already been investigated with no new allegations or evidence
  • Runaway teenagers
  • Poverty/lack or emergency shelter/overcrowded housing
  • Child custody issues (for further information, see DFCS Family Court Protocol)
  • Age - No child in the home under 18 years of age
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Other References  
MS Word2 Sexual Abuse Reporting Chart
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