Reporting Child Abuse
To answer this question let’s start with the technical (official). By law, if a citizen 18 and older in the state of Florida (and many other states) suspects that a child is being abused in any way (physically, sexually, emotionally or neglect) you must report it. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.
What do you do? You call the Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453) Click here for list of Child Abuse Hotline numbers by state.
If the child is in immediate danger, call 911.
Don’t worry if you don’t have proof or evidence. You only need to have “good faith” to make a report. This means you must sincerely believe that something is wrong. A good way to think about it is to ask yourself: “Would another reasonable person who has seen/heard what I have seen/heard believe this child was being abused?” If the answer is yes, you have “reasonable suspicion” and must report your concerns.
Usually, this means you:
- Saw the child being abused
- Saw signs of abuse on the child like bruises, scratches, undernourished
- Saw behavior that made you believe the child had been abused or neglected
- A child told you or hinted that they were being abused or neglected
Here’s what you must provide when you call the hotline:
- Child’s name, address and age (if you know it)
- Parents’ names and addresses
- Why you believe the child is being abused
This information will be useful:
- Suspected offender’s name
- Any details you know about the abuse
All reports to the hotline are confidential. If you are reporting about the concern of a family member or a neighbor and you are not a ‘professionally mandatory reporter’ (a teacher, nurse, doctor, mental health counselor, foster parent, law enforcement to name a few) you do not have to provide your name. The goal is to save lives and protect children. The system cannot protect children if the citizens do not report suspicions of abuse.
The Abuse Hotline Counselor will determine if the information provided meets legal requirements to accept a report for investigation. So even though you aren’t 100% sure, it is up to the Hotline Counselor to determine if it warrants further investigation.
Know that if you are calling the Hotline than you are potentially saving a child’s life. Abuse can be life and death and more often than not it is ongoing and can be traumatic to a child’s mental, medical, emotional, behavioral and intellectual development. Intervening on behalf of a child is the right thing to do and it is the law.