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The Night Watch

For social workers who knock unbidden on doors where child welfare complaints have been filed, Friday and Saturday nights are always the busiest.

On any given night, about two dozen emergency response social workers work late into the evening, responding to child abuse calls from all over Los Angeles County.

"A typical Friday night could be anywhere from 40 to 55 child abuse investigations for my staff," Javier Avila, a supervisor at the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services.

We followed two social workers on their late-night rounds, knocking on doors, waking up families in the middle of the night and trying to determine if children were safe.

Friday nights also seem to bring the worst cases.  "It can include child accidents, child fatalities, near drownings, or near fatalities," Avila says. "So we pretty much get the very severe types of cases on Friday and Saturday nights."

If the social worker determines that the child is in immediate danger, they will remove her from the house immediately. She might end up in a police station or in a conference room at the massive cubicle farm that is DCFS headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles.

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