Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1988 NO. 5 > Mar 8 1988

1.  State law authorizes but does not require the Department of Social and Health Services (Child Protective Services) to investigate complaints of child abuse allegedly perpetrated by third parties (that is, persons not the parent or guardian of the child and not standing in loco parentis to the child). 2. State law authorizes but does not require the Department of Social and Health Services (Child Protective Services) to investigate complaints alleging physical or sexual abuse committed by a teacher against a child. 3. State law authorizes but does not require the Department of Social and Health Services (Child Protective Services) to investigate complaints alleging physical or sexual abuse committed by a neighbor against a child. 4. Although the Department of Social and Health Services is ordinarily not legally obligated to investigate complaints alleging physical or sexual abuse against a child by third parties, an obligation to investigate might arise where the abuse by the third party is directly related to neglect or abuse by the child's parent or guardian or by a person standing in loco parentis to the child.