All children deserve to grow up in nurturing and safe homes. Child abuse (whether it be physical, sexual or emotional) will negatively impact the victim for a lifetime. If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child is being maltreated, it is imperative that you report your concerns to the appropriate Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. Learn how to document and report child abuse concerns in a few short steps.
- Skill level:
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Call 911. If the child is in immediate danger, or if a situation is severe call emergency authorities, first. The operator will be able to assess the situation and contact the appropriate social services, or law enforcement agency for you.
Take notes. If you have ongoing concerns that a child is being abused or neglected always document basic information about the child (name, address, age) and the nature of the abuse and neglect. Also include the names of suspected perpetrators and their relationship to the child (parent, teacher, etc.) and any other relevant information.
Make the call. If you do not know the number of your local Child Protective Services agency call the National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 4-A-CHILD, to be connected to the agency nearest you.
Continue to report and document. If your concerns about the child remain and the abuse appears to be ongoing, keep taking notes and calling local authorities. Often it takes a series of reports before the judicial system will allow a CPS agency to investigate and intervene in a family situation.
Tips and warnings
- Social service professionals are not allowed to disclose the name of the reporter during the course of an investigation (unless the information is court ordered by a judge) therefore it may not be necessary to make an anonymous report.
- Most states require that social service agencies follow up on anonymous reports within 48 hours. On the other hand, if the reporter is identified a lengthier (and often more thorough) investigation can take place.
- Depending upon the state in which you live, professionals such as teachers, doctors, childcare workers and medical providers are considered mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporters are required by law to make child abuse and neglect reports when they have concerns about a child's welfare. Mandatory reporters may not make anonymous reports.
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