Child Abuse & Neglect

When someone makes a report about the safety of your child, the police or a social worker must investigate. They have to decide if the court should get involved so your child will be safe and protected.

If the police or social worker decides your child needs to be in temporary foster care to be safe, they will take your child away. This can be because your child:

  • Was not well taken care of or watched over;
  • Was neglected, abused, or molested; or
  • Was left with someone who did not take good care of him or her.

After your child is taken away

  1. The social worker for your case will find out about you, your house, and your child. He or she will do what they think is the best way to keep your child safe.

  2. For now, your child may be sent to live:

    • With the other legal parent (if you do not live together);
    • With a relative; or
    • In a foster home or shelter.

    You must tell the social worker the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the  other parent or relatives who can take care of your child. The social worker will  get in touch with them to see if they can give your child a safe place to live. This  way, your child may not have to stay with a stranger.

  3. After an initial investigation, if the social worker thinks your child is not safe:

    • He or she will file papers (called a “petition”) to ask the court to say your child is a “dependent of the court.”
    • The social worker has 2 workdays after he or she takes your child to file a petition. If your child is not taken away, the social worker has more time to file.

  4. There will be a court hearing. You MUST go to court for the hearing. You will be told the date, time, and place of the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will make orders about the care, custody, and supervision of your child.

Juvenile cases are very serious. They can change your life and your child’s life. Know your rights and how the court works. Talk to a lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer.

More Information

Juvenile Dependency Court and You: A Guide for Parents
– This guide explains the dependency court process in California. It also includes the story of one parent who went through the dependency system and her advice to you on how to get your children back home. Also available in Spanish.

Talk to the social worker or child welfare agency. They can tell you more information about where your child is and how the courts work. Get the phone number from your county’s website. Or look in the “County Government” section of your phone book.

Get in touch with the superior court in your county. If you cannot find the phone number or address for the juvenile court, call the court’s main number.

Read Caregivers and the Courts , which discusses juvenile dependency proceedings for caregivers and foster parents.

NOTE: If you are a ward or dependent of the juvenile court and are turning 18 on or after January 1, 2012 (or if you are between 18 and 20 and have previously been placed in a foster home), you may be entitled to extended foster care benefits beyond your 18th birthday. These benefits may include money for clothing and housing assistance, medical coverage, job placement services, school tuition and others. To find out if you are eligible, contact your current or former probation officer, social worker or lawyer. You can get more information at:

Child Abuse & Neglect Links

Children and Family Services Division 
This site was created to help and protect needy and vulnerable children.

Emergency Response Hotline Numbers for County Child Protective Services 
This site has a list of child protective services hotline telephone numbers for all California counties. Posted by the California Department of Social Services, Children and Family Services Division.

Fight for Your Rights: A Guidebook for California Foster Youth, Former Foster Youth, and Those Who Care About Them  A guidebook to inform foster youth, former foster youth, and advocates about the services and issues that are important to youth preparing for the transition from foster care to self-sufficiency.

LawHelpCalifornia: Child Abuse/Neglect 
Links to information on the dependency court system, local resources for teens, and more. (Select your county or enter your zip code for information specific to the area that you live in.)

Queer & Trans Youth in California Foster Care Have Rights!
This brochure has information on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in California foster care. Created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Centro de ayuda


Juvenile Dependency Court Orientation
This video about the court process is for parents whose children were taken from their care. 


Map of SHC and FLF Locations Self-Help Centers
Click for an interactive Google map listing of Self Help Centers and Family Law Facilitator locations, or click for a printer-friendly directory.
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