Across the States
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
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.”