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Keeping Children Safe

When to Contact Authorities



Q: I have good reason to suspect an adult is mistreating my son’s friend. Who do I contact if I suspect child abuse? Will my report stay confidential?

A: As parents, we are constantly concerned with the safety of our own children. However, there are times when we find ourselves in situations that may cause us concern about other people’s children.

The purpose of reporting suspected child abuse is to prevent and protect children from harm. Child Protective Services (CPS) cannot act unless a report has been made. Without intervention, children may remain victims their entire lives and may even repeat the same patterns with their own children.

How do I report?

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you should make a formal report immediately either to the Department of Social Services during business hours or to the Child Abuse and Neglect hotline, which operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Numbers for these resources are listed below.

What do I report?

At the minimum, you will be asked to provide information such as: name, address, and telephone number of the child and parents or other person(s) responsible for the child’s care. You will also be asked about the nature and extent of abuse or neglect that you suspect, so it \is very important to write down details of this after you have witnessed or spoken to a child so that you are reporting only the facts.

Will the parents know I made the report?

It is your right to report anonymously. However, you are encouraged to give your name and contact information so that if CPS needs to follow up on any of the information provided, they are able to. If you choose to give your information, it will only be used internally through CPS. The Code of Virginia provides for the confidentiality of the identity of all persons who report suspected child abuse or neglect.

What if I am not sure that it is abuse?

Think of CPS as a resource. You can call without making a report. If you suspect abuse, have a question, or want to report a concern, you should call CPS. It is always better to err on the side of caution than to leave a child in an unsafe situation because you are unsure. You
can always discuss your situation with your local department of social services or through the hotline.

If a child has told you about abuse or neglect, this is always enough to make a report. Remember, if a child discloses to you, keep calm and write down what he or she is telling you. This will help you to stay in the moment and report only the facts when making a report.

Lastly, it is not your job or responsibility to investigate. Reporting any suspected child abuse or neglect is all you are asked to do. Once you have made the report, CPS will determine whether an intervention is warranted. n



Richmond City Department of Social Services: 804-646-0438

24/7 Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-552-7096

For more information on how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, visit the Darkness to Light website at, or attend a Stewards of Children training through Greater Richmond SCAN’s Families are Magic Program.

Margo Buchanan, MSW, provides therapeutic and educational services to children and families and is program coordinator of the FAM Program at Greater Richmond SCAN.
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