Child Abuse Central Index FAQ

  1. “What Is the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI)?”
  2. “How Did My Name Get on the CACI?”
  3. Why Did the CPS/CWS Agency Put my Name on the CACI?
  4. Are Unfounded or Inconclusive Reports Reported to CACI?
  5. What Do the Different Findings (Substantiated, Inconclusive, and Unfounded) of a CPS/CWS Report Mean?
  6. What is a CACI Report?
  7. What Must be Reported to CACI?
  8. Will People Find Out the Exact Reason I'm on the CACI?
  9. “Who Has Access to the List of Names on the CACI?”
  10. “Is My Name Already on the CACI?”
  11. “What Steps Do I Need to Take to Get My Name off the Child Abuse Central Index?”
  12. “Is There Anything that Would Prevent Me from Getting Started Right Now?”
  13. “What Exactly Can You Do for Me to Get My Name Off the CACI?”
  14. “Do You Take Cases in My Area?”
  15. “What Else Can You Tell Me About CACI Cases in the Various Counties?”
  16. “What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need?”
  17. “How Will Being on the CACI Negatively Impact Me and My Family?”
  18. “Is the CACI the Same as a Criminal Record?”
  19. “How Long Will My Name Stay on the CACI?”
  20. “When Should I Get Started to Get My Name Off the Child Abuse Central Index?”
  21. “How Long Will My Case Take to Resolve?”
  22. “What Are Some Reasons Your Clients Have Hired You?”
  23. “What Is Your Track Record of Success or Your Win Percentage? How Many CACI Cases Have You Won?”
  24. “Will I Be Better Off Hiring a Local CACI Lawyer?”
  25. “What If I can’t afford to hire a CACI Lawyer?”
  26. “What Else Can You Tell me About Your Law Firm?”

“What Is the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI)?”

California’s Child Abuse Central Index is a list maintained by the California Department of Justice of known and suspected child abusers.

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“How Did My Name Get on the CACI?”

Your name could have gotten on the CACI in one of two ways.

First, if your name was recently placed on the Index, it is because a county child welfare agency (such as CPS, CWS, Health & Human Family Services Agency–different counties use different names) conducted an investigation into an incident and concluded that you abused or neglected a child. That county agency then sent a notice to the Department of Justice to have your name placed on the CACI.

Second, if your name was placed on the index prior to 2012 or even prior to 2008, a law enforcement agency may have been responsible for placing your name on the CACI.

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“Why Did the CPS/CWS Agency Put my Name on the CACI?”

When a CPS agency investigates an allegation of abuse, the agency can conclude the investigation by making one of three findings: 1) that the allegation is substantiated, 2) that the allegation is inconclusive, or 3) that the allegation is unfounded. Only investigations that result in substantiated findings result in the alleged abuser being placed on the CACI. Investigations that result in inconclusive or unfounded findings do not result in a CACI listing.

Therefore, your name was put on the CACI because the social worker or social worker supervisor involved in the investigation of child abuse allegations against you deemed the allegations to be substantiated.

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“Are Unfounded or Inconclusive Reports Reported to CACI?”

No. What this means is that in order to get your name off the CACI, you need to convince the child protective services agency to change the finding of the allegations from substantiated to either inconclusive or unfounded. A change of the finding from substantiated to either inconclusive or unfounded will require the child welfare services agency to have your name removed from the Child Abuse Central Index.

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“What Do the Different Findings (Substantiated, Inconclusive, and Unfounded) of a CPS/CWS Report Mean?”

A substantiated finding is one in which the social worker involved found it to be more likely than not that child abuse was committed.

An unfounded finding means the social worker found the child abuse allegation to not be true or to involve an accidental injury.

An inconclusive finding means the report was not deemed substantiated nor unfounded by the social worker or social worker supervisor. This may happen when the social worker doesn't have enough evidence to substantiate an allegation or isn't quite sure what happened.

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“What is a CACI Report?”

A CACI report is a notification by a local county child welfare agency to the California state Department of Justice that the agency has deemed a certain person to be a child abuser. The Department of Justice responds to the notification by listing that person's name in a database of child abusers called the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI).

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“What Must be Reported to CACI?”

