Child Abuse and Neglect (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
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.
Certain people, such as doctors, social workers, and teachers, are required by law in all 50 states to report suspected child abuse and neglect, usually to the police or to state child protection services. In some states, all citizens are mandated by law to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. For more information, see the Other Places to Get Help section of this topic.
Law enforcement and child protective services will investigate a child abuse or neglect complaint and submit a report to the prosecutor. Based on the report, the prosecutor will determine whether the situation requires prosecution. If convicted of a crime, an abuser may have to serve a jail sentence. The role of the juvenile court is to ensure a child's safety and connect families to social services.
In 2008, about 58% of the suspected child abuse reports were made by professionals in the line of duty. The remaining referrals were made by family members, neighbors, and other community members.2
Many people are unsure how to handle suspected abuse because they:
Keep in mind that by reporting suspected abuse or neglect, you may prevent a child from suffering serious injury, severe lifelong emotional problems, or even death. You can make reports anonymously. If you give your name, it is kept confidential. A person who makes a report in good faith is immune from lawsuits.
Because in most states suspected abuse must be investigated within 24 hours, the risk of causing a child more harm by making a report is less than if you do not report your suspicions.
Investigators sometimes are not able to find enough evidence to support suspected abuse. In this case, parents or caregivers may be referred to social services to reduce the child's risk of abuse or neglect.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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