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Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse
Terms in this set (31)
Who must make a report of child abuse or neglect?
Any person, agency, organization, or entity with direct knowledge of child abuse or neglect must make a report to the DFS Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line. Failure to do so could result in both civil and criminal penalties.
When you have reasonable suspicion of child abuse, neglect, or dependency, it is your responsibility to call the DFS Report Line. Mandatory reporters must not rely on an individual with less direct knowledge to make a report.
If two or more people have joint knowledge of an allegation, a joint report may be made by one person with direct knowledge, but it must include the names of everyone who has knowledge of the alleged abuse or neglect.
How do I report child abuse & neglect?
All known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect must be reported to the Division of Family Services (DFS) Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line at 1-800-292-9582. Or make a report online at Iseethesigns.org.
*Online reporting is not available for all types of reports.
Can I be held liable for making a report about child abuse and neglect?
As long as you make a report of child abuse or neglect in good faith you will have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal.
(16 Del. C. § 908)
If my report is accepted for investigation, how soon can I expect DFS to respond?
DFS responds according to the priority level given to each investigation case.
- Priority One- Within 24 hours
- Priority Two- Within 72 hours
- Priority Three- Within 10 days
For additional DFS policy information go to:
Can information about a DFS investigation be shared?
In general, DFS will share information only when there is a signed release of information (informed, time limited consent). However, DFS, law enforcement, the Children's Advocacy Center, Department of Justice, and the Office of the Investigation Coordinator exchange information on families and children when this information is needed to assist an investigation involving a shared client.
What is the difference between physical abuse and accidental injury?
Keep the following in mind when determining if an injury is accidental:
- Cuts and bruises caused from accidents normally occur in bony areas of the body.
- Reoccurring injuries likely indicate abuse.
- If a series of injuries appear in a pattern or resemble an object, the injury may have been inflicted.
- If the child's or caregiver's explanation for the injury is inconsistent with the facts, the injury would be suspect.
- Suspect abuse if there was a delay in seeking medical attention.
What is considered "normal" vs. abusive sexual behavior in children?
Childhood sexual behavior is common and varies based on age/developmental level. However, you should be concerned with childhood sexual behavior that:
- Is clearly beyond the child's developmental stage (a three-year-old attempting to kiss an adult's genitals).
- Involves threats, force, or aggression.
- Involves children of widely different ages or abilities (an 11-year-old "playing doctor" with a four-year-old).
All of these cases should be reported to the DFS Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line.
At what age can a child be left alone?
Delaware law does not specify an age when a child may be left alone. However, for any aged child, DFS considers factors such as the child's level of functioning, maturity, physical and mental health, disabilities, length of time left alone, and the time of day.
Should I call the Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line to report a child that is in crisis?
If you become aware of a child in crisis (i.e. threats of suicide or harm to another person) a report should be made to DPBHS 24-Hour Mobile Response and Stabilization Services at 1-800-969-HELP (4357). This will ensure that the child is connected to the appropriate services immediately.
For actual suicide attempts or direct harm/serious injury to self or others, call 911 immediately.
Is there a correlation between substance abuse and child abuse and neglect?
Parental addiction is a significant factor in child abuse and neglect cases, with studies suggesting 40% to 80% of families in the child welfare system are affected by addiction. Additionally, data indicates that abused and neglected children from substance abusing families are more likely to be placed in foster care and to remain there longer than maltreated children from non-substance abusing families.
What information do I need to make a report of child abuse or neglect?
If you suspect a child is the victim of abuse or neglect, you should ask the Minimal Facts questions to gather additional information.
1. What happened?
2. When did it happen?
3. Where did it happen?
4. Did anyone do that to you?
Remember, it is not your duty to investigate- your duty is to gather the minimal facts and make a report. If possible, be sure to include: child's statements, physical symptoms and/or behavioral changes, demographics, child's physical/mental health, child's educational status, parent/caregiver information, family composition, primary language, etc. If known, you must share concerns for siblings, domestic violence, substance abuse, dangerous animals, and/or weapons.
Is there a relationship between child abuse and other types of abuse?
Yes. Studies show that there is a correlation between child abuse, animal abuse, elder abuse and juvenile sex trafficking.
What are Delaware's consent laws for children ages 15 and younger?
Position of Trust: Children under the age of 18 CANNOT legally consent to sexual contact with anyone, regardless of age, who is in a position of trust, authority, or supervision over them (e.g. family member, babysitter, coach, teacher, doctor). If you become aware of such a relationship, you MUST report the incident to DFS.
Children under 12: CANNOT legally consent to sexual contact with anyone. These cases MUST be reported to DFS.
Children ages 12-15: Can ONLY consent to sexual contact with someone who is no more than 4 years older than the child. If you learn of a child having sexual contact with someone who is more than 4 years older than them, you MUST report the incident to DFS.
