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Reporting Abuse

​What is Child Abuse?

There are all different kinds of abuse.  Sometimes it's hard to tell if a certain action would be considered as abuse.  Here are the three main categories:

Physical – punching, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand or object), burning, or otherwise harming a child

Sexual – bad touching, being forced to have sex, being forced to look at (or play a part in) porn, being prostituted, having someone expose themselves to you

Neglect – not getting enough food or shelter, lack of supervision, not getting medical or mental health care, not being taken to school

For the most part, a "child" is considered a person who is 18 or younger.  It might differ for some states that make 19 the age of adulthood.

Who Can I Talk to About Abuse?

The simple answer is a trustworthy adult.  Here are some examples:

  • a parent, or another relative
  • a teacher, or coach
  • a school counselor or a professional counselor outside the school
  • a neighbor, or family friend

What About Reporting to the Authorities?

Child Protective Services (CPS) can be called a variety of names depending on what state you're in.  Here is a short list of some of the names you might see:

  • HHS – Health and Human Services
  • DHS – Department of Human Services
  • DHR – Department of Human Resources
  • DCFS - Department of Children and Family Services
  • DCS - Department of Child(ren) Services
  • DSS – Department of Social Services

So what will happen if you make a report? Every state and every situation is different, but here are some basics:

  • A CPS worker will contact you and get as much information about the situation as possible. 
  • The CPS workers "screen in" and "screen out" reports to determine which ones they need to investigate.  They may screen out reports that don't indicate that anything truly abusive is happening, or sometimes they screen out reports when they don't get enough information.
  • Next, an investigator (or caseworker) starts checking up on things.  They're looking to see if the child was abused, if it is likely to happen again, and – most especially – to make sure the child is safe.
  • After they figure out what it is that's going on, they find out what services or resources would best help the family.  They might recommend some simple counseling for some families, or they could remove a child from the home if that child is in danger.  It all depends whether the child will be safe at home.

CPS's main goal, though, is to help families stay safe and strong!  Their goal isn't to break families apart.  If they don't need to split up a family, they aren't going to.


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