The law requires child welfare agencies to make a CACI report to the CA DOJ whenever they substantiate an allegation of 1) physical abuse, 2) sexual abuse, 3) mental abuse, or 4) severe neglect. Each of these four types of abuse has subcategories, meaning there are different ways in which each type of abuse can be committed. Nonetheless, the report does not break down the type of abuse into the various subcategories. What this means is that a parent who spanks his/her child on the rear end and leaves a tiny red mark is treated the same as (and put in the same category as) a person who beats a child to death or breaks bones, etc.

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“Will People Find Out the Exact Reason I'm on the CACI?”

No. Anyone who finds out you are on the CACI will just know you are on the CACI. They will not know if your CACI listing is due to physical abuse or sexual abuse, for instance. For all they know, you could have been put on the CACI as a result of a minor spanking incident or you could be a serial child molester. The CACI does not distinguish between the two.

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“Who Has Access to the List of Names on the CACI?”

There is a long list of people and organizations that have access to the CACI. The ones you really care about include:

  • Employers
  • Potential future employers
  • Law enforcement
  • Prosecutors
  • Judges
  • State licensing agencies
  • Schools
  • Non-profit organizations at which you may wish to volunteer

Any of the above organizations from other states.

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“Is My Name Already on the CACI?”

Probably. Most people find this site because one of two things happened: 1) They got a letter in the mail from their local child welfare services agency notifying them that their name was placed on the CACI. If that’s you, then yes, your name is already on the CACI as you read this. 2) They were notified by another organization (such as a potential employer or a licensing agency) that their name is on the CACI. If that’s you, then yes, obviously your name is already on the CACI.

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“What Steps Do I Need to Take to Get My Name off the Child Abuse Central Index?”

If you received a letter from a county agency notifying you of the placement of your name on the CACI, it probably informed you that you only have 30 days from the date of the letter to ask for a Grievance Hearing to dispute your listing on the CACI.

NOTE: The letter probably says you have 30 days FROM THE DATE OF THE LETTER, NOT THE DATE YOU RECEIVED THE LETTER. I emphasize this because it is not uncommon for people to receive the letter a couple weeks after the letter was written.

So, what steps do you need to take? You need to ask for a Grievance Hearing using the form provided in the envelope. You can either hire a lawyer to do that for you or you can do it yourself. Either way, that should be your first priority, before time runs out. If you miss that deadline, you’re out of luck–you won’t have another chance to get your name off the CACI.

If you found out you were on the CACI from someone other than the county agency, then you need to write a letter to the appropriate government agency, asking for a hearing. Again, you can either hire a lawyer to do it for you or you can do it yourself.

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“Is There Anything that Would Prevent Me from Getting Started Right Now?”

If you have a current court case pending (either in criminal court or dependency court–dependency court is where the government is trying to take your kids away from you), then the county agency will not give you a Grievance Hearing right now. They will wait until the court case is resolved. If during the court case the judge makes a finding that you committed child abuse or neglect, the county agency will not give you a Grievance Hearing at all. You’ll be out of luck. If the court case is resolved in your favor, then you should ask for a Grievance Hearing.

So, if you do currently have a pending criminal or dependency case, the question is: should you send in your request for a Grievance Hearing now, or should wait to see what happens with your court case? My recommendation is you send in your request for a Grievance Hearing now, just in case the court case is resolved in your favor. You don’t want the county agency coming back to you and saying, “Sorry, you had the chance to ask for a hearing 6 months ago and you didn’t do it, so even though your criminal charges were dismissed, we’re not going to give you a Grievance Hearing.” If you ask for a Grievance Hearing now, there will be a record of it later.

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“What Exactly Can You Do for Me to Get My Name Off the CACI?”

Our particular areas of legal knowledge are the child abuse laws and the child abuse reporting laws. We represent clients in their fight to get off the CACI. For more in depth information on how we help our clients, watch our 4-part video series that shows you how we win CACI Grievance Hearings.

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“Do You Take Cases in My Area?”

If you have a CACI case in California, then yes. We take cases all over California. While our offices are located in San Diego County and San Bernardino County, wherever you are located, we can help.

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“What Else Can You Tell Me About CACI Cases in the Various Counties?”

Learn more about Grievance Hearings in the following California counties: Alameda County, Contra Costa County, El Dorado County, Imperial County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Placer County, Riverside County, Sacramento County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, San Joaquin County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Stanislaus County, Ventura County.

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“What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need?”

Which lawyers are best able to handle CACI cases? Criminal defense lawyers, family law lawyers or dependency lawyers?

In my opinion, the answer is: none of these.

CACI cases are NOT criminal cases, family cases, or dependency cases.

CACI cases are NOT held in criminal courts, family courts, or dependency courts.

CACI cases are ADMINISTRATIVE cases and deal with ADMINISTRATIVE law.

The type of attorney you need is an administrative lawyer who specializes in CACI proceedings.

Criminal Cases

Only about 3% of all criminal cases go to trial. The vast majority of criminal cases settle after negotiation between the defense lawyer, prosecutor, and judge. Therefore, many excellent criminal defense lawyers have excellent negotiating skills.

CACI cases are not negotiated. Well, it does happen, but it’s quite rare. The vast majority of CACI cases proceed to hearing (which is like a trial.)

Another big difference between criminal cases and CACI cases is quite often criminal defense lawyers see their job as getting the least punishment (i.e., sentence) possible. This almost always involves their client admitting guilt early and expressing sympathy for the victim, and taking responsibility for his or her action. This will not work in CACI cases. If you do this in CACI cases, you will lose.

Therefore, the skills of a criminal defense lawyer (even a really good one) may not translate well to CACI cases.

Family Cases

Good family lawyers know the Family Code very well. However, they may not know the Penal Code very well. Family lawyers may also know the case law (appellate court opinions) related to family law very well. They typically are not very well-versed in the case law relating to criminal law.

CACI cases involve criminal law, not family law. It is important that your CACI lawyer know the criminal law (both statutes and case law) related to child abuse backwards and forward. Your case rests on this area of law.

Dependency Cases

One of the difficulties that child welfare agency social workers and County Counsel have with CACI proceedings is that they very often want to apply dependency laws to CACI cases. However, dependency law has NO APPLICATION to CACI cases, and applying dependency law to CACI cases will often be harmful to your case. Dependency law comes from the Welfare & Institutions Code, not the Penal Code. A “guilty” finding under the Welfare & Institutions Code is much easier to come to than it is in the Penal Code.

Administrative Cases

Administrative law deals with laws made by agencies of the executive branch of government. For example, the DMV, the FTC, the EPA, state and federal licensing agencies, and countless others, are all involved in administrative law.

There are administrative laws related to: driver’s licenses, professional licenses, consumer protection, and a very long list of other topics.

It is practically impossible for one administrative lawyer to know well all the laws applicable in all the different types of administrative proceedings that exist.

A good administrative lawyer will know procedural rules that apply in administrative hearings, the case law applicable in administrative hearings, and have a great depth of knowledge related to the subject matter of your administrative hearing (in your case: child abuse).

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“How Will Being on the CACI Negatively Impact Me and My Family?”

The answer depends on what you do in life. If you are a practicing nurse with a current job, it could result in you losing your job. If you have security clearance, I’ve been told that it could affect result in losing that clearance. If you are looking for a job as a teacher, it could result in losing that opportunity because employers will simply not hire you. If you are trying to become a foster parent, it could disqualify you from being eligible as a foster parent. If you ever want to adopt a child, you lose that opportunity. If you want to become a coach for your child’s little league team or volunteer in your child’s class or participate as a Sunday school teacher…in all of those situations, being on the CACI could prevent you from becoming involved. I have represented clients in each of the situations described above. Those are the reasons why they hired me. On the other hand, perhaps you don’t ever see yourself falling in any of those scenarios. I have also had clients hire me simply because they didn’t like the idea of being labelled a “child abuser”. They felt it was an injustice for them to be on the list and, as a matter of principle, they wanted off. They needed to defend their good name and reputation based on principle. You may feel similarly. If none of those scenarios resonate with you, then perhaps being on the CACI will never really negatively affect your life or the lives of your family members.

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“Is the CACI the Same as a Criminal Record?”

No. While both the CACI and criminal records are maintained by the California Department of Justice, they are two separate lists. Being on the CACI does not mean you have a criminal record. In fact, many people on the CACI do not have criminal records.

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“How Long Will My Name Stay on the CACI?”

It depends. Are you an adult? If so, your name will stay on the CACI for the rest of your life (or until you turn 100 years old)…unless you act to get your name taken off the Child Abuse Central Index now. If your name was placed on the CACI as a minor, your name will be removed from the CACI 10 years from the date of the incident resulting in the CACI listing AS LONG AS you don’t have your name placed on the CACI again for some other reason, in which case your name could stay on the Child Abuse Central Index for the rest of your life (or until you turn 100 years old).

