Coaching

Is “Coaching” the Best Strategy in a Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing?

Quite often, those who found themselves placed in the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) are in the middle of a child custody dispute, often involving high conflict between the parents. In these scenarios, it’s common for the accused to claim that the child made a false allegation after being prompted or coached by the other parent.

There are several reasons why attributing the reason for the allegation to “coaching” may not be the strongest, most persuasive, or best defense strategy in your case.

You Give Yourself a Burden a Proof

First, one advantage you have in Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) Grievance Hearings is the fact that the county has the burden of proof. The child welfare services agency has to prove you’re guilty of committing child abuse. Technically, and legally, you have no obligation to prove your innocence or to disprove the allegation. The burden is 100% on the county.

If you go with the strategy that the child made the allegation as a result of coaching, you give yourself the burden of proving coaching. It’s a burden of proof that you are giving yourself. This may not be a good idea because, as a general rule, you’re better off having no burden of proof than having a burden of proof.

You Have to Explain Why the Child Acquiesced to the Coaching

On top of giving yourself the burden of proving coaching (usually by the other parent), you also put yourself in a position of trying to explain why the child fell for it or gave it to the coaching.

Just because an adult tells a child to say X doesn’t mean the child has to say X. The child could still simply choose to say, “No, X didn’t happen. Y happened.” So if you go with the theory that the child was coached to say X, you also have to explain why the child didn’t just say Y (with Y being what you say is the truth).

So you’re actually putting on your shoulders two burdens of proof, not one.

Not All of Allegations of Coaching Are True

As mentioned, it’s very common for those who are accused of abusing their own child to claim that the child’s other parent put the child up to it—that the other parent coached the child to make the accusation.

The accused’s conflict with the other parent partially explains why the accused blames the other parent. They just don’t like each other. It makes sense why the accused would blame the other parent rather than the child. But that doesn’t make the accused right.

It’s unquestionable that there are fewer actual cases of coaching than claims of coaching. Put differently, not every case in which the accused claims the child was coached was the child in fact coached.

Your own assertion of coaching doesn’t prove there was coaching. To accuse the other parent of coaching simply isn’t enough; it’s not, by itself, very persuasive. It simply leads the hearing officer in your Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing to wonder whether or not yours is one of those cases where there was actual coaching…without providing the answer.

The Hearing Officer Has Heard it Many Times and May be Jaded, not give it due consideration

Chances are the hearing officer in your Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing has a great deal of experience in cases involving child abuse allegations. Chances are the hearing officer has heard many others claim that the child was coached. You won’t be the first person the hearing officer hears making that claim.

In fact, chances are the hearing officer has heard it many times when the claim of coaching was just not justified. The hearing officer may have heard the claim so often, that when the hearing officer hears it, s/he just tends to shut it out and stop listening.

The concern here is that the hearing officer may be jaded by claims of coaching, and may dismiss it pretty quickly. This is more likely to happen if you make the claim of coaching without providing any actual evidence of coaching. If you do that, it actually weakens your case rather than strengthening it. If you can’t prove coaching, consider other reasons why children make false allegations.

Go For It, If You Have the Evidence that Proves Coaching

Having said all that, there are situations in which you should definitely claim the child was coached. What are those situations? They are situations where there is actual, real, solid evidence of coaching, and of the coaching having a demonstrated impact on the child’s statements.

For instance, if a social worker or police officer wrote a report expressing concern that the child was coached, then you may have a great case to claim coaching. In that situation, go for it. In all other situations, be very wary of putting the success or failure of your whole case on the idea that the child was coached or you may be very disappointed with the result of your Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing.