Reporting a suspicion of child abuse or neglect is a stressful thing for child care providers. But what happens to the report after you contact your local police department or child protection agency?
First, the agency receiving the report must decide if the information provided justifies an investigation. If so, an investigation is started right away. In some states, action is taken within a 24-hour period. But it may take 30 to 60 days to complete an investigation. Emergency services can be provided while the investigation is pending.
The investigation must determine
If the report is confirmed, the caseworker must determine if the child will be safe at home. A decision also must be made on how best to protect the child in the future. Only a small percentage of children must be removed from their homes. At times, the person responsible for the abuse is removed from the home as a condition for the child to remain in the home.
When you have reported a suspicion of abuse or neglect, you have the right to:
Depending on the situation, families who have been investigated for abuse or neglect will be linked to resources and professionals who can assist them. They may working with a counselor or mentor to improve parenting skills. Professionals may also help families reduce stress by locating help for basic needs such as food, clothing, utilities or housing.
It is sometimes necessary for investigators to consult with child care providers when assessing the family and in planning treatment. Child care professionals often have information in records or personal knowledge concerning the child and the family’s skills and abilities. This information can be very helpful in setting realistic treatment goals and objectives for the families.
When providing information about the family, individuals must be conscious of the rights of children and parents. Great care must be taken to ensure the confidentiality of information and to share it only with those persons officially involved in the case.
Dealing with a suspected child abuse situation can be very stressful. It can be very tempting to discuss it with family, friends, neighbors or other child care providers. However, sharing of information should be strictly limited and kept confidential.
To learn more about child maltreatment, check out the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care section on Child Abuse and Neglect, or take a look at the following articles about responding to suspected abuse and neglect: