University of California Santa Cruz Police Department
UC Santa Cruz PD Policy Manual



Child Abuse


The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines for the investigation of suspected child abuse. This policy also addresses when University of California Santa Cruz Police Department members are required to notify the county Child Protective Services (CPS) of suspected child abuse.


331.1.1     DEFINITIONS

Definitions related to this policy include:

Child - Unless otherwise specified by a cited statute, a child is any person under the age of 18 years.

Child abuse - Any offense or attempted offense involving violence or neglect with a child victim when committed by a person responsible for the child's care or any other act that would mandate notification to a social service agency or law enforcement (Penal Code § 11165.9; Penal Code § 11166).


331.2     POLICY

The University of California Santa Cruz Police Department will investigate all reported incidents of alleged criminal child abuse and ensure CPS is notified as required by law.



Child Welfare Services (CWS) investigates risk to children in cases of alleged intra-familial child abuse or neglect CWS must ensure that children are in a safe environment. If children are not in a safe environment, CWS takes appropriate action. CWS cross reports all cases to LE, except those involving general neglect (Penal Code § 11166).



Law Enforcement (LE) conducts criminal investigations concerning crimes committed against children and evaluates child protection issues in coordination with CWS. LE cross reports cases to CWS where it appears a child's safety may be at risk.



The child protection agency shall be notified when (Penal Code § 11166):

 (a) There is a known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect reported, which is alleged to have occurred as a result of the action of a person responsible for the child's welfare, or

 (b) A person responsible for the child's welfare fails to adequately protect the child from abuse when the person knew or reasonably should have known that the child was in danger of abuse.

The District Attorney's office shall be notified in all instances of known or suspected child abuse or neglect reported to this department. Reports only involving neglect by a person, who has the care or custody of a child, to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision where no physical injury to the child has occurred should not be reported to the District Attorney (Penal Code § 11166).

When the abuse or neglect occurs at a licensed facility or is alleged to have resulted from the actions of a person who is required to have a state license (e.g., foster homes, group homes, day care), notification shall also be made to the California Department of Social Services or other applicable licensing authority (Penal Code 11166.1; Penal Code 11166.2).

For purposes of notification, the abuse or neglect includes physical injury or death inflicted by other than accidental means upon a child by another person; sexual abuse (Penal Code § 11165.1); neglect (Penal Code § 11165.2); the willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child (Penal Code § 11165.3); and unlawful corporal punishment or injury (Penal Code § 11165.4). Child abuse or neglect does not include a mutual affray between minors, nor does it include an injury caused by the reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer acting within the course and scope of his/her employment as a peace officer.



Notification should occur as follows (Penal Code § 11166):

(a) Notification shall be made immediately, or as soon as practicable, by telephone, fax or electronic transmission.

(b) A written follow-up report should be forwarded within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident.



Qualified investigators should be available for child abuse investigations. These investigators should:

(a) Conduct interviews in child appropriate interview facilities.

(b) Be familiar with forensic interview techniques specific to child abuse investigations.

(c) Present all cases of alleged child abuse to the prosecutor for review.

(d) Coordinate with other enforcement agencies, social service agencies and school administrators as needed.

(e) Provide referrals to therapy services, victim advocates, guardians and support for the child and family as appropriate.

(f) Participate in or coordinate with multidisciplinary investigative teams as applicable (Welfare and Institutions Code § 18961.7).



(a) CWS only investigates allegations of intra-familial abuse of a child (i.e., acts occurring in the child's own home and/or under the care of a non-protective parent or guardian). 

(b) LE investigates allegations of abuse originating within its jurisdiction. Allegations are investigated according to standards of what constitutes a criminal act.

(c) Investigative criteria may be different for LE and CWS during the course of an investigation. LE may complete a criminal investigation~ conclude a crime has not occurred, and prepare to leave the scene of an investigation. However, CWS may still be assessing risk for a child and may request that LE stand by in the event that a protective custody is needed. LE may also close a case that CWS continues to actively work (crime versus risk).

