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Child Abuse and Neglect - How Child Abuse Is Reported

Laws about reporting abuse

The law requires certain people, such as doctors, social workers, and teachers, to report suspected child abuse and neglect. Usually the report is made to the police or to child welfare or child protection agencies. In some areas the law requires all citizens to report suspected abuse or neglect.

Police and child welfare workers investigate the report. If the government believes a crime has been committed, the suspected abuser is tried and, if found guilty, sentenced.

Investigators sometimes can't find enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. In this case, parents or caregivers may be referred to social services to lower the child's risk of being hurt.

Knowing when to call police

When you suspect a child is, or is at risk of, being abused or neglected, it is important to take action. Most abused children are not able to help themselves.

Many people don't know what to do about suspected abuse, because they:

  • Are not sure what is considered abuse and neglect.
  • Are afraid they'll cause the child more harm.
  • Are worried that they will falsely accuse a parent or caregiver.
  • Are afraid the abuser will hurt or harass them.
  • Are worried about being sued.

Keep in mind that by reporting your suspicions, you may prevent a child from being seriously hurt or even killed and from having lifelong emotional problems. You can make reports anonymously. If you give your name, it is kept confidential.

Also, you can't be sued successfully if you make a report in good faith.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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