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“When Should I Get Started to Get My Name Off the Child Abuse Central Index?”

Now. Your time to act is extremely limited. It’s best to act now.

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“How Long Will My Case Take to Resolve?”

From the date that we submit a request for a CACI Grievance Hearing to the county, the shortest amount of time in which we've seen a case resolved was probably just 3 weeks. The longest is about 3 and a half years. We estimate most cases are resolved somewhere around 9 months to 12 months. There are a number of factors that will determine how long your case will take:

  • Are you the minor’s parent?
  • Do you have a particular reason to have your hearing sooner rather than later?
  • Do you have a particular reason to delay your hearing?
  • Are you going through a child custody dispute in family court?
  • Will we want to hire expert witnesses to help us with your case?
  • Was the minor interviewed by a professional forensic interviewer? If so, was the interview audio or video recorded?
  • Did the minor receive a medical evaluation?
  • What county is your case in? (Some counties take MUCH longer to make a decision than others.)

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“What Are Some Reasons Your Clients Have Hired You?”

People hire us because they need to get their names off the CACI, but the reasons why they need to get off the CACI vary. Some clients will not be able to get a job in their chosen profession while on the CACI. This includes nurses, teachers, coaches, school administrators, prison guards, probation officers, law enforcement officers, military personnel, and the like. Our clients have included people in each of these professions. Some clients will not be able to get promotions or may get fired while on the CACI. These include everyone listed above. Some clients will not be able to continue volunteering at their children's school or coach their children's athletic teams (soccer, baseball, football, basketball, etc.) while on the CACI. Some clients will not be able to continue as a foster parent while on the CACI. Some clients will not be able to work at a day care, or their parents or spouses are no longer able to operate a day care while the client is living there. Some clients will not be able to adopt a child while on the CACI. Some clients simply do not want to be on the CACI, as a matter of principle, because they are not child abusers and do not want nor deserve the stigma attached their name for the rest of their lives. We have had clients hire us for ALL of the above reasons. But none of that really matters. Only one question matters: What's your reason?

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“What Is Your Track Record of Success or Your Win Percentage? How Many CACI Cases Have You Won?”

Our success rate fluctuates over time, as you might expect. At any given time, we have a 85-90% success rate. BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN WE WILL/WOULD/COULD WIN YOUR CASE. EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT, INCLUDING YOURS. We have to put that in all caps because it would be unethical for us to make you any promises or guarantees about your case. We never make promises about the outcomes of cases. Our clients and we simply hunker down, do the work, put in the effort, keep a positive outlook, and in the end we know we've done our part to present the best possible case. So far, it's worked out. We would love for you to experience the same result.

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“Will I Be Better Off Hiring a Local CACI Lawyer?”

You will be better off hiring a lawyer who is extremely knowledgeable about the Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing laws and procedures. That will ensure you have the best opportunity to achieve a successful outcome in your case. If you have any questions about this, we strongly encourage you to watch our 4-part video series about how to win your Grievance Hearing, which reveals your chances of winning a hearing without having a lawyer who is experienced with the unique legal issues in these types of cases.

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“What If I can’t afford to hire a CACI Lawyer?”

You only have two options: 1) hire a lawyer to represent you or 2) represent yourself. That's it. The government will not appoint a lawyer (such as a public defender) to represent you. So if you already know you can't afford to hire a lawyer, then we STRONGLY suggest you take our 4-part video series that will walk you through the exact steps we take when representing our clients. It will teach you how to win your case.

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“What Else Can You Tell me About Your Law Firm?”

When you hire us, you hire a law firm that knows the child abuse laws inside and out. We are widely regarded as the foremost authorities on all issues related to the CACI. We have been sought out for consulting, presenting, and educating on CACI issues by many organizations, lawyers, and law-makers throughout California.

CACI cases are all we do. And it's what we love. We've been able to help a lot of clients, and really LOVE that final day when, after months of hard work, we learn our clients have been vindicated and their names have been taken off the CACI. We can only imagine the horror our clients experience when being accused of child abuse. But we know, based on experience, the sweetness that comes to our clients when they have their name cleared. We want you to experience that feeling too.

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