Guidelines for Child Care Providers on How to Report Suspected Abuse or Neglect

Serious woman

If you are a child care provider who suspects that a child in your care has been abused or neglected, it is essential that you report your suspicions. Child care providers are mandated reporters of abuse and neglect, and you can be held legally liable if you do not report abuse and a child dies.

How do you go about reporting your suspicions? Here are some basic steps:

  • Talk with your center director. If you work in a child care center, share your suspicions with your center director. Most centers have a procedure for reporting suspected abuse. You and the director can decide whether to make the report together, or whether you should file the report yourself.
  • Call your local child protection agency. This agency has a slightly different name in each state. Your county extension office, local child care resource and referral agency, or public library can help you find local contact information.
  • Call the National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4ACHILD). The people who answer this hotline will be able to answer questions about reporting and can help you find your local or state reporting agency.
  • Call the local police. If a child is in immediate danger, contact the local police or call 911.

Questions You May Be Asked During Reporting

The person who takes your report needs as much specific information as possible in order to help the investigators handle the case. Expect to be asked the following questions. You may want to have specific information on hand before you make the call to report your suspicions.

About the child:

  • Child’s name, age and address
  • Parent’s name and address
  • Names and ages of other children in household
  • Names of others who might be involved in the suspected abuse
  • Child’s present location

About your concern:

  • A specific description of the injury or condition you observed or the discussion you heard
  • Any information you have about where the suspected abuse happened, including a description of the location and an address if possible
  • The dates and times when you first noticed the injury or condition, or when the child first reported that something happened
  • The name of the suspected person responsible for the abuse, if known
  • Any actions you and the child care center have taken so far to treat, protect or otherwise assist the child

Reporter information:

  • Your name, location an relationship to the child
  • Names of other mandated reporters who have knowledge of the suspected abuse

(Note: Abuse reports can be made anonymously. In order to follow up with additional information, however, callers are encouraged to identify themselves.)

Additional information about the situation:

  • Any known history of abuse in the home
  • Presence of weapons, fierce pets or illegal activity at the home or location of the suspected abuse
  • Language problems or disabilities that would require special handling by the investigator — for example, needing an interpreter to answer questions
  • Any information that indicates a difference in age and size between the victim and the possible perpetrator. The greater the difference, the more likely it is that this is abuse rather than activities that are part of growing up, such as childhood fighting and sexual play.

For More Information

To learn more about preventing, recognizing, and reporting child abuse and neglect in child care, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: