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The Referral Process:

When a person notifies the Department of Children's Services regarding possible abuse or neglect of a child, DCS social counselors determine how to proceed with an investigation by assessing the referral information and focusing on the present and future risks to the child. Considering the condition of the child and the risk of future maltreatment helps a social counselor know how to quickly to respond to a referral and what priority to assign that referral. This process involves accepting oral or written allegations of child abuse or neglect for further investigation, gathering the information to determine the urgency of the situation and initiating the appropriate response and an investigative plan.

DCS accepts reports of child maltreatment provided it meets the following three criteria:

The report pertains to a child under the age of 18 years.

The report alleges harm or imminent risk of harm to the child.

The alleged perpetrator is

  • a parent or caretaker
  • a relative or other person living in the home
  • an educator, volunteer, or employee or a recreational/organizational setting who is responsible for the child; or any individual providing treatment, care or supervision for the child.

DCS accepts all referral involving sexual abuse of children under the age of 13 years regardless of the previous relationship between the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator. DCS does not investigate sexual abuse allegations of a child 13 to 18 years old by an alleged perpetrator who does not have a relationship with the child, as defined above. DCS may assist law enforcement or the district attorney's office in such cases.

Information needed when reporting:

Nature of the harm or specific incident(s) that precipitated the report.

--Specific allegations(s), date(s) and description(s) of the injuries or dangers

--Identities of alleged perpetrator(s) and their relationships to the victim

--Witnesses to the incident(s) and how to reach those witnesses

--Details of any physical evidence available

--Perpetrator's current access to the child

--Present condition of the child (alone, in need of medical attention, etc.)

--The location of the child and directions to get there

Parent's or perpetrator's explanation of the alleged child victim's condition or the incident.

Parent's current emotional, physical or mental state, especially feelings about the child(ren) and reactions to the report.

How the reporter came to know the information and the reporter's thoughts about the likelihood of further harm to the child(ren).

These are just several examples of the questions that may be asked when reporting abuse or neglect. The reporter's identity is confidential, but a name should be given so the Department could follow-up contact with the reporter if necessary. The reporter is free from civil or criminal liability for reports of suspected child abuse/neglect made in good faith.

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