Frequently asked questions

How do I report abuse?
As a mandated reporter, you must call the central abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.


Who is considered a child?
A child is an unmarried person who is born, under the age of 18, and who has not been emancipated by order of the court.


What information do I provide when making the call?
You must give your name, a description of the situation and any injuries. Describe any unusual behaviors the child is exhibiting. Tell the operator the child’s name, address, birth date, name of parents, alleged perpetrator, and any other pertinent information. It is also important to tell if you believe the child is in imminent harm.


Can I be sued for making a report?
No. Florida law states that mandated reporters acting in good faith shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability.


Who must make a report of child abuse or neglect?
In most jurisdictions, every type of professional who works closely with children is classified as a mandated reporter.


Will I get in trouble if I do not report child abuse as required by my state?
Yes, generally it is a criminal offense to fail to report child abuse. This can include incarceration and fines. Also you could be sued by the family of the child in a civil lawsuit if the child is injured by subsequent abuse that could have been avoided if the report was made in time.


What are the benefits to the child and family for reporting abuse?
First, the child’s safety will be protected and he or she will be removed from harm. Also, the family may be able to receive services or help if they need it. A family and child can be referred for treatment where they can deal with the effects of the abuse.


What are the common symptoms of child abuse?
Children who have been abused may suffer from nightmares, low self esteem, acting out behavior, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, appetite problems, regressive behavior, suicidal ideation, poor peer relationships, eating problems, fears, lack of trust, and attention problems. However, just the presence of these behaviors alone is not cause enough to make a report. A mandated reporter should have a suspicion of abuse or neglect based on other information as well.


How do I know for certain that abuse has occurred?
There is no single “test” that can be given or question asked that will let you know that a child has been abused. That is why the law requires you to report when you suspect abuse. Child protection workers will investigate. These investigations include interviews, observations and corroboration of information by others.


What if I make a mistake when I report abuse?
Dr. Kempe, a pioneer in the field of child abuse, is remembered as saying he would rather apologize to a parent for making a mistake, then apologize to a brain-damaged child because he did not report.


What if the abuse occurred in the past?
There is no time limitation regarding the reporting of child abuse. If the victim is under the age of 18, the abuse must be reported.


What is the difference between discipline and child abuse?
If the discipline is excessive or forceful enough to leave injuries, physical abuse has occurred. The use of instruments (electrical cords, bats, tools, etc.) increases the likelihood of injuries.


May a report be made anonymously?
Mandated reporters must provide their names when making child abuse reports. However, persons not legally mandated to report can make anonymous reports to the abuse hotline.


Are mandated reporting laws helpful or harmful to families?
Reporting child abuse victims to child protective authorities is often the only means to initiate interventions. However, given that the system is often overburdened, the result for these child victims can sometimes be pain, disruption, and uncertainty. Although mandated to report, many professionals often feel frustrated with the response from the child protection system. The system does try to work to protect children from harm, but often children do remain in foster care for years. However, without mandated reporting, it is unlikely that victims or perpetrators will enter any system of care, protection, or rehabilitation.