Reporting Child Abuse – Frequently Asked Questions

QUESTION: Why should I make a report if I suspect child abuse or neglect?
ANSWER: The reason to make a report is to get help for the child and the family. The Child Abuse and Maltreatment Reporting Center ("The Child Abuse Hotline") will notify the local Child Protective Services (CPS), which is part of the county Department of Social Services. In New York City, the Administration for Children's Services will be notified. CPS will investigate and take needed action to protect the child and to help the parent solve problems that are leading to abuse or neglect. For example, the family may be referred to day care or homemaker services to help relieve the pressures of parenthood. CPS might suggest counseling, or participation in a drug or alcohol program or a parenting education program.

How do I report that I suspect a child is being abused or neglected?
ANSWER: Call "The Child Abuse Hotline": 1-800-342-3720, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You will be asked to explain your suspicions and give identifying information about the family. If you make a report in good faith, you are immune from civil or criminal liability. If the child lives in another state, you can find out how to report by calling ChildHelp USA at 1-800-4ACHILD.

Q: What happens next?
A: Within 24 hours, Child Protective Services begins an investigation. Within 60 days, it determines whether the report is "indicated" or "unfounded." "Indicated" means there is evidence of abuse or neglect, and CPS will recommend a plan for the family.

Q: Do I have to give my name? Will it be confidential?
A: Reports may be made anonymously by anyone who is not a mandated reporter. Keep in mind, giving your name allows the caseworker to contact you for additional information. By law, CPS may not release the name of the person who made the report. Mandated reporters, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, or child care workers, must give their names and that information will be held confidential.

Q: Will the children be taken away from the home if I report?
A: Children will be taken into "protective custody" only if they are in immediate danger. Removing children is not a routine occurrence. Unless the child is in serious danger, the goal is to keep the family together.

Q: How will I know what happens after I make a report?
A: You may not know, except by seeing changes in the child and family. The law requires CPS to work under very strict confidentiality rules. If you think the situation has not changed, or if you know of another incident of abuse or neglect, you may and should make another report to the hotline.

Resources for recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect: