A report of suspected child abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment is a responsible attempt to protect a child. Arizona law requires certain persons who suspect that a child has received non-accidental injury or has been neglected to report their concerns to DCS or local law enforcement (ARS §13-3620.A). YOU may be a child’s only advocate at the time you report the possibility of abuse or neglect. Children often tell a person with whom they feel safe about abuse or neglect. If a child tells you of such experiences, act to protect that child by calling the toll free Arizona Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445).
What is child abuse and neglect?
When a parent, guardian or custodian inflicts or allows the infliction of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment.
- Physical abuse includes non-accidental physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns, cuts or other injuries.
- Sexual abuse occurs when sex acts are performed with children. Using children in pornography, prostitution or other types of sexual activity is also sexual abuse.
- Neglect occurs when children are not given necessary care for illness or injury. Neglect also includes leaving young children unsupervised or alone, locked in or out of the house, or without adequate clothing, food, or shelter. Allowing children to live in a very dirty house which could be a health hazard may also be considered neglect.
- Emotional abuse of a child is evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or improper aggressive behavior as diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist, and caused by the acts or omissions of the parent or caretaker.
- Exploitation means the use of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian for material gain.
- Abandonment means the failure of the parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision, when such failure is intentional and continues for an indefinite period.
What can I report?
There are four commonly recognized forms of child abuse.
- Physical Abuse is characterized by any non-accidental physical injury that results from punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting, burning, shoving, etc.
- Sexual Abuse is any sexual acts involving a child which includes sexual acts between children.
- Neglect occurs when there is a failure to provide for a child's physical needs. This includes lack of supervision, inappropriate housing, and inadequate provision of food, inappropriate clothing, abