Information Center

Reporting Child Abuse


If you suspect child abuse or neglect please report it immediately.

The most important reason to report child abuse is to protect the child from further abuse. Children have few resources for changing the circumstances of their lives and children who are being hurt by their caretakers rely upon the intervention of others who protect them. Reporting abuse is also a way to ensure that parents who need help but are not able or do not know how to ask for it are offered parenting resources.

If you have questions or are unsure please contact the Children's Division at (800) 392-3738.

HOW TO REPORT CHILD ABUSE?

IMMEDIATELY CALL THE HOTLINE AT (800) 392-3738

The Children's Division staff this hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They will take information from you and respond to and investigate child abuse and neglect. If you live outside Missouri and want to report abuse or neglect of a Missouri child, call (573) 751-3448.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?
  2. What IS CHILD NEGLECT?
  3. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE OF A CHILD?
  4. WHO IS A CHILD?
  5. HOW DO I RECOGNIZE CHILD ABUSE?
  6. WHAT IF I AM NOT SURE THE SITUATION IS SERIOUS ENOUGH TO REPORT?
  7. WHO IS A MANDATED REPORTER?
  8. WHEN MUST I MAKE A REPORT?
  9. DO I HAVE TO BE A MANDATED REPORTER TO MAKE A REPORT?
  10. WHAT DO I REPORT?
  11. If the suspicion of child abuse cannot be proven, will I get into trouble for making the report?
  12. WHAT ABOUT PRIVELEGES AND CONFIDENTIALITY?
  13. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A CHILD TELLS ME ABOUT ABUSE?

1. WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE? (Missouri Statute 210.110.(1))
". . . any physical injury, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse inflicted on a child other than by accidental means . . ."
"except that discipline including spanking, administered in a reasonable manner, shall not be construed to be abuse."
Abuse is not limited to abuse inflicted by a person responsible for the child's care, custody and control.

2. WHAT IS CHILD NEGLECT? (Missouri Statute 210.110.(12))
". . . failure to provide, by those responsible for the care, custody, and control of the child, the proper or necessary support, education as required by law, nutrition or medical, surgical, or any other care necessary for the child's well-being."

3. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE OF A CHILD? (Missouri Statute 210.110.(12)), includes but is not limited to:

  • The parents or guardian of a child
  • Other members of the child's household
  • Those exercising supervision over a child for any part of a twenty-four hour day, OR
  • Any adult who, based on relationship to the parents of the child, members of the child's household or family, has access to the child.

4. WHO IS A CHILD? (Missouri Statute 210.110.(4))
A child is any person, regardless of physical or mental condition, under eighteen years of age.

5. HOW DO I RECOGNIZE CHILD ABUSE?
Signs of physical abuse include unexplained or unreasonable bruises, burns, cuts, abrasions and broken bones. Patterned marks made by objects like belts, cords, teeth, handprints, and clothes or curling irons can be strongly indicative of physical abuse especially when combined with a child's description of how the injury was inflicted. Another strong indicator of child abuse is an explanation for injuries that would be unusual in a given age group. For example, a broken arm or leg in a four-month old child blamed on a fall down the stairs.

The best indicator of sexual abuse is a disclosure by the child regarding the sexual activity. Other indicators may be a detailed, age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual acts, changes in established behaviors like sleeping, eating and toileting, complaints of genital pain or irritation, and infection with a sexually transmitted disease.

Neglect can be indicated by a child who is chronically dirty or dressed inappropriately for the weather, a child who is frequently hungry or sleepy and reports being unable to eat or sleep regularly at home, a child who does not attend school regularly or one who has not been enrolled in school, a child who remains untreated or is treated inappropriately for a medical problem or a child who describes being left alone and unable to care for himself.

A good indicator of endangerment is a description by a child of events that may place him in danger such as being involved in a physical, domestic fight between adults in the home, seeing illegal drugs being used or sold or having access to loaded guns kept in the home.

