LEARN ABOUT JURISDICTION-
City, county, state and federal agencies have different jurisdictions. Jurisdiction is defined as "the right, power or authority to administer justice" by the dictionary. This term is often used to dodge problems and pass the buck.
- You will learn a lot about jurisdictions as you navigate the system trying to find help.
- Usually it will be in the form of officials telling you, "My hands are tied. That's not in my jurisdiction."
LEARN ABOUT LAW ENFORCEMENT-
POLICE: City police are usually not comfortable dealing with child abuse. A regular patrol officer is highly uncomfortable talking to a small abused child, and the child is terrified talking to a huge man in uniform with a gun.
SHERIFF: The county Sheriff's Department covers rural areas which are not covered by city police. They are also uncomfortable dealing with child abuse. Perpetrators of child abuse are often not arrested.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The DA is in charge of prosecuting criminals. Although child abuse is a crime, DAs are often reticent to prosecute cases, especially incest cases, involving young children because they think these cases are hard to win. However, good prosecutors can and do successfully win prosecutions in incest cases.
In some counties there are special law enforcement investigators trained to talk to children.
Anecdotal reports indicate that some police officers and deputies are batterers themselves. They come to the profession with certain personality traits, and are trained to be aggressive.
- A Multi-disciplinary Team (MDT) or Multi-disciplinary Interview Center (MDIC) is helpful in reducing the number of interviews your child must endure. Your child is interviewed by a specially-trained professional in a child-friendly room. The interview is videotaped. Law enforcement and other professionals view the interview through a one-way mirror and suggest questions to the interviewer.
- Sexual Abuse Response Teams (SART) have trained staff to interview sexual assault victims, including children. You can call a local battered women's shelter to find out how it works in your county.
- Victim Witness funding through State Board of Control may pay for therapy for your child and you. This helps your case. A preponderance of evidence/police report is needed.
You should be aware that the interviewer may purposely intimidate and challenge the child during the interview to test if the child is strong enough and able to stick to the story under pressure in court. If the child is judged as not making a good witness, the case is often dropped.
- If that's the case with a law enforcement officer who interviews your abused child, things may not go well. Ask for an officer who is sensitive and trained to take child sex abuse reports. Ask the officer to wear civilian clothes when interviewing your child.
- The police officer may be biased, and may write a report that helps the perpetrator.
- Get a copy of the police report immediately. Write a clarification to the law enforcement department about any misinformation. Send a copy to the City Council members and the Mayor. Keep a copy of the report and your letter in your binder.
WARNING: Perpetrators may have friends in law enforcement!
Unfortunately, we see many true life examples showing that those we look to for protection can sometimes be bias for the perpetrator. Be sure to click your "Back" button to return here after reading some brief summary stories.
It is helpful to know who ranks on top of who when attempting to get effective results. The following is a guideline to which agencies are overseen by which agencies.
- City Police Department is overseen by the City Manager, Mayor and/or the City Council.
- County Sheriff's Department is usually overseen by the county Board of Supervisors.
- County Board of Supervisors has oversight of the county. They oversee Child Protective Services. They are elected officials and answer to the voters.
- The District Attorney is also an elected position.
- These officials are sensitive to public opinion, so media can sometimes be helpful.
LEARN ABOUT THE CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM IN YOUR COUNTY-
The child protection system is very confusing. County agencies carry out the actual work of child protection. Different counties have different names for service providers. For convenience we will call the agency "CPS". The police are supposed to coordinate with CPS in child abuse cases. Sometimes that is helpful for your child. Sometimes that does a great deal of harm to your child.
WE WANT TO CAUTION YOU ABOUT REPORTS OF SUSPECTED CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE!
- As soon as you or anyone else makes a report of suspected child abuse, you are on the hot seat.
- The burden of proof is on you as the accuser. You are the one who has to PROVE your spouse is a molester.
- Unfortunately, in many counties that's almost impossible unless you have DNA evidence.
- The other danger is that CPS may remove your child from both parents and put him or her in foster care. Your child may end up in juvenile dependency court as a ward of the state.
- CPS receives substantial financial incentives for placing children in foster care and adopting them out.
- Once a suspected child abuse report has been made, the alleged perpetrator will often get an aggressive attorney and rush into family court to get custody of his victim. That way he can make the child stop talking about the abuse, which protects him from the remote possibility of going to prison.
CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES: CPS social workers are overwhelmed with calls, understaffed, burned out, and often poorly trained.
- Furthermore, in many counties, there are some social workers who are either completely jaded or deliberately cause children to suffer.
- These social workers may be assigned to child sexual abuse cases, and your complaints tend to go nowhere.
- Social workers have almost complete immunity from lawsuits (Government Code 820 et seq.)
WARNING: Retribution may occur if you complain!
Although recent appeal cases have limited CPS immunity, they have a great deal of power over you and your child. Proceed with caution. CPS is another example of a Catch 22.
If your child tells a teacher, doctor, clergy, or therapist about child abuse, that person must, by law, report to CPS and/or law enforcement. Here is the Catch 22: You are required by law to protect your child. Yet if your child has parenting time with the identified abuser due to family court orders, CPS may do nothing. (In fact, you may be accused of putting ideas into your child's mind.)
You can protest the lack of CPS protection of your child. However, remember that you and your child may receive swift retribution for daring to complain or buck the system.
- Read the information about your rights carefully.
- If you wish, make a formal, clear, brief and well-written complaint, and ask for a hearing. Describe specifically what went wrong.
- Always ask someone to edit your complaint, since it is difficult to write clearly when you are upset.
- This is called an administrative remedy. That means you have to try to solve the problem locally first.
- One CPS supervisor advised, "If you plan to complain, go up the chain of command all the way to the director with your complaint as fast as you can, then get a lawyer and sue the agency."
If you plan to try to have CPS protect your child from the abuser, we advise you to do this in an effective, organized, and precise manner. We have found the following guidelines to be crucial documentation in our cases.
It is not particularly effective to write lots of letters of complaint, since you will probably be ignored. Long letters are often ignored also. However, clear, concise documentation of your reasonable actions is effective. Follow up each meeting with a thank you letter to document a synopsis of the meeting.
- Begin a careful log in a spiral notebook and record every event, phone call, and letter. Include;
- date and time
- name of the agency and individual you spoke with
- description of the conversation
- direct quotes from the conversations
- result, if any
- Another suggestion is at the bottom of every letter, always write cc: and send copies to these individuals;
- Director of CPS
- Department of Social Services
- County Board of Supervisors
- your attorney
WARNING: Perpetrators may have friends inside the child protection system!
- County. In Sacramento, the county agency designated to protect children is Sacramento County Health and Human Services, Child Protective Services, 3701 Branch Center Rd, Sacramento, CA 95827 at (916) 875-5877.
- County Oversight. Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services is directly overseen by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors at (916) 874-5411 and the Public Protection and Human Assistance Agency at (916) 874-5886. Both are located at 700 H Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.
- State Oversight. The county agency receives funding directly from, and is also overseen by, the State of California Department of Social Services (CDSS), Children and Family Services Division, Office of Child Abuse Prevention, 744 P Street, Sacramento, CA 94814 at (916) 657-3661.
- Federal Oversight. California DSS is overseen by US Health and Human Services (HHS), Children's Bureau, Aerospace Building, 370 L'Enfant Promenade SW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20447 at (202) 205-8618.
Please read this true example of a child protection services agency that protected the perpetrator, then return here using your "Back" button.
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