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What Happens After a Child Sexual Abuse Report Is Filed?

Child sexual abuse is a tragedy that affects tens of thousands of children around the US annually. Sadly, it is a widely underreported crime.

Child sexual abuse is a tragedy that affects tens of thousands of children around the US annually. Sadly, it is a widely underreported crime. Child sexual abuse statistics show only about one-third of cases are identified and even less are reported. Reporting child sexual abuse is a critical step in protecting a victim. What happens after someone reports child sexual abuse to the authorities in California depends on the situation. Learn more by speaking with a California child sexual abuse attorney.

Is the Case Substantiated?

If someone reports alleged sexual abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS), the organization will assess the facts to determine whether the claim is substantiated, or if enough information and evidence are available to validate the claim. CPS agencies screen out about 45% of alleged child sexual abuse cases reported to them due to a lack of information. The other 55% will move to the next stage: a CPS investigation.

If you are the person reporting suspected child sexual abuse, include as much information as possible. While you do not have to wait until you have evidence to report your suspicions, having evidence can improve the odds of the CPS substantiating the claim and continuing with an investigation and/or intervention. In general, you must at least have a reasonable suspicion of abuse to file a report.

The CPS is more likely to register a report if it meets certain criteria. The CPS must be able to locate the family, the child must be under the age of 18, the state must have jurisdiction over the case, the perpetrator must be someone legally responsible for the child and the situation must involve evidence of abuse. These are the five main elements the CPS will use to substantiate a claim.

An Investigation Begins

Once Child Protective Services substantiates a claim, it must investigate within 24 hours. First, the CPS will assess the child’s living arrangement to find out if he or she is in immediate danger. If the initial assessment shows the child is in imminent danger of harm, the CPS will intervene to protect the child right away. Otherwise, the CPS will continue with its investigation before intervening.

An investigation by the Child Protective Services will involve interviews with the child’s family members and others in the household. A professional will examine the child for physical, emotional and/or behavioral signs of sexual abuse. As the person who reported the abuse, the CPS will also ask you questions. Cooperate as best as you can with the CPS officer assigned to the case.

The CPS Will Intervene If Necessary

If Child Protective Services finds enough evidence of child sexual abuse during an investigation, it will create a Service Plan for the family. The point of a Service Plan is to stop child sexual abuse and protect the child’s best interests. The CPS will generally try to keep the child in the home when possible. It may remove the abuser, who may face criminal charges for child sexual abuse. The CPS may then order the family to go through counseling and support programs.

If it is not possible to make the child’s living environment safe, the CPS may put the child in foster care. The CPS will work with the police and the Department of Social Services to create an arrangement that is best for the child. Without enough evidence of child sexual abuse, the CPS may end its investigation and withdraw its officers. The CPS or other protective authorities may say a case is unsubstantiated if there is not enough proof of abuse.

The CPS will not intervene, create a Service Plan or remove a child from a home for an unsubstantiated report. As the person who reported the alleged abuse, this can be frustrating and upsetting. The best thing you can do is continue monitoring the situation and try to find evidence to substantiate your claim. Reporting child sexual abuse can be a difficult decision, but it is the right one if you have reason to suspect abuse.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.