(d) Suspected Child Abuse in Group Homes, Foster Family Agencies and Day Care Centers

(e) California Community Care Licensing; in conjunction with the LE agency having jurisdiction, is the investigating agency for reports of suspected child abuse or neglect occurring in group homes, foster homes affiliated with foster family agencies, and day/child care centers. CWS does not have an investigative role in these types of situations.

  1. LE makes attests, prepares search warrants, and gathers evidence that might be used ill subsequent prosecution by the District Attorney (DA).
  2. LE consults with CWS regarding recommendations for protective custody.
  3. LE performs the legal act of placing a child in protective custody should investigation reveal that a child is at risk of further abuse or neglect and no safe alternative can be identified. (Welfare and Institutions Code § 305.)
  4. LE coordinates with CWS in subsequent investigations.
  5. LE prepares written reports documenting protective custody, any interviews conducted, and follow-up investigative activity collected with a case, including coordination with CWS.



(a) General Rule LE jurisdiction shall be determined by the location of where a crime is alleged to have occurred.

(b) Protective Custody Exceptions: From time to time, a child in need of protective custody is located outside the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. Under such circumstances the responsibility for evaluating the need for and placing the child in protective custody shall rest with the LE agency having jurisdiction in tile locale where the child is found at the point that a protective custody is sought. This shall be the case if anyone of the following criteria is met:

  1. There is no legal mechanism for transporting the child to the appropriate jurisdiction (CWS cannot transport without a protective custody).
  2. The LE agency with jurisdiction cannot respond to the location of the child, or

(c) Cross-Reporting: The MOU establishes ideal practices regarding the extent and timing of responses to situations involving allegations of child abuse and neglect. Each discipline's investigative focus has its own set of time constraints and legal requirements. Such constraints and requirements may result in procedural conflicts that affect the investigation and the emotional well being of the child. This can be avoided if upon receiving a case for investigation, LE contacts CWS, and if upon receiving a referral, CWS contacts the appropriate LE agency.



(a) LE shall contact CWS immediately or as soon as practical when a report of suspected or confirmed child abuse or neglect is received and an investigation is imminent.

(b) LE shall contact CWS immediately or as soon as practical when evidence of recent abuse or new physical evidence is uncovered during an investigation.

(c) If during an investigation, the possibility arises that a child will be taken into protective custody, then LE should contact CWS immediately or as soon as practical. CWS should be afforded the opportunity to respond immediately and to participate in interviews, investigation, and decision-making regarding protective custody.

(d) LE shall provide a copy of their written reports to CWS within three working days    of when Penal Code § 273.5 or § 243(e) domestic violence incidents occur in    which a child resides in the home. This requirement does not supersede existing requirements for Watsonville and Live Oak jurisdictions in relation the Family Violence Response Team (FVRT). FVRT requires the applicable LE entities (County Sheriff and Watsonville Police Department) to contact CWS immediately or as soon as practical when a Penal Code § 273.5 or § 243(e) domestic violence incident occurs in which  a child resides in the home.



Initial contact with LE shall be made through LE Communications. Each LE agency shall designate a department liaison who is available for subsequent consultation (i.e., after the initial contact) with CWS and who acts as a contact point regarding all CWS LE joint investigations for that LE agency.

(a) Sexual Abuse Disclosure: If during an interview a child discloses sexual abuse, CWS shall call LE immediately or as soon as practical to coordinate a joint interview and to determine whether a sexual assault exam is needed.

(b) Report of Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect : Immediate Response (IMR) CWS should contact LE immediately before investigation (even if a child is currently in a safe place):

  1. If referral indicates that a child has made a disclosure; or
  2. If CWS determines that immediate response is needed due to a report of a suspicious injury in combination with a child's clearly implausible explanation for the injury; or
  3. If there is substantial and significant reason to believe, based on the evidence presented; that abuse likely occurred.

