California Supreme Court Decides to Split Families When There is No Prosecution of Sexual Abuse (CA Welfare & Institutions Code §300)

Rabin Nabizadeh
May 8, 2013

In Los Angeles County, a man known to the public only as “J.J.,” was accused of molesting his 14-year-old daughter.  Even though the girl later recanted and her father never prosecuted, a juvenile court judge decided that sexual abuse had occurred in the home and took 5 children away from their father, according to CA Welfare & Institutions Code §300.

Child abuse – especially sexual abuse – is a serious matter and children who are at risk within their own homes certainly ought to be removed and offered an alternative, safe place to grow up.  But what happens when the father in a family is accused of sexually abusing a daughter?  What happens to the sons?  Should there, in other words, be consideration taken for the gender of a child when determining whether to remove them from the home?  Many scholars on the subject have argued that boys are at a much lower risk than girls for being sexually abused than other girls in a sexually abusive home.

The California Supreme Court has recently determined that in a home where there has been even suspected abuse, all children should be removed – even if that means splitting up a family or sending these children to foster care.  In fact, this decision is left up to the specific judge in each case and they are allowed to use their own judgment.  So, beyond this being a question of whether or not boys should remain in a home where a young girl has been abused, this is also a question as to whether or not courts should have the right to make decisions that affect families so seriously.