6. WHAT IF I AM NOT SURE THE SITUATION IS SERIOUS ENOUGH TO REPORT?
It is better to report if you are in doubt and to call the hotline and discuss the matter with the Children's Division. Remember that often the most serious abuse occurs in private and away from anyone but the children involved. What you have seen or heard may only be the tip of the iceberg.

7. WHO IS A MANDATED REPORTER? (Missouri Statute 210.115)
The following people are mandated reporters and must report suspected child abuse or neglect:

  1. Health care professionals (physicians, medical examiners, coroners, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists, podiatrists, residents, interns, nurses, hospital or clinic personnel or other health care practitioners);
  2. Psychologists and other mental health professionals;
  3. Social workers;
  4. Child-care (day care) workers;
  5. Law enforcement officials (police officers, juvenile officers, probation/parole officers, jail or detention center personnel);
  6. Teachers, principals, and other school officials;
  7. Ministers; and
  8. Other persons with responsibility for the care of children.

8. WHEN MUST I MAKE A REPORT?
If a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect, or observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, that person must immediately report or cause a report to be made to the Children's Division. Mandated reporters must report abuse inflicted by a person responsible for the child's care, custody and control as well as abuse inflicted by any other person. RSMo Section 210.115.

Failure to report can be a class A misdemeanor.

9. DO I HAVE TO BE A MANDATED REPORTER TO MAKE A REPORT?
Permissive reporters such as friends, family members or relatives are not required to report abuse but may report abuse if they have a reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect. Permissive reporters may also report if they observe a child under conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.

10. WHAT DO I REPORT?
You should report all of the following information that you know (you are not required to report all of this information and should not investigate if you do not have some of it - instead immediately report the information you have):

  • The name, address, age, sex and race of the child
  • The name and address of the child's parent(s)
  • A description of child's injuries, abuse or neglect
  • Any previous injuries, abuse or neglect to the child or the child's siblings
  • The name, age and address of the suspected abuser
  • Who lives with the child?
  • How did you learn of the injuries, abuse or neglect?
  • Your name, address, occupation and how to reach you?
  • Any actions you took (photographs or x-rays)
  • Did you witness the abuse/neglect?
  • Were there other witnesses and how can they be contacted?

11. If the suspicion of child abuse cannot be proven, will I get into trouble for making the report? (Missouri Statute 210.135) NO.
In the making of a report, mandated reporters "shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal." This immunity is only lost for "intentionally filing a false report. Acting in bad faith or with ill intent."

12. WHAT ABOUT PRIVELEGES AND CONFIDENTIALITY? (Missouri Statute 210.140)
Any legally recognized privileged communication, except that between attorney and client or involving communications to a minister or clergyperson, SHALL NOT apply to situations involving known or suspected child abuse and neglect AND SHALL NOT constitute grounds for failure to report.

13. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A CHILD TELLS ME ABOUT ABUSE?

  • Be calm. If you appear angry, upset or emotional, the child will be frightened.
  • Find a private place where the child is comfortable talking to you (nurse's office vs. principal's office)
  • Let the child pick who they talk to.
  • Sit next to the child not across a desk.
  • Let the child tell you about what happened the child's own words and then reassure the child that it is good/ok to tell.
  • Use the child's vocabulary.
  • Do not interrogate or interview the child, only ask questions necessary to understand what you are being told or necessary to ensure the child's immediate safety.
  • Tell the child he/she is not in trouble and that he/she did the right thing to tell you what happened.
  • Tell the child it is not his/her fault.
  • Do not speak harshly of the abuser - it may be someone the child loves.
  • Tell the child you want to make sure that he/she will be safe. Let him/her know you are going to get help.
  • Afterwards make a note of quotes the child used in the disclosure using the child's own words
  • Do not make the child repeat the disclosure to or in front of others
  • IMMEDIATELY REPORT the abuse to the Hotline.
  • Remember your job is not to investigate