(c) Report of Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect: Ten-Day Response CWS shall investigate ten-day response referrals first, and then contact LE if the investigation is substantiated. If substantiated, the CWS worker will call LE immediately or as soon as practical.



(a) General Rule For criminal investigations: LE takes the lead. For all non-criminal child welfare investigations, CWS takes the lead. For all investigations, collaboration by LE and CWS to ensure child safety is the ultimate goal.

(b) Initial Investigation and Child Interviews: CWS and LE will establish collaboration from the beginning of an investigation. Decisions about who takes the lead in interviewing alleged child victims and how best to approach a joint interview should take into account who has established rapport with the interviewee and who has the expertise needed to be most effective in the interviewing process. When possible, both CWS and LE should be present at interviews to avoid duplication of effort. In instances where a protective custody is being considered, LE and CWS should consult with one another and discuss the merits of a protective custody.

(c) Access Issues/Search Warrants: LE and CWS will follow legal guidelines for entry into private homes and businesses and for conducting searches. CWS will seek LE assistance if there is no consent for entry and/or if an emergency exists. LE will take the lead in non-voluntary entries and in obtaining search warrants.

(d) Crime Scene Search (Gathering Evidence): LE will gather evidence at crime scenes.

(e) Interviewing Witnesses and Collaterals: In circumstances where there is a joint investigation. LE will generally take the lead in interviewing witnesses and collaterals. As with all aspects of a joint investigation, CWS and LE will make every effort to coordinate and to offer each other an opportunity to evaluate whether they wish to be part of an interview. In consideration of child safety, Juvenile Court deadlines, and regulatory time-lines, CWS may need to proceed with interviews when LE is not available. If this occurs, CWS will make every attempt possible to notify and consult LE in advance the interview.

(f) Contacting and Interviewing Alleged Perpetrators: When a crime is suspected, LE will take the lead in contacting and interviewing alleged perpetrators. If CWS is considering interviewing an alleged perpetrator consultation with LE will happen first, prior to alleged perpetrator contact.

(g) Sexual Assault Exams: When sexual abuse is alleged, a sexual assault examination may be indicated. CWS social workers are specifically trained to recognize the subtle indicators of child sexual abuse and therefore, the social workers assessment should be given due consideration. In the absence of clear indicators of sexual assault, medical records and the expertise of medical examiners shall also be taken into consideration when practical. The decision to proceed with such an exam should be made in the context of the investigative practices of both LE and CWS. LE authorizes the sexual assault examination.



CWS will respond to requests by LE for CWS presence at in-field investigations immediately or as soon as practical. After hours pages from LE will receive an immediate or as soon as practical telephone response from the after hours CWS social worker/supervisor.

(a) Sharing Investigation Information

  1. CWS and LE shall exchange information regarding any investigation of abuse or neglect allegations during the pendency of such investigations. Upon the filing of a CWS petition, which triggers the commencement of a juvenile court case, LE officials who are actively participating in criminal or juvenile proceedings involving the minor shall continue to have access to CWS files and CWS shall continue to have access to LE investigation information. (Welfare and Institutions Code § 827; County of Santa Cruz Superior Court Standing Order, 1995.)
  2. The County of Santa Cruz Superior Court Standing Order of the Juvenile Court (1995) specifically allows the following persons to review Juvenile Court Records without prior court authorization: District Attorney, its staff and/or investigators; County Counsel, and City Attorney or city prosecutors authorized to prosecute criminal or juvenile cases under state law; probation officers and law enforcement officers who are actively participating in criminal or juvenile proceedings involving the minor; and other parties not involved with this MOU.
  3. Any other person or agency seeking to inspect) obtain, or copy Juvenile Court Records must file a Petition for Disclosure. (Welfare and Institutions Code § 827.)
  4. All person and/or agencies receiving Juvenile Court Records must keep the information confidential.