What are Delaware's consent laws for children ages 15+?
Children ages 16-17: Can consent to sexual contact with anyone who is under 30 years of age. If you become aware of a situation where a child is engaging in sexual contact with someone older than this, you MUST report it to DFS.
Individuals 18+: Report to law enforcement if the victim suffers a cognitive disability which renders the individual incapable of consenting; if the sexual contact was forced or coerced and occurred on school grounds or at a school function; or if the sexual contact occurred between a student and a school employee.
What are some examples of unjustified force against a child?
Throwing, kicking, burning, cutting, hitting with a closed fist; interfering with breathing; use/threatened use of deadly weapon; prolonged deprivation of sustenance or medication; and doing any other act that is likely to cause/does cause physical injury.
All of these cases should be reported to the DFS Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line.
What is abuse?
Abuse means causing any physical injury to a child through unjustified force as defined in 11 Del. C. § 468(1)(c), torture, negligent treatment, sexual abuse, exploitation, maltreatment, mistreatment, or any means other than accident.
What are some behavioral indicators of physical abuse?
Shrinking at the approach of adults; complaining of soreness and moving awkwardly; inability to use an arm or bear weight; anxiety with normal behaviors such as eating, using the bathroom, being touched, etc; and wearing clothing that covers the body when it is not appropriate to do so.
What are some physical indicators of physical abuse?
Human bite marks; bald spots; unexplained burns on arms, legs, neck, or torso; and unexplained fractures, bruises, lacerations, or abrasions.
What is sexual abuse?
Any act against a child that is described as a sex offense in the Criminal Code, including: sexual harassment, indecent exposure, incest, unlawful sexual contact, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and sexual abuse of a child by a person in a position of trust, authority or supervision.
What are some behavioral indicators of sexual abuse?
Bedwetting/soiling; running away; attempting suicide; refusal to be left alone; significant change in behavior, mood, appetite, school performance; and exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviors for developmental stage.
What are some physical indicators of sexual abuse?
Difficulty walking or sitting; torn, stained, or bloody clothing; pain, bruises, bleeding, or itching in genital area; frequent urinary or yeast infections; pregnancy; and sexually transmitted infections.
What is commercial sexual exploitation?
It is the broad term under which Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (Child Trafficking) is categorized. It includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where the person is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident under age 18.
Who is at risk for commercial sexual exploitation?
- A majority of victims are female.
- Average age of victims is 12 years old.
- Approximately 85% are US citizens.
- Many are children in foster care or runaways/missing juveniles.
- 90% have a history of sexual abuse.
What is emotional maltreatment?
Emotional abuse- Threats to inflict undue physical or emotional harm, and may include chronic or recurring incidents of ridiculing, demeaning, and making derogatory remarks.
Emotional Neglect- Incidents of isolating, shunning, rejecting, or ignoring a child.
What are some behavioral indicators of emotional maltreatment?
Severe developmental gaps; severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or aggression; severe symptoms of self-destructive behavior (e.g. self harming, suicide attempts, drug or alcohol abuse); overly compliant, too well-mannered; and displaying attention seeking behaviors.
What are some physical indicators of emotional maltreatment?
Bedwetting or bed soiling; frequent psychosomatic complaints (e.g. headaches, nausea, abdominal pain); not achieving significant developmental milestones; and deprived physical living conditions compared with other children in the family.
When should you report domestic violence to DFS?
- Child is injured during an incident of domestic violence.
- Child is not injured but you suspect he/she may be injured, such as when a weapon or a potentially dangerous object has been used.
- Child has attempted to physically intervene in a manner that puts the child in danger of being injured.
- Child is aware (sight or sound) of an incident perpetrated against his/her caregiver and it involves a significant injury to the victim or use of a weapon.
- Child has a diagnosed mental health condition or behaviors that signify severe psychological harm.
What is neglect?
While having the ability and financial means to care for a child, the parent or caregiver:
- Fails to provide necessary care, which may include food, shelter, or medical care.
- Fails to provide supervision appropriate for child.
- Chronically engages in substance abuse and the substance abuse negatively impacts the care of the child.
What are some physical indicators of neglect?
Inappropriate dress for the weather; extremely dirty or unbathed; inadequately supervised or left alone for unacceptable amounts of time; malnourished; and severe skin disorders or rashes resulting from improper care or lack of hygiene.
What are some behavioral indicators of neglect?
Demonstrates severe lack of attachment to other adults; poor school attendance or social appearance; poor social skills; may steal food; demanding of affection or attention; no understanding of basic hygiene.
What is dependency?
When the parent or caregiver does not have the ability or financial means and fails to provide necessary care, or the child is living in a non-related home on an extended basis.
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