DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 3: Assessment Guides
3-8 Assessment of Exploitation
Assessment Guides
3-8 Assessment of Exploitation
Reference Points
Sexual Exploitation
Economic Exploitation
Exploitation Involving Illegal Activities
Exploitation in the Home

Reference Points
Effective Date: 03/01/2006
Last Updated: 12/30/2005
 Legal Basis:
Popup Window Penal Code Section 11165.1 (c), 1-3
Popup Window Penal Code Section 311.2
Popup Window Penal Code Section 311.4
Popup Window Labor Code Section 1285-1312
Popup Window Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC)Section 300 (b)
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Contact Notebook


When linking child abuse to the category of exploitation, a common assumption is that this refers only to sexual exploitation. However, when the definition of exploitation is considered, i.e., “to make unethical use of for one’s own advantage or profit,” it is clear that exploitation can also include other areas of abuse as well.

When assessing for exploitation, the social workers should be aware of a wide range of possibilities. Using children for the sole benefit of the adult parent/caregiver is a serious form of abuse. When a child is forced to work, rather than permitted to attend school, the child’s lack of access to education is a severe form of neglect that can affect him or her for the rest of his/her life. The psychological damage to a child placed in inappropriate roles can be extensive and his/her emotional and physical health can be irreparably harmed.

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Sexual Exploitation  

Sexual exploitation is the most widely recognized form of exploitation. Sexual exploitation is closely associated with sexual abuse and sexual assault which occurs when any sexual contact is made with the child either under or over the clothes for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the perpetrator.

When a social worker assesses for sexual exploitation:

  • Determine if one or more of the following situations exists:
    • the creation of pictures or written material depicting a minor engaged in obscene acts
    • the sale or distribution of obscene materials involving a minor
    • the employment of a minor to perform obscene acts
    • a person who is responsible for a child’s welfare knowingly permits or assists others to encourage or coerce a child to engage in prostitution, a live performance or to model for the purpose of any pictorial depiction involving obscene sexual conduct
    • a person knowingly depicts a child or knowingly develops, reproduces, or exchanges any material in which a child is engaged in an act of obscene sexual conduct
    • a person who has the care, custody, and the control of any child under the age of 18 who uses that child in any manner to engage in any obscene, indecent or immoral purposes, exhibition or practices.
  • If a child is being sexually exploited, immediately contact law enforcement. A crime has been committed and law enforcement must be involved.
  • Document your assessment in the Contact Notebook.
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Economic Exploitation  

Another form of exploitation is often seen in families where children are forced or allowed to work under certain illegal conditions outside the home. This form of exploitation prohibits children from attending school and may place them in work environments that are a threat to their general health, safety and security. Although poverty may be a prime motivation for this type of exploitation, other situations may exist.

Children are sometimes seen going door-to-door, or in shopping malls, selling candy or other products. The condition under which this is permissible involves specific rules of supervision, actual distance from the child’s home and age of the child. In rural areas, children sometimes work in agricultural settings, but, for example, the Labor Code prohibits this type of work for anyone under the age of 12 in zones of danger (moving equipment, unprotected exposure to chemicals or water hazards).

The California Labor Code clearly defines the conditions in which a child is allowed to work, including the times (day, evening) and number of hours per day. The Code also defines the types of employment, approved vocational programs, training certificates and work permits granted through the local schools.

When a social worker assesses for economic exploitation:

  • Determine if: 
    • A child is required to contribute income to meet basic necessities of food and shelter when the parents’ income is insufficient or non-existent due to the parents’ inability to function.
    • A child is illegally brought to this country for the sole purpose of employment (who does not speak English, may be illiterate, may not be enrolled in school, and is unaware of rights or resources).
    • A child who is employed in a family’s business, including street vendors, where there are unreasonable expectations as to the extent of the child’s participation in the business or the work environment is unsafe (machinery, chemicals, etc).
    • a child who accompanies a parent to work due to lack of child care, and is allowed/forced to work.

When a social worker assesses for possible exploitation of a child who is working:

  • Determine how:
    • the child's education will be affected by working
    • the conditions of employment, which shall not be detrimental to the child's health and safety
    • the legality of the specific job as it applies to the child's age, abilities and certified training
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Exploitation Involving Illegal Activities  

When a social worker assesses for exploitation involving illegal activities:

  • When assessing families that are involved in the gang culture consider the following activities:
    • encouraging children, from a young age, to value gang membership (parents may be active or retired gang members)
    • teaching children gang signs, dress codes and affiliations and advocating membership
    • supporting violent behavior and criminal activities of the children
  • When assessing parents who abuse drugs/alcohol consider parents who:
    • allow their children access to drugs/alcohol in the home
    • encourage their children to use drugs/alcohol or use these substances
    • allow their children to sell drugs or receive money from a drug dealer
    • use their children to assist them in the production of drugs (such as in the manufacture of methamphetimine)
  • When assessing families that are involved in other illegal activities consider parents who:
    • steal with or allow/encourage their children to steal/shoplift
    • beg for money, food, etc., and allow/encourage their children to participate with them
    • sell or attempt to sell their children
  • If a child is being exploited, contact law enforcement.
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Exploitation in the Home  

Exploitation exists within the family household as well. A child may be selected to perform all or the majority of such parental tasks as cleaning, cooking and caring for younger siblings, including bathing, dressing, feeding and babysitting. Frequently, the child who is singled out in this manner is substituting for a parent who is absent or unable to fulfill parental responsibilities due to the parents’ substance abuse and/or physical/mental disabilities.

When a social worker assesses for household exploitation, consider the following: 

  • Although it is customary for all children to participate in maintaining the the household, consider:
    • Are the assigned tasks age-appropriate?
    • Is the child developmentally capable of performing the tasks?
    • Are the tasks equally divided among all the children in the household?
    • Is suitable parental supervision provided?
    • Is the parent the primary person who sustains the household?
  • Discuss the situation with the parents and provide suggestions for correcting identified problems.
  • Document your findings in the Contact Notebook.
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