(b) Subpoenas for Appearance All CWS social workers subpoenaed by the County of Santa Cruz District Attorney's Office to appear as witnesses in criminal prosecutions on child abuse matters shall testify about personally known confidential information and confidential information contained in CWS files only if the information is relevant to the prosecution. LE representatives shall appear in juvenile dependency hearings concerning child abuse investigations when subpoenaed by the County of Santa Cruz County Counsel's Office, and shall testify about both personally known and documented investigative information. (Standing Order, 1995.)



(a) Arrest Decisions concerning the arrest of suspects are the sole discretion of LE.

(b) Alternatives to Arrest:

  1. If a suspect will not be arrested immediately, the following alternatives to arrest shall be considered in order to ensure the safety of the child victim or potential victims pending case investigation:
  2. An Emergency Protective Order may be requested and issued when a child is in immediate and present danger of abuse or neglect by a family or household member based on an. allegation of abuse or threat of abuse by the person being ordered removed from the home where the child resides.
  3. A child may be taken into Protective Custody pursuant to § 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

(c) Procedure for Resolving Differences of Opinion: All decision-making will be guided by the overall goal of coordinating efforts to assure the best possible outcome for the alleged child victim. Whenever possible, LE and CWS shall meet and confer in person to resolve differences of opinion. When LE and CWS investigators cannot come to agreement on process, course of action, or the need for a protective custody, they shall refer the matter to their supervisors. LE and CWS administrators shall consult with their staff and with each other to resolve disagreements and to determine the appropriate course of action. CWS and LE staff will be directed accordingly.



Designees of LE chiefs and the CWS Director will serve as liaisons in matters related to the implementation of this MOU. Designees will meet to review and discuss the implementation of this MOU three months and again six months after its implementation. At the six-month anniversary of the implementation of this MOU, designees will assess the need for further meetings to discuss coordination issues and the efficacy of the MOU. The designees will make recommendations to the LE chiefs and CWS Administration as to the on-going need for further coordination meetings.



In all reported or suspected cases of child abuse, a report will be written. Officers shall write a report even if the allegations appear unfounded or unsubstantiated.

Investigations and reports related to suspected cases of child abuse should address, as applicable:

(a) The overall basis for the contact. This should be done by the investigating officer in all circumstances where a suspected child abuse victim was contacted.

(b) The exigent circumstances that existed if officers interviewed the child victim without the presence of a parent or guardian.

(c) Any relevant statements the child may have made and to whom he/she made the statements.

(d) If a child was taken into protective custody, the reasons, the name and title of the person making the decision, and why other alternatives were not appropriate.

(e) Documentation of any visible injuries or any injuries identified by the child. This should include photographs of such injuries, if practicable.

(f) Whether the child victim was transported for medical treatment or a medical examination.

(g) Whether the victim identified a household member as the alleged perpetrator, and a list of the names of any other children who may reside in the residence.

(h) Identification of any prior related reports or allegations of child abuse, including other jurisdictions, as reasonably known.

(i) Previous addresses of the victim and suspect.

(j) Other potential witnesses who have not yet been interviewed, such as relatives or others close to the victim's environment.

All cases of the unexplained death of a child should be investigated as thoroughly as if it had been a case of suspected child abuse (e.g., a sudden or unexplained death of an infant).



If a report of known or suspected child abuse or neglect that is alleged to have occurred outside this jurisdiction is received, department members shall ensure that the caller is immediately transferred to the agency with proper jurisdiction for the investigation of the case. If the caller cannot be successfully transferred to the appropriate agency, a report shall be taken and immediately referred by telephone, fax or electronic transfer to the agency with proper jurisdiction (Penal Code 11165.9).



Before taking any child into protective custody, the officer should make reasonable attempts to contact CPS. Generally, removal of a child from his/her family, guardian or other responsible adult should be left to the child welfare authorities when they are present or have become involved in an investigation.

