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Reporting Child Sexual Abuse to the Authorities
Do you know where you would go to get help if a child in your care was sexually abused? Do you know what agencies would be involved, or whether you would need to call the police? Finding out these answers ahead of time can make a tremendous difference in how a child’s case is handled.
Legal Requirements for Reporting
All 50 states require that professionals who work with children report reasonable suspicions of child abuse. Some states require that anyone with suspicions report it. Information about each state’s requirements can be found at www.childwelfare.gov or by calling the ChildHelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453.
If you are a professional who works with children (e.g., a teacher, a nurse), there are special procedures and reporting requirements you must follow. Your employer should provide mandated reporting training.
Agencies That Handle Reports of Child Abuse
Two agencies handle most reports of child abuse:
Some states designate Child Protective Services as the agency that accepts reports of suspected child abuse. Other states designate the police. Many states have centralized toll-free lines that accept reports of abuse for the entire state.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway website can tell you where to make a report in your state, or call the ChildHelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453.
If the legal system does not provide adequate protection for a child, contact Justice for Children at (713) 225-4357 or http://justiceforchildren.org/.
If you discover or suspect commercial sexual exploitation of a child, or child pornography, contact the police or the Cyber Tipline® (1-800-THE-LOST or missingkids.com/CyberTipline) operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
What if I’m Not Sure? Where Do I Go?
These resources can help if you are unsure about whether abuse has occurred, but they do not substitute for making an official report. Remember that you may be a mandated reporter in your state and you may be the only source of protection that the child has.
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