The Child Abuse Investigation Unit is a team of detectives specially trained to handle the most serious abuse cases. They are specially trained in the dynamics of child abuse. They know how to conduct an assessment to determine if children are at risk, and how to conduct age appropriate investigations and interviews. An additional detective and a deputy forensic examiner are assigned to the Interagency Child Exploitation Prevention Team (INTERCEPT), which focuses solely on the investigation of child predators who use the Internet.
Each year, the Child Abuse Investigation Unit investigates 300 to 450 formal cases. Because of the volume and complexity of the cases, these detectives only handle cases involving serious physical or sexual abuse of children and child fatalities. Specially trained patrol deputies and corporals investigate the remaining child physical abuse and neglect cases.
The Child Abuse Investigation Unit also receives and investigates "cross-reporting" intake forms from the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). These reports are received daily and document possible cases of child abuse. Each report requires an assessment and often a preliminary investigation. Some are assigned as formal cases. The volume of these reports continues to climb. For the 2009 calendar year, this unit handled 1,821 of these DHS cross-reports.
Role of the Sheriff's Office
The role of the Sheriff's Office, as any police agency, is to conduct a criminal investigation into allegations of child abuse. At the same time, the investigating deputy will be conducting an assessment to determine if the child is at risk of further abuse. If the investigating deputy reasonably believes the child is at risk of further abuse, the deputy will take the child into protective custody and turn the child over to staff at the DHS. DHS staff will find a foster home or other suitable placement for the child.
There are many disciplines, or fields of expertise, involved in the assessment, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse. In Washington County, these disciplines have formed the Washington County Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Intervention Team. This team includes representatives from various law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney's Office, hospitals involved with medical assessments, schools, public health agencies, Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services (CARES) Northwest Program, the Department of Human Services, and members of the treatment field for both offenders and victims. The Washington County Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Intervention Team meets monthly in an effort to assess our progress and to discuss sensitive cases that need greater interaction.
One of the signs of a healthy community is a proactive approach to combating child abuse. One of the foundations in the fight against child abuse is the mandated child abuse reporting law. In Oregon, many private and public professionals are required to report child abuse. These mandated reporters include counselors, doctors, nurses, pastors, police officers, teachers, etc. Any time these mandated reporters have contact with a child who they reasonably believe has been abused or if they have contact with an offender they reasonably believe has abused a child, they are required to make a report to either DHS or local law enforcement.
DHS and law enforcement agencies are also required to cross-report and share the information with each other. The Washington County Sheriff's Office Child Abuse Investigation Team has a detective available for these calls Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. During other hours, reports should be made to a patrol deputy via the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (the 9-1-1 dispatch center).
Detectives team with Crime Prevention Officers to provide free educational presentations to the public.
Recognizing Child Molesters: A New Approach to Protecting Children
A child's safety is an adult's job. There is no substitute for an adult taking an active role in the safety of their child. Adults make sure children wear seatbelts. Adults walk children across busy streets. Why then, would we leave the job of preventing child sexual abuse solely to children? Our classes are aimed at informing and equipping adults to better protect their children from sex abuse by recognizing grooming behaviors and techniques used by child molesters. Participants will receive an extensive information and resource packet, which provides additional tools to help increase the safety of children. The training is geared toward parents, educators, and other community members. Certificates of attendance are available.
To inquire about future classes and locations, please call our Crime Prevention Unit support staff at (503) 846-2579. Because of the nature of the discussion, children are not allowed to attend.
Everyone needs to be involved in combating child abuse. Through our combined efforts, Washington County can be a safer place to raise children. To report child abuse, contact the Child Abuse Hotline at (503) 681-6917 or Washington County non-emergency dispatch at (503) 629-0111. If you would like more information on how you can be involved in combating child abuse, you may contact the Washington County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Unit at (503) 846-2579 or the Child Abuse Investigation Unit at (503) 846-2500.