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]
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.