Saturday, April 01, 1995

How to Report Child Abuse: A Guide for the Practicing Mental Health Care Provider, Educators . . .

How to Report Child Abuse: A Guide for the Practicing Mental Health Care Provider, Educators 
© (1995) Vicki Polin

The following document was originally created to help care providers living in the State of Illinois, yet much of this information can be helpful to anyone wanting to make a hotline report internationally.

When to Report: As soon as disclosure takes place or if you suspect abuse and/or neglect. A hot-line report should be made. If you feel the child is totally safe - you may wait up to 24 - 48 hours. Remember, waiting is frowned upon.
Precautions: At the initial contact with any client (adults and/or children) inform them that you are mandated to break confidentiality if they become a danger to themselves and/or to someone else (physically, sexually, emotionally and/or neglecting a child in their care).
What to Chart If Abuse and/or Neglect Is Suspected and/or Disclosed.
Chart the disclosure and/or suspicion. Include:
  • What you did, who you contacted (i.e. your supervisor, DCFS, Police, etc...), and the date and time of contacts.
  • How client responded.
  • How the various agencies responded.
  • SCR Number and the name of hot-line.
  • worker who you spoke to.
If a chart is subpoena, it does not legally give the court and/or attorney the right to have a copy of your client's chart and/or your personal notes on the victim/survivor.

For more information contact the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (217) 753-4117. Both adults and children are covered by the Illinois Criminal Sexual Assault Act and Related Statutes.

Making a Report...
Questions They Will Ask:
  1. Call 1 (800) 25-ABUSE (in Illinois).
  2. State that you are a mandated reporter. Give your name; name, address and telephone number of your agency; your title/position at the agency.
  3. State your suspicion, disclosure made and any physical evidence of abuse. Try to relate to categories DCFS uses (i.e. physical/sexual abuse, neglect, risk of harm...)
  4. Give name & address of child and parent/guardian of child(ren).
  5. Give information on alleged offender. This includes any and all information you have (name, address, phone number, date of birth).
  6. Name, age and Date of Birth for all the children in the home and/or the names of other children alleged abuser has access to.
  7. Remember to chart the name of the Hot-line worker, the date and time you made the call, even if no hot-line report is taken. It's important to document this information. If a report is taken remember to ask for the SCR # (so you can track the case and for your records). After the call remember to fill out a D.C.F.S. Hot-Line Report form, make a copy for your records and send the original to D.C.F.S. in Springfield, Illinois.
Reasons a hot-line report may not be taken includes:
  • Alleged offender is not a child care provider.
  • Alleged offender does not live with child.
  • Alleged offender is a minor.
  • The Hot-line worker feels you don't have enough information.
If the DCFS Hot-line worker refuses to take a report, your options include:
  • Asking for the Hot-line worker's supervisor.
  • Calling again and hope the new hot-line worker will take the call.
  • Calling the local police station and asking for the youth worker and/or calling 911.
  • Get the missing information and then make another call to the hot-line.
If Safety of Child Is Concern and Child Is in Your Presence:
  • Only a medical doctor (M.D.) or the police can take protective custody (hold the child against the will of the parent/legal guardian). Your options include:
  • Take the child to the nearest emergency room.
  • Call the DCFS hot-line, Inform them that the child's safety is in danger. Tell them that you will hold the child until the DCP worker (Dept. of Child Protection) arrives. Be aware that you may have to wait several hours with the child.
  • Call area police station, Ask for youth officer or violent crimes officer. Explain the situation.
  • If the parent/legal guardian will not wait, call 911 and explain the nature of the emergency (i.e. risk of harm).
Follow-Up with Cook County DCFS.
  • Sexual Abuse Cases (312) 808-4000.
  • Chicago/DCP Case Tracking (312) 808-4221.
  • Chicago/North Area (773) 282-9470.
  • Chicago/South Area (773) 371-6000.
  • Chicago/24 Hour Emergency (312) 880-4000.
Reports: Indicated or Unfounded.

It's important to remember, most hot-line reports taken are unfounded by the DCP workers. This does not mean the alleged offender is innocent or guilty. All it means is that DCP did not feel there was enough evidence. If the case is unfounded your options include:

  • Talking to the DCP Supervisor.
  • Gathering more information and making another hot-line report.
  • Call the DCP worker and ask for case to remain open so that services can be offered to the family.
  • If a case is indicated you can talk to DCP worker about the care plan for the child(ren).
  • Avoid Leading Questions in Interviewing.
  • When asking a child about their artwork, ask the child to tell you about what they created. Be careful not to project your thoughts into questions. Stick to who, what, where, when, why and how questions.
Do You Report or Not?
  • You are working in an In-Patient Psychiatric Facility and the client discloses that he/she physically or sexually abuse his/her children in the past. Client's children are still minors. Answer: Yes!
  • You are working in an alcohol detox program and the client reveals he/she may have sexually abused his/her child during a black-out. Answer: Yes!
  • You are working with a client who creates images of having sex with his/her children and/or other minors. Answer: Yes!
  • You work in a homeless shelter and a child reveals that their Mom and/or Dad whip him/her with a belt. Answer: Yes!
  • You work with chemically dependent adults who have children. You suspect the client lives in a drug house, or that the client leaves children at home alone and/or takes children with to drug related functions. Answer: Yes!
  • A client may reveal that a relative left children with her and they have not seen or heard from the mother in quite some time. Answer: Yes!
For more information on Testifying in Court:
  • Kalogerakis, Michael G. (1992). Handbook of Psychiatric Practice in The Juvenile Court. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  • Mayer, Adele. (1990). Child Sexual Abuse and The Courts: A Manual for Therapists. Holmes Beach, FL: Learning Publications.
  • Mc Namara Joan and Bernard H. Mc Namara. (1990). Adoption and the Sexually Abused Child. University of Southern Main.
  • Walker - Perry, Nancy and Lawrence S. Wrightsman. (1991). The Child Witness: Legal Issues and Dilemmas. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Wright - Dziech, Billie and Judge Charles B. Schudson. On Trial: America's Courts and Their Treatment of Sexually Abused Children. Boston, MA

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