Crimes Against Children Unit
The Crimes Against Children Unit at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office is part of the Child Protective Services Division. The unit conducts post-incident investigations on a host of major crimes against children, including:
- Sexual abuse;
- Serious physical abuse;
- Interference with custody (parental kidnapping); and
- Unattended child deaths.
The unit partners with the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a U.S. Department of Justice funded initiative, and the Innocent Images National Initiative to investigate online crimes against children. In doing so, it also investigates crimes such as:
- Online solicitation; and
- Possession and/or distribution of images of child sexual exploitation.
The Crimes Against Children Unit is housed at Kids House of Seminole, the Child Advocacy Center for Seminole County. Also housed at Kids House is the Florida Department of Health's Child Protection Team for Seminole County, medical staff and examination rooms provided by Florida Hospital-Altamonte, a staff of child advocates to guide the children and families through the process, and a staff of child and family therapists to assist after the incident. Being in this location enables the unit to better serve the needs of victimized children by providing a "one stop shop" for the children and their families. Instead of a series of appointments at different locations, the victim and family come to one location that houses all necessary service providers. For this reason, Seminole County’s unification of services system at Kids House is often hailed as a model for other such centers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When is child abuse, child abuse?
A: There is no easy answer to this. Case law says that physical contact done as a form of discipline is rarely abusive, however some common sense would apply. In order to determine if the act was criminal abuse or not, law enforcement will look at the totality of the circumstances: the age of the child, the type of discipline, the number of strikes, the outcome or injury if any, the amount and location of bruising or injury (any injury to above the shoulders should be considered more severe) etc. In all cases, if there is serious injury it should be considered abuse.
Q: What is the age that a child can legally be left home alone?
A: Again, there is in no easy answer. Florida State Statute does not establish a "bright line" age at which a child can be left home alone, so again it will depend upon the totality of the circumstances for the individual case. In most cases, unless it is so obvious that the child should not have been left alone in the particular case circumstances, the incident will not be a crime. However, a call to the Florida Abuse Hotline may still be warranted. They will look at such things as if the child had a plan of what to do or whom to call in an emergency, the maturity and responsibility of the child, and if the child or family has had similar contacts with the CPS in the past.
Q: I received an e-mail advertising child pornography. What do I do?
A: More often than not this e-mail has originated outside of the United States, which will make investigation and prosecution virtually impossible. However, the site can be reported to NCMEC's Cybertipline, http://www.missingkids.com/cybertip
, and they will route the complaint to the appropriate agency if warranted.
Q: My child has been chatting online with someone I believe is an adult. What do I do?
A: If your child is corresponding with an adult online it is not necessarily a criminal offense. A crime occurs if there is a solicitation for some lewd act, an exchange of lewd images, or if the adult is prohibited from contact with a child, e.g. a sex offender on probation. In any instance such as this, it is best to report the crime to local law enforcement for follow up investigation.