- Describe and follow appropriate reporting procedures.
- List the information that should be provided when making a report of suspected child abuse or neglect.
- Prepare yourself for the emotions and events that follow a report of child abuse or neglect.
Think about Kate, whom you met in the Explore section of the previous lessons. Think about the day her caregiver noticed the bruises and scrapes on her body. If she were a child in your program, would you know what to do to help? Would you know exactly who to call and what to say? Would you take action like Kate’s caregiver did?
By the end of this lesson, we hope you will answer “yes” to all these questions. The specific procedures and policies for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect varies across states. This lesson will provide an overview of reporting procedures, but you will be responsible for identifying your specific reporting procedures in the Apply section of this lesson.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you must make a report to local Child Protective Services or law enforcement. You can find out where to call by visiting the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s state reporting numbers website: https://www.childwelfare.gov/organizations/?CWIGFunctionsaction=rols:main.dspList&rolType=Custom&RS_ID=5
Call the reporting number relevant to your state and provide the following information:
- Name of victim
- Age of victim
- Name and contact information for parents or guardians
- Reasons for suspected abuse or neglect
- Description and location of victim’s physical injuries (if applicable)
- Information freely disclosed by victim
- Current location of victim
- Known information regarding incident or chronology of events
- You may be asked if you are a mandated reporter (several states require mandated reporters to disclose their identity)
- You may be asked if you would like to disclose your identity
As a mandated reporter, it is good practice to document your call with details such as:
- Who you spoke to during the call
- What time you made the call
- What information you were able to provide
After the Call
Reporting suspected child abuse or neglect can be a stressful event. It is important to mentally prepare yourself for what happens after the call.
In most states, your report will be evaluated by Child Protective Services (CPS). If there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation, a caseworker will initiate one. Children, families, and caregivers may be contacted and interviewed. CPS will determine whether criteria for the child abuse or neglect claim has been met and whether the child is safe in the home. If the report of abuse involves allegations of criminal acts, law enforcement will be contacted, and the investigation will be conducted jointly.
Regardless of where you live or where you work, it is unlikely you will ever hear the results of your report. Confidentiality laws protect a family’s privacy. Also know that it is not uncommon for families to withdraw their child from the program after an allegation of abuse. The report you made may be the last piece of information you have about a child’s situation, but you should feel confident that you fulfilled your responsibilities. If the child and the family remain in your family child care home, you, various local agencies or the Family Advocacy Program can offer help and support to the family by focusing on enhancing protective factors in their family and community.
Sometimes, caregivers worry that they could be sued or punished for making a report. This is not the case. You are protected by law as a mandated reporter. A family cannot sue you for making a report in good faith. Likewise, you cannot be retaliated against for making a report in good faith about a suspected incident in your program.
Common Concerns that Prevent Providers from Making Reports
We live in a small community. Will my report ruin the parent’s career?
Childcare providers sometimes worry that reporting suspected child abuse or neglect might harm a career or get the individual fired. This can make staff members hesitant to make a report, but you should know that Child Protective Services, Family Advocacy Program, and the command want to keep victims of abuse safe. But they also want to help families work through their parenting issues so parents can develop healthier relationships when they can. Thinking about what happens to the career of a family member has no legal bearing on the requirement to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
I don’t want to “turn in” my fellow provider, or household member.
When you suspect a fellow provider or household member of child abuse or neglect, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. You might feel like you are “turning in” your fellow provider or household member, and this is hard. Remember, though, that it is your job to keep children safe. You are a mandated reporter and must report your suspicions. Failure to do so can have devastating consequences for children and for you. Talk to someone you trust if you need support.
What if I'm wrong, what if it's not abuse?
As a school age staff, it is your duty to report, even if it is just a suspicion. You are not responsible to fully investigate the situation. As a staff member it is your role to report observed abuse/neglect, AND suspicion. It is your role to keep children safe. Talking with a supervisor can provide guidance on reporting. Remember, you do not need to make the call alone. If your supervisor is involved in the abuse/neglect, follow the chain of command to the person above them. The important thing is to make the call, even if it is suspicion.
Will they tell the family I was the one to make the report?
All jurisdictions have provisions in statute to maintain the confidentiality of abuse and neglect records. The identity of the reporter is specifically protected from disclosure to the individual suspected of abuse in 44 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. This protection is maintained even when other information from the report may be disclosed.
Release of the reporter’s identity is allowed in some jurisdictions under specific circumstances or to specific departments or officials, for example, when information is needed for conducting an investigation or family assessment or upon a finding that the reporter knowingly made a false report. In six States, the District of Columbia, and Guam, the reporter can waive confidentiality and give consent to the release of his or her name.
How reporting abuse or neglect might affect you
You will feel a range of emotions after making a report: frustrated, angry, disappointed, nervous, relieved. All of these emotions are expected. Make sure you talk to someone to help you deal with the emotions you are feeling. The following video helps explain what you might experience after a report and how you can get help.
Watch this video to learn more about reporting procedures from the Family Advocacy Program.
Now learn about what to expect after the call.
As you learned in Lesson One, you have a responsibility to report a suspected case of abuse or neglect. It is not your job to identify the abuser. If you suspect abuse, you need to make a report and allow investigators to determine if abuse or neglect is occurring.
- Observe children for signs of abuse or neglect.
- Be familiar with reporting procedures for your state.
- Post reporting procedures in your family child care home.
- Prepare yourself for the call. Be sure you have the correct spelling of the child’s legal name, the address of the child’s parents or guardians, and all the details outlined earlier in this lesson.
- If you suspect abuse or neglect, you can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). This line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can help you find emergency resources. See this website: https://www.childhelp.org/hotline/
Read and review the Case Study Reflection activity. Reread these scenarios in which individuals suspected Kate was being abused. Be sure to note the additional information about what the adults in each situation did. Then answer the reflection questions and share your responses with your trainer, coach, or FCC coordinator. Review the suggested responses for additional reflection.
Because reporting requirements and procedures may vary, you must know the specific procedures for making a report in your area. Read and review the Reporting Plan. Talk to your local resource and referral agency or training and curriculum specialist for details. Store or post the document in an accessible area of your family child care home.
Understanding your legal obligation and reporting process for suspected child abuse or neglect is critical in keeping children safe from harm. Providers working toward their CDA credential should complete the Child Abuse & Neglect Legal Requirements & Mandatory Reporting Guidelines handout to provide summaries of the legal requirements regarding child abuse, neglect and mandatory reporting.
DoD Child Abuse Reporting Poster
American Academy of Pediatrics (n.d). Child Abuse and Neglect: What Parents Should Know. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/What-to-Know-about-Child-Abuse.aspx
Center for the Study of Social Policy (n.d.). Strengthening Families: A Protective Factors Framework. https://www.cssp.org/young-children-their-families/strengtheningfamilies/about#protective-factors-framework
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Violence Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). Mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/manda.pdf#page=3&view=Standards%20for%20making%20a%20report
Military One Source. (n.d.). https://www.militaryonesource.mil/leaders-service-providers/child-abuse-and-domestic-abuse/
Seibel, N. L., Britt, D., Gillespie, L. G., & Parlakian, R. (2006). Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: Parent-Provider Partnerships in Child Care. Washington, DC: Zero to Three: Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families.