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No. 2

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New Procedure Offers Recourse in CPS Investigations

In the last Court Report’s Across the States article on California, we indicated that there are three potential outcomes to a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation: substantiated (CPS determines that abuse is taking place), unfounded (no abuse is taking place), or inconclusive (not enough information to make a determination). The Department of Social Services is required to notify families in writing if the finding is substantiated or inconclusive.

Substantiated or inconclusive finds are forwarded to the California Department of Justice for inclusion in the child abuse central index. This index is used by county licensing and welfare agencies to investigate persons who apply for licenses to care for children. Until now, there has been no clear procedure for families to reverse the negative findings in a CPS investigation and thus be removed from the index.

There is good news. The state of California now has a grievance hearing procedure whereby parents have the right to challenge these findings and request a due process hearing within 30 days of the date of the notice. Parents are entitled to attorney representation and can call and cross-examine witnesses at the hearing. The hearing officer shall render a written recommended decision to the county director of social services. The county director shall have 10 days to adopt, reject, or modify the recommended decision and must explain why a recommended decision was rejected or modified. The final decision is issued by the county director; from that decision, there is no statutory or administrative right to appeal. A family would have to file a lawsuit in superior court asking the judge to overturn the unfavorable decision.

Any family who receives a substantiated or inconclusive finding after a CPS investigation and takes issue with the result should use the grievance hearing procedure to attempt to get the decision reversed. If you have any questions about this procedure, please contact Home School Legal Defense Association.

— by J. Michael Smith

* See “HSLDA social services contact policy.”