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Child Protection Investigation - Frequently Asked Questions
What is DCFS's responsibility in investigating abuse and neglect?
DCFS is mandated by law to receive and investigate certain reports of abuse and neglect of children and reports of juvenile sex trafficking. Once the interview with the reporter or the review of the written report has been completed, the determination is made whether the information meets the criteria of a report of child abuse or neglect that DCFS is legally authorized to investigate. All reports of juvenile sex trafficking are forwarded to the Louisiana State Police, regardless of whether the report meets the criteria of abuse or neglect that DCFS is authorized to investigate. If the report of juvenile sex trafficking also meets the criteria of child abuse or neglect, DCFS will also investigate. (More about Juvenile Sex Trafficking)
The following three elements must be present for the information to be a report that DCFS is authorized to accept and investigate:
- The case must involve a child, as defined in Children Code Article 603(5), who is under 18 years of age and who has not been emancipated either judicially or by marriage. The alleged victim must still be a minor at the time the report is made to DCFS; AND
- The abuse or neglect of a child must have been committed by a parent or caretaker, a person who maintains an interpersonal dating or engagement relationship with the parent or caretaker, or a person living in the same residence with the parent or caretaker as a spouse whether married or not. "Caretaker" means "any person legally obligated to provide or secure adequate care for a child, including a parent, tutor*, guardian, legal custodian, foster home parent, an employee of a public or private day care center, an operator or employee of a registered family child day care home, or other person providing a residence for the child" as defined in Children's Code Article 603(3). (*"Tutor" is a legal term referring to someone other than a parent who has been confirmed or appointed by a court to serve as a child's caretaker.); AND
- The alleged victim must have been abused or neglected as defined in Children's Code Article 603.
What are "abuse" and "neglect"?
- Abuse means any one of the following acts which seriously endanger the physical, mental, or emotional health and safety of the child:
- The infliction, attempted infliction, or, as a result of inadequate supervision, the allowance of the infliction or attempted infliction of physical or mental injury upon the child by a parent or any other person.
- The exploitation or overwork of a child by a parent or any other person, including but not limited to commercial sexual exploitation of the child.
- The involvement of the child in any sexual act with a parent or any other person, or the aiding or toleration by the parent, caretaker, or any other person of the child's involvement in any of the following:
- Any sexual act with any other person.
- Pornographic displays.
- Any sexual activity constituting a crime under the laws of this state.
- A coerced abortion conducted upon a child.
- Female genital mutilation as defined by La. R.S. 14:43.4.
- Neglect means the refusal or unreasonable failure of a parent or caretaker to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, care, treatment, or counseling for any injury, illness, or condition of the child, as a result of which the child's physical, mental, or emotional health and safety is substantially threatened or impaired. Neglect includes prenatal neglect. Consistent with Children's Code Article 606(B), the inability of a parent or caretaker to provide for a child due to inadequate financial resources shall not, for that reason alone, be considered neglect. Whenever, in lieu of medical care, a child is being provided treatment in accordance with the tenets of a well-recognized religious method of healing which has a reasonable, proven record of success, the child shall not, for that reason alone, be considered to be neglected or maltreated. However, nothing herein shall prohibit the court from ordering medical services for the child when there is a substantial risk of harm to the child's health or welfare.
What happens if DCFS receives a report of abuse or neglect that does not involve a parent or caretaker?
If the report involves a child who has been abused or neglected, but does not involve a parent, caretaker or occupant of the household, Children's Code Article 610 requires the department to promptly communicate those cases to the appropriate law enforcement agency in accordance with a written working agreement developed between the department and law enforcement agency.
The department also shall report all cases of child death which involve suspicion of abuse or neglect as a contributing factor in the child's death to the local and state law enforcement agencies, the office of the district attorney, and the coroner.
Additionally, reports involving a felony-grade crime against a child shall be promptly communicated to the appropriate law enforcement authorities as part of the interagency protocols for multidisciplinary investigations of child abuse and neglect in each judicial district as provided in Children's Code Articles 509 and 510.