8550 Ulmerton Road
Suite 255
Largo, FL 33771
Administration: 727-582-3800
Abuse Hotline: 1-800-962-2873 (1-800-96-ABUSE)
 

What is a child protection investigation?

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is one of six sheriffs’ offices in the state of Florida which investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. When the Florida Abuse Hotline receives a report of child abuse or neglect, state law requires the report be investigated. The State's decision to contract this task to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office allows us to draw upon the experience, expertise, and resources of local law enforcement in conjunction with social services to find the best and safest solution for at risk children.

The Sheriff’s Child Protection Investigators (CPIs) perform the important function of investigating claims of abuse and determining whether a case needs to be referred for further action to ensure the safety of the child.

What happens when a Sheriff's CPID is called to investigate a report of abuse?

The investigator will respond to the location of the alleged abuse and interview the reported victims, as well as all family members and other residents in the home. Family members must be interviewed separately and children may be interviewed in any location.

All are encouraged to cooperate, and attorneys can be present any time during the protective investigation. State law requires the protective investigator to complete the investigation promptly. If interviews are delayed while legal representation is arranged, the protective investigator will continue to gather information from other persons, including family members. This in itself will not prevent contact or interview of the child in question within the mandated time frames.

State law authorizes court action if a child is hidden or made unavailable for the purpose of delaying or avoiding the protective investigation.

 

What happens if someone makes a “false abuse report” on a parent or caregiver?

Unfortunately, sometimes people will make false child abuse reports. If the investigator determines that someone knowingly made a false report about abuse or neglect, law enforcement may be notified. If law enforcement investigates and finds reason to prosecute, any prosecution decisions will be left in the hands of law enforcement and the state attorney’s office.

By law, each report to the abuse hotline must be fully investigated regardless of the number of prior reports or their findings, even if a prior report was false.

 

What are the possible results of the investigation?

Some investigations will reveal that there is no indication of child abuse or neglect. In these cases, the investigation will be closed with no further action. Some situations require a safety plan that aims to change the circumstances that endangered the safety or well being of the child or children involved. Serious problems may require dependency court intervention.

If a parent or caregiver refuses the services and assistance offered by the investigator, the law requires the protective investigator to determine whether court intervention is required to ensure the safety of the children in the household.

Certain allegations of abuse/neglect are required by law to be referred to the Child Protective Team for a medical evaluation or other services.

If the investigator determines that court intervention is necessary to ensure the safety of a child, a petition will be filed and there will be a court hearing. If a parent or caregiver is indigent, a court appointed attorney will be assigned to the case.

If the protective investigator determines that a child should be removed from the home, the child may be placed in the home of a relative, a close friend or in foster care. There will be a hearing within 24 hours, so that the judge can determine whether the child should be returned to the home or temporarily placed with alternate caregivers.

Visitation rights will be established for the parent or caregiver if the child is removed from the home. The Judge and case-worker will set the ground rules for visits, phone calls and other paths of contact.

Should the child be placed outside the home, the new caregivers will require the child’s medical and behavioral background information. This can be provided to the caseworker. The caseworker or counselor can deliver the child’s favorite clothing, toys or family pictures to comfort the child.

 

What happens next?

State law requires that a safe and stable home be achieved within 12 months. In most cases, parents will be involved in helping to determine the best long-term care and goals for the child. Court intervention will continue until the child can be safely returned home or until other permanent care is arranged.

 

Important information from the Department of Children & Families.

Click here for information about interpreter services for the deaf or hard of hearing, and Limited English Proficiency.

Any person who believes there has been a violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 may file a complaint locally by writing or calling:

Lieutenant Cynthia Gibson
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
Child Protection Investigations Division
8550 Ulmerton Road, Suite 255,Largo, Fl., 33771
727-582-3800

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