When to File and Who to Call

"Should I wait until I’m sure before I file a report?" 

  • In most situations you do not need to wait to have “evidence” of child abuse to file a report to child protective services or police. However, it is always best when there is some symptom, behavior or conversation that you can identify or describe to a child protection screener or police officer when making the report. Remember to include all relevant information that you think might assist them.
  • If you are a mandated reporter, check with your state’s requirements for mandated reporters as each state has a specific definition about what may be required in order for the authorities to accept a report, and under what circumstances you must file. In many cases having “reason to suspect abuse” is sufficient to contact authorities.
  • If you are involved with a family court case when sexual abuse concerns arise, it is advisable to consult with your attorney as you consider filing reports which allege child sexual abuse by someone related to your active case.

"Do I call Child Protection or the police?"

  • Typically, Child Protective Services (CPS) will accept reports and consider investigating situations where the person offending is in a caretaking role for the child – parent, legal guardian, childcare provider, teacher, etc. Their primary objective is to make sure the child is safe in their own home or when with adults who are responsible for their care.
  • The police usually take on the investigation of cases where the person offending has a non-caretaking role – family friend, neighbor, acquaintance, or unfamiliar adult or youth. In some cases CPS and the police will collaborate in the investigation, prosecution, and follow-up process. In some situations if one agency is not responsive you can seek the guidance or assistance of the other authority. Some families choose to file reports with both offices as they can, and do, share information between them when necessary.

Reporting Internet crime:

  • The Cybertipline is an online and phone service which accepts leads regarding the exploitation or abuse of children over the Internet which are forwarded to law enforcement for review. Operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other state and law enforcement agencies, the Cybertipline has resources on Internet safety and Internet crime reporting. Contact or 1.800.843.5678.
  • Illegal images, websites or illegal solicitations can also be reported directly to your local police department. More and more police departments are establishing Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) teams.