Do you suspect that a child is being abused, but it isn’t your child?
If you have a good relationship with a person who loves the child, share the information about abuse from these pages with that person. If the person is unwilling to call law enforcement or Children’s Protective Services, you MUST do it yourself.
Do I have to report child abuse? ABSOLUTELY!
In the early 1970s, Congress passed what is known as CAPTA (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) which required every state to pass child abuse reporting acts. Some people fear that if they report suspected abuse and charges are not accepted, they may be opening themselves up to a lawsuit or the crime of “false reporting.” Just the opposite is true! Failure to report SUSPECTED abuse is a crime and, if you are a “mandated professional” (such as teachers, school nurses and doctors,) you typically have an even higher burden to report the abuse within 24 hours. Failure to do so, could subject you to civil litigation for negligence and put your license at risk. “False Reporting” statutes are only intended to criminalize malicious reports where the reporter knows the allegation is false and only wants to harm the party they reported against. If you report in good faith, you have nothing to fear and may be saving a child’s life.
Remember, you are not supposed to investigate crimes against children. Leave that to the professionals – Law Enforcement and/or CPS.
Can I report anonymously?
Some states will take your report anonymously. Others may ask you to identify yourself, but your identity will not be revealed in any investigation. The chances of the report being taken seriously greatly increases when you identify yourself.
Who should I call?
JFC always recommends that you 1st contact Law Enforcement. After all, Child Abuse is a crime. Fundamentally, most law enforcement officers are better trained to investigate crimes against children than a CPS caseworker. Importantly, since the focus of law enforcement is to bring the perpetrator to the bar of justice, they cannot make their case unless they collect the evidence needed by a prosecutor and protect their “Complaining Witness.” On the other hand, CPS caseworkers have a very high turnover rate, inadequate training in investigation, do NOT perform a criminal investigation, and are conflicted by the opposing mandates of child protection and “family preservation.”
EMERGENCY PROTECTIVE ORDERS
If abuse is suspected law enforcement, therapists, doctors and other concerned people may instruct parents not to return the children to the alleged abuser. This puts many parents at risk for being in contempt of court ordered custody agreements although they are legally required to maintain the health and well-being of their children.
When contacting law enforcement parents should request an emergency protective order form. In most states this will keep the child from the suspected abuser for 90 days. In this time investigations can continue and the parent is protected from losing custody of the child to the abuser. Parents are also advised to request a case number from responding police to follow the case’s events and eventually obtain a police report.