Reporting a family for abuse or neglect should not be done lightly. However, if you have reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect are occurring, you should report it. You may make a positive impact in a child’s life by doing so.
The number to call will depend on your state. The Child Welfare Information Gateway’s State Child Abuse Reporting Numbers page provides a phone number and website for reporting child abuse and neglect in each state. If you need help and guidance in filing a report, you may call ChildHelp’s National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
In some states, all adults are required by law to report reasonable suspicions of child abuse and neglect; in other states, only adults in education, healthcare, law enforcement, and specified other professions are required to do so. However, even if you are not required by law to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect, there may be children whose well-being depends on you doing so. If you have concerns, please report.
Abuse and neglect reports are confidential; social services will not disclose your identity. In most states abuse and neglect may also be reported anonymously, but anonymous reports may be given less credence. Some individuals may hesitate to report abuse or neglect perpetrated by friends or relatives. Please do not let concerns about confidentiality keep you from making a report that may bring needed help to an abused child.
The intake officer who takes your call will be trained to evaluate your concerns and determine whether they reach the threshold of legal abuse and merit investigation. However, if you find it helpful you may also look up your state’s definitions of abuse and neglect. You can find these listed in Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect, published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, or you look them up online using the organization’s State Statute Search.
Do not assume that someone else is making a report; even if you know for a fact that someone else is reporting the situation, you should report as well. Reports of new incidents of abuse of neglect should be made even if social services is already involved; this will provide social services with more information about the ongoing situation. Your report will be given the most credence if you give your name and relationship to the child and provide details about your concerns, including specific incidents you have witnessed.
If your concerns involve educational neglect, please see Reporting Educational Neglect.