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Child Abuse Reporting Tips

How to Make Your Voice Heard


Child Abuse Reporting Tips

Reporting child abuse can bring up a lot of difficult emotions and uncertainty. You may ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing, or question if your voice will even be heard. Here are some tips for communicating effectively in difficult situations.

Reporting Child Abuse

  • Try to be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying, “The parents are not dressing their children right,” say something like, “I saw the child running outside three times last week in subzero weather without a jacket or hat. I saw him shivering and uncomfortable. He seemed to want to come inside.” However, remember that it is not your job to “prove” abuse or neglect. If suspicions are all you have, you should report those as well.
  • Understand that you may not learn of the outcome. Due to confidentiality laws, unless you are a mandated reporter in an official capacity, you probably won’t be updated by Child Protective Services (CPS) about the results of their investigation. The family may not broadcast that they have been mandated services, either—but that doesn’t mean they are not receiving them.
  • If you see future incidences, continue to call and report them. Each child abuse report is a snapshot of what is going on in the family. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance of getting the best care for the child.

Special situations: Abuse in the home or in child custody situations

Witnessing abuse in your own home or suspecting abuse in a custody situation brings its own set of challenges and concerns. You may be afraid of what your abuser will do to you and your children if you speak up. You may also be concerned that the abuser will be able to cover his or her tracks or even turn the abuse around onto you. Culturally, it may not be acceptable for you to separate, adding additional feelings of shame and isolation. You may also be afraid of having your children taken away from you.

Don’t go it alone

Domestic violence isn’t just about black eyes. Manipulation and emotional threats to you and your children are also a form of abuse, power, and control. Fear of losing custody of the children can be extremely stressful for both women and men in abusive relationships. Child abuse allegations in divorce or child custody issues are viewed very carefully to ensure they are not motivated by vindictiveness. However, if your abuser appears professional, well-groomed, and well-spoken to the outside world, you may feel like your concerns aren’t being taken seriously. Worse, if your allegations remain unproven, they may even result in the abuser being given custody.

Therefore, if you are planning to separate, or have already separated and are in a custody battle, it is essential to get support and legal advice. Domestic violence organizations can help you connect with legal resources in your community, and may be able to provide an advocate to assist your case and attend court hearings. Domestic violence organizations can help you work out a safety plan for both you and your children, and also help you make calls to CPS if needed.

This organization Justice for Children provides useful tips on how to proceed in reporting child abuse in your home or in a custody situation:

  1. Stay CALM!!! Do not let your emotions dictate your actions, and do not vent your emotions onto the people who are assigned to investigate your case (CPS, law enforcement officers, etc.).
  2. IF THIS IS AN EMERGENCY: Call 911 or your local police. If you are in the state of Texas and the child is in imminent danger, click here.
  3. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING from this point forward, including times, dates, and places. COLLECT and KEEP all documents from all professionals who have an opinion about the child abuse. This includes therapists, doctors, policemen, and teachers. If a professional informs you that they have an opinion or a suspicion of child abuse, have them document that suspicion, preferably in the form of an affidavit. Be sure to get a copy of any opinions from professionals regarding your child's case.
  4. HAVE YOUR CHILD EVALUATED. Talk to medical and psychology professionals. If possible, have your child evaluated at a Child Assessment Center.
  5. BEGIN INVESTIGATION. Talk to law enforcement officers to initiate an investigation into the allegation of child abuse. Any reasonable belief of abuse or neglect should be reported to the police. If you have been too afraid or intimidated to voice allegations in the past, let them know. If you have previously reported abuse, communicate the fact that you are trying to protect the child from further harm
  6. TALK TO CPS. If the abuse is not criminal, talk to CPS to initiate an investigation into the allegation of child abuse.
  7. GET AN ATTORNEY. Get an attorney and start proceedings to gain full custody of your child and terminate the abuser's parental rights.
  8. CALL JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN. If you encounter a problem with completing steps 3-6, call JFC at 1-800-733-0059. Office hours are M-F 8-5 pm Central Standard Time.

Related Articles

Child Abuse & Neglect

Child Abuse & Neglect – Learn the signs and symptoms of child abuse and help break the cycle, finding out where to get help for the children and their caregivers.

Dealing with Bullying and Cyber-bullyingDeal With a Bully and Overcome Bullying –Tips for kids, parents, and teachers on how to put a stop to bullying, empower the victim, and deal with a bullying child.

cyber-bullying

Dealing with Cyberbullying – Tips for kids, parents, and teachers on how to put a stop to cyberbullying, empower the victim, and deal with a cyberbully.

Resources & References for Reporting Child Abuse

CPS reporting

How the Child Welfare System Works – Information on the services available in the U.S. to protect the well-being of children. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Child abuse in the home or in custody issues

Custody Cases: Protecting Children From Child Abuse – Article outlining the challenges of handling child abuse by a spouse or ex-spouse, the role of CPS, and how to be the best advocate for your child in child custody proceedings. (StopFamilyViolence.org)

Legal Resource Kit: Domestic Violence and Child Custody – Provides myths and facts about domestic violence and child custody, including specific tips for women in an abusive relationship. (Legal Momentum)

Managing Your Divorce: a Guide For Battered Women – A manual on issues that can arise during divorce and custody proceedings. Provides tips on finding an attorney, presenting your case in the strongest possible light, and handling issues such as a safety plan for children. (StopFamilyViolence.org)

Child Protection Practices with Families Experiencing Domestic Violence – Information about how child abuse allegations are assessed by CPS, including initial screening questions typically asked. (Child Welfare Information Gateway)

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: December 2012.

©Helpguide.org. All rights reserved. This reprint is for information only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Helpguide.org is an ad-free non-profit resource for supporting better mental health and lifestyle choices for adults and children.

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