Generally, members of this department should remove a child from his/her parent or guardian without a court order only when no other effective alternative is reasonably available and immediate action reasonably appears necessary to protect the child. Prior to taking a child into protective custody, the officer should take reasonable steps to deliver the child to another qualified parent or legal guardian, unless it reasonably appears that the release would endanger the child or result in abduction. If this is not a reasonable option, the officer shall ensure that the child is delivered to CPS.

Whenever practicable, the officer should inform a supervisor of the circumstances prior to taking a child into protective custody. If prior notification is not practicable, officers should contact a supervisor promptly after taking a child into protective custody.

Children may only be removed from a parent or guardian in the following situations when a court order cannot reasonably be obtained in a timely manner (Welfare and Institutions Code § 305):

(a) The officer reasonably believes the child is a person described in Welfare and Institutions Code § 300, and further has good cause to believe that any of the following conditions exist:

  1. The child has an immediate need for medical care.
  2. The child is in immediate danger of physical or sexual abuse.
  3. The physical environment or the fact that the child is left unattended poses   an immediate threat to the child's health or safety. In the case of a child left unattended, the officer shall first attempt to locate and determine if a responsible parent or guardian is available and capable of assuming custody before taking the child into protective custody.

(b) The officer reasonably believes the child requires protective custody under the provisions of Penal Code § 279.6, in one of the following circumstances:

  1. It reasonably appears to the officer that a person is likely to conceal the child, flee the jurisdiction with the child or, by flight or concealment, evade the authority of the court.
  2. There is no lawful custodian available to take custody of the child.
  3. There are conflicting custody orders or conflicting claims to custody and the parties cannot agree which party should take custody of the child.
  4. The child is an abducted child.

(c) The child is in the company of, or under the control of, a person arrested for Penal Code § 278 or Penal Code § 278.5.

A child taken into protective custody shall be delivered to CPS unless otherwise directed by court order.



An individual having lawful custody of an infant less than 72 hours old is not guilty of abandonment if the individual voluntarily surrenders physical custody of the infant to personnel on-duty at a safe-surrender site, such as a hospital or fire department (Penal Code § 271.5). The law requires the surrender site to notify CPS.



Under certain circumstances, officers can be prohibited from taking a newborn who is the subject of a proposed adoption into protective custody, even when the newborn has tested positive for illegal drugs or the birth mother tested positive for illegal drugs.

Officers shall instead follow the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code § 305.6 to ensure that the newborn is placed with the adoptive parents when it is appropriate.


331.7     INTERVIEWS


Absent extenuating circumstances or impracticality, officers should record the preliminary interview with suspected child abuse victims. Officers should avoid multiple interviews with a child victim and should attempt to gather only the information necessary to begin an investigation. When practicable, investigating officers should defer interviews until a person who is specially trained in such interviews is available. Generally, child victims should not be interviewed in the home or location where the alleged abuse occurred.



An officer should not detain a child involuntarily who is suspected of being a victim of child abuse solely for the purpose of an interview or physical exam without the consent of a parent or guardian unless one of the following applies:

(a) Exigent circumstances exist, such as:

  1. A reasonable belief that medical issues of the child need to be addressed immediately.
  2. A reasonable belief that the child is or will be in danger of harm if the interview or physical exam is not immediately completed.
  3. The alleged offender is the custodial parent or guardian and there is reason to believe the child may be in continued danger.

(b) A court order or warrant has been issued.



Any student at school who is a suspected victim of child abuse shall be afforded the option of being interviewed in private or selecting any qualified available adult member of the school staff to be present. The purpose of the staff member's presence is to provide comfort and support. The staff member shall not participate in the interview. The selection of a staff member should be such that it does not burden the school with costs or hardship (Penal Code § 11174.3).



If the child has been the victim of abuse that requires a medical examination, the investigating officer should obtain consent for such examination from the appropriate parent, guardian or agency having legal custody of the child. The officer should also arrange for the child's transportation to the appropriate medical facility.

In cases where the alleged offender is the custodial parent or guardian and is refusing consent for the medical examination, officers should notify a supervisor before proceeding. If exigent circumstances do not exist or if state law does not provide for officers to take the child for a medical examination, the notified supervisor should consider obtaining a court order for such an examination.



