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Chicago Administrative Headquarters
100 West Randolph Street 6-200
Chicago IL 60601
TTD 312.814.8783

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406 East Monroe
Springfield IL 62701-1498
TTD 217.785.6605

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  Reporting Child Abuse: Frequently asked Questions  

DCFS has the primary responsibility of protecting children through the investigation of suspected abuse or neglect by parents and other caregivers in a position of trust or authority over the child.

Call the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline at 800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873) if you suspect that a child has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed by abuse or neglect. If you believe a child is in immediate danger of harm, call 911 first.   Your confidential call will not only make sure the child is safe, but also help provide the child’s family the services they need to provide a safe, loving and nurturing home.

What are child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse is the mistreatment of a child under the age of 18 by:
  • a parent or their romantic partner;
  • an immediate relative or someone living in their home;
  • a caretaker such as a babysitter or daycare worker;
  • any person responsible for the child’s welfare, such as a health care provider, educator, coach or youth program volunteer.

The mistreatment can either result in injury or put the child at serious risk of injury. Child abuse can be physical (i.e. bruises or broken bones), sexual (i.e. fondling or incest), or mental (emotional injury or psychological illness).

Neglect is the failure of a parent or caretaker to meet “minimal parenting” standards for providing adequate supervision, food, clothing, medical care, shelter or other basic needs.

The Child Abuse Hotline

(800) 25-ABUSE [800-252-2873]
1-800-358-5117 (TTY)

If you suspect abuse or neglect you have a social responsibility to report it to the hotline.  In addition, state law requires that most professionals in education, health care, law enforcement and social work report suspected neglect or abuse.

State law protects the confidentiality of all reporters, and your name is never disclosed. You may still choose to make a report anonymously, but the inability of investigators to follow-up with you to obtain additional information may impede our investigation and the child’s safety. The law protects you from civil liability for any call made in good faith.

What if I’m not absolutely sure abuse is occurring?

Unfortunately, as much as 70 percent of child abuse goes unreported, and a child tells an average of seven adults that they are being abused or neglected before a report is made. Every delay in reporting suspected abuse or neglect increases the likelihood that abuse will become more serious, or even deadly, and that the perpetrator will abuse additional children. By trusting your own senses, common sense and instincts, and calling the hotline whenever you suspect a child has been harmed or is at risk of harm, you can ensure a child is safe and that her family is getting the help they need.

To prevent unnecessary investigations, hotline calls are screened by trained social workers to determine whether they warrant investigation for abuse or neglect. Of the more than one million hotline calls received over the past four years, only about one in four resulted in a formal report and an investigation. Many of the calls that do not lead to investigations are often directed to referrals that connect families with community-based programs aimed at preventing abuse. When formal investigations do occur, only four percent result in children being removed from their homes.

In most cases where abuse or neglect are indicated, DCFS is able to provide services to the family that allow the child to remain in the home safely, provided the abuse or neglect is reported to the department soon enough to intervene.

DCFS assists families who have children who are in danger of coming into, or cannot be returned home from, DCFS care due to an issue related to poverty or a financial hardship, such as inadequate housing. These services (referred to as "Norman Services") provide housing advocacy, cash assistance and assistance applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, often referred to as "public aid"). The assistance is provided when it is needed to prevent a child from being placed in, or to return a child home from, DCFS care. Read the DCFS Norman Services brochure to learn more.

Norman Procedures (Procedures 302.385)

Form CFS 370-4 Notice to Norman Class Members


Child Protection Links

Reporting Child Abuse: Frequently asked Questions
Protecting Children from Domestic Violence
Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act Brochure & Poster
Child Abuse and Neglect Policy & Procedure Guidelines/Toolkit
Illinois Putative Father Registry
Monthly Child Abuse & Neglect Statistics
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