Phone: (727) 582-3800 Address:
8550 Ulmerton Road, Suite 255
Largo, Fl. 33771
What is a child protection investigation?
Child Protection Investigators perform the important function of determining whether a child is safe in his or her home, and will take action to make sure the child is removed to safe surroundings.
When the Florida Abuse Hotline receives a report that a child or children in your home may not be safe because of abuse or neglect, state law requires that it be investigated. The purpose of the child protective investigation is to make sure that any children who are living in your home are not experiencing abuse or neglect.
The investigator will talk to you, your child(ren) and other family members, in addition to contacting others who know your child(ren) and family. You can participate and assist the protective investigator by providing information that is necessary to determine whether a problem exists that affects the safety and well being of the child(ren) in your home. Family members must be interviewed separately and children may be interviewed in any location.
An attorney may represent you at any time during the protective investigation. State law requires the protective investigator to complete the investigation promptly. If you choose to delay your interview with the investigator in order to be represented by an attorney, the protective investigator will continue to gather information from other persons, including family members. This in itself will not prevent contact or interview of your child within the mandated time frames.
State law authorizes court action if a child(ren) is (are) hidden or made unavailable for the purpose of delaying or avoiding the protective investigation.
What happens if someone makes a “false report” on me?
Unfortunately, sometimes people will make child abuse reports fully knowing that the allegations are not true. If the investigator determines that someone is knowingly making a “false report” about you and you give permission, 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.
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 your child(ren). Serious problems may require dependency court intervention.
You have the right to refuse the services and assistance offered by the investigator. If you refuse services, the law requires the protective investigator to determine whether court intervention is required to ensure the safety of your child(ren).
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 your child(ren), a petition will be filed and there will be a court hearing. The court will appoint an attorney to represent you at the hearing if you are indigent and cannot afford to hire an attorney.
If the protective investigator determines that your child(ren) need an alternate living arrangement, your child(ren) may be placed in the home of a relative, a close friend or in a children’s shelter home. You will be required to provide names, addresses, and the relationship of all parents, prospective parents, and relatives. There will be a hearing within 24 hours, so that the judge can determine whether your child(ren) should be returned to your home or temporaily placed outside your home.
You can bring persons with relevant information concerning your child(ren) to the hearing, in addition to providing the court with information about your child.
If your child(ren) are placed outside of you home, the judge will establish visitation rights. You may visit and talk with your child(ren) as provided by the judge. The time and place for visits and calls will be pre-arranged by your case worker.
If the court places your child outside your home, you can help by telling the protective investigator any necessary information about your child(ren), such as any medical problems or fears your child may have. Because we want your child(ren) to be as comfortable as possible while away from your home, the protective investigator needs to know anything else that you think is important about your child(ren). In addition, you can sign the medical and health forms so that your child can receive health care without delay.
You may comfort your child(ren) during visits, phone calls, and through letters, unless these are restricted by the court. Send your child’s clothing, pictures, and special toys to the child’s counselor who can provide them to your child
What happens next?
State law requires that a safe and stable home be achieved within 12 months. Your child(ren) need(s) to have a safe and caring home in order to grow and develop into healthy adults. In most cases, parents will be involved in helping to determine the best long-term care and goals for the child(ren). Court intervention will continue until the child(ren) can be safely returned home or until some other permanent care is arranged.