A coordinated response by law enforcement and social services agencies is appropriate to  meet the immediate and longer-term medical and safety needs of children exposed to the manufacturing, trafficking or use of narcotics.


331.9.1     SUPERVISOR RESPONSIBILITIES The Detective Bureau supervisor should:

(a) Work with professionals from the appropriate agencies, including CPS, other law enforcement agencies, medical service providers and local prosecutors to develop community specific procedures for responding to situations where there are children endangered by exposure to methamphetamine labs or the manufacture and trafficking of other drugs.

(b) Activate any available interagency response when an officer notifies the Detective Bureau supervisor that the officer has responded to a drug lab or other narcotics crime scene where a child is present or where evidence indicates that a child lives there.

(c) Develop a report format or checklist for use when officers respond to drug labs or other narcotics crime scenes. The checklist will help officers document the environmental, medical, social and other conditions that may affect the child.



Officers responding to a drug lab or other narcotics crime scene where a child is present or where there is evidence that a child lives should:

(a) Document the environmental, medical, social and other conditions of the child using photography as appropriate and the checklist or form developed for this purpose.

(b) Notify the Detective Bureau supervisor so an interagency response can begin.



California requires or permits the following: 


Information related to incidents of child abuse or suspected child abuse shall be confidential and may only be disclosed pursuant to state law and the Release of Records and Information Policy (Penal Code 841.5; Penal Code § 11167.5).


331.10.2     REQUESTS FOR REMOVAL FROM THE CHILD ABUSE CENTRAL INDEX (CACI) Any person whose name has been forwarded to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) for placement in California's CACI, as a result of an investigation, may request that his/her name  be removed from the CACI list. Requests shall not qualify for consideration if there is an active case, ongoing investigation or pending prosecution that precipitated the entry to CACI (Penal Code § 11169). All requests for removal shall be submitted in writing by the requesting person and promptly routed to the CACI hearing officer.



The Detective Bureau supervisor will normally serve as the hearing officer but must not be actively connected with the case that resulted in the person's name being submitted to CACI. Upon receiving a qualified request for removal, the hearing officer shall promptly schedule a hearing to take place during normal business hours and provide written notification of the time and place of the hearing to the requesting party.



The hearing is an informal process where the person requesting removal from the CACI list will be permitted to present relevant evidence (e.g., certified copy of an acquittal, factual finding of innocence) as to why his/her name should be removed. The person requesting the hearing may record the hearing at his/her own expense.

Formal rules of evidence will not apply and the hearing officer may consider, in addition to evidence submitted by the person requesting the hearing, any relevant information including, but not limited to, the following:

(a) Case reports including any supplemental reports

(b) Statements by investigators

(c) Statements from representatives of the District Attorney's Office

(d) Statements by representatives of a child protective agency who may be familiar with the case

After considering all information presented, the hearing officer shall make a determination as to whether the requesting party's name should be removed from the CACI list. Such determination shall be based on a finding that the allegations in the investigation are not substantiated (Penal Code § 11169).

If, after considering the evidence, the hearing officer finds that the allegations are not substantiated, he/she shall cause a request to be completed and forwarded to the DOJ that the person's name be removed from the CACI list. A copy of the hearing results and the request for removal will be attached to the case reports.

The findings of the hearing officer shall be considered final and binding.


This department should cooperate with any interagency child death review team investigation (Penal Code § 11174.32).


331.11     TRAINING

The Department should provide training on best practices in child abuse investigations to members tasked with investigating these cases. The training should include:

(a) Participating in multidisciplinary investigations, as appropriate.

(b) Conducting forensic interviews.

(c) Availability of therapy services for children and families.

(d) Availability of specialized forensic medical exams.

(e) Cultural competence (including interpretive services) related to child abuse investigations.

(f) Availability of victim advocate or guardian ad litem support.




Policy 331 PDF