If you suspect a child is being abused, you can make one simple, toll-free call to alert social services and begin an investigation. It could be the call that makes a difference in a child’s life.
What is considered child abuse?
Child abuse generally includes any adult actions that harm or threaten to harm a child who is 18 years old or younger. Specifically, Virginia law defines child abuse or neglect as when a parent, caregiver or another adult who is responsible for a child:
- Causes or threatens to cause a non-accidental physical or mental injury.
- Neglects or refuses to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, emotional nurturing or health care.
- Abandons a child.
- Fails to provide adequate supervision.
- Commits or allows to be committed any illegal sexual act.
Child abuse occurs within families as well as at schools, daycare centers and recreational or sports programs. Many professionals who have regular contact with children are legally required to report any suspected abuse. But family members, friends, neighbors and other concerned community members should also report suspected abuse.
How do I report suspected child abuse?
If you suspect a child has been or is being abused in Virginia, you can call your local social services department or the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-552-7096. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and language interpretive services are available.
You can make your report anonymous, and if you do choose to report your name, it will not be released to the family involved. You also do not need to have proof that child abuse has occurred: if you make your report in good faith, you are immune from civil and criminal liability under Virginia law.
What happens after a child abuse report is made?
After a report is filed, a child protective services (CPS) worker will conduct a thorough review of the case. They will usually:
- Interview the suspected abuser as well as the child, parents, siblings, caretakers and other people who may have information in the case
- Conduct a child safety assessment of the child’s environment
- Determine if abuse or neglect has occurred or if there is a risk of harm
- Develop a safety and service plan with the family if appropriate
What’s the number for the Child Abuse and Neglect hotline?
You can report suspected abuse at 1-800-552-7096, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Recognizing, Reporting and Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect in Virginia (PDF): - https://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/dfs/cps/intro_page/publications/general/Report_Child_Abuse-Green_2015_2.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2019.