BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The adoptive parents of Orrin and Orson West were charged with second-degree murder of the boys Tuesday. They pleaded not guilty on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the boys’ biological family has filed a lawsuit against Kern County for negligence in placing their sons with the Wests.

Vanessa Frando from Kern County Human Services discusses how Child Protective Services works and how people can spot the signs of abuse.

Frando said a lot of victims of child abuse end up being children ages 0 to 5. That age makes it all the more important for community members to report any suspicious activity since children that age are not in the school system yet, Frando added.

Frando said sometimes, when they received reports of child abuse, they will partner with law enforcement for an in-person investigation to collect information on the child’s life. This includes interviewing family, friends and neighbors. Then, Frando said they make a decision on whether the child belongs in their biological home.

Frando said the decision goes before a judicial officer with all parties represented by a lawyer. This process may take up to several years.

Frando said it is a rigorous process to become a foster or adoptive parent that includes background checks with the Department of Justice, fingerprinting, child abuse history, training, intensive interviews about the family history and background and references.

Watch the full interview for tips on spotting child abuse including:

  • Scarring from past or repeated abuse
  • Strangulation marks
  • Extreme clutter and/or trash in the house.