No person deserves to be abused, least of all children. At the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, we believe that it is the responsibility of adults to protect children and enable them to grow up in a healthy, safe world, free from harm.
As part of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, JWRC supports the work to end child abuse, neglect and other forms of child maltreatment in three generations.
Parents facing the possibility that their children have been intentionally hurt can feel angry, helpless, frustrated, and defeated by the system. You may have questions about whether your child's experience constitutes abuse, and how to help them. Call us at (800) 325-HOPE if you need any assistance.
How to Report
Since most children know the people who abuse them, it can be very hard for the child to come forward. They may fear retaliation from their abuser, or the consequences their abuser may face, such as jail time or the break-up of the family. It is hard for other family members, friends, and neighbors to come forward, for the same reasons, or because they may feel it is none of their business.
Generally, abuse is not a one-time occurrence; it happens in cycles. In addition, most abuse does not happen suddenly; it tends to start with smaller incidents and escalate until it is stopped.
Reporting child abuse, and to the right people, is important. By making a report, you could stop abuse from happening, and prevent future abuse. You can remain anonymous when you report.
Who should I call?
If a child was very recently harmed or is in immediate danger, call law enforcement right away. Police can remove a child from a dangerous situation, and are required by law to report suspected child abuse to child protective services. If it is not an emergency situation, you can call child protective services directly to report child abuse. If you live on a reservation, call your tribal child welfare agency.
If the child was abused in a licensed facility such as a daycare or school, call the agency that issues the license for the facility.
Each county has their own child protective services office. You can find the right number for your county by searching online or calling your local county government office.
What happens when I call?
When you call child protective services, a screener will answer the phone and ask for details about the child, the alleged abuser, and the nature of the abuse. If the screener thinks that abuse (as defined by applicable laws) may have occurred, they will forward the case onto a case manager, who will review the case decide whether it needs to be investigated. If the screener thinks that the details of the case do not imply possible abuse, they will inform you of this, and the case will not be forwarded or investigated.
After the call...
How child protective services handles a report depends on the state in which it is reported. In Minnesota, cases that are forwarded on to case managers are either investigated or given a family assessment.
In Minnesota, child protective services investigates allegations of substantial child abuse. This means that more facts will be gathered to determine if abuse took place, and whether the child is in need of protective services. The investigations must begin immediately, and be concluded within 45 days. Both the child and the child's caretaker will be interviewed face-to-face.
If the alleged abuse is deemed less substantial, the child and his/her family may receive an assessment of the child's environment and safety. This is a strengths-based response, and focuses on what the family can do, moving forward, to keep the child safe. It is possible to switch to an investigative response if the family assessment indicates that it is needed.
In general, removing a child from the home is the last resort. Child protective services makes every attempt to keep the child in the home. There must be ample evidence of substantial maltreatment in order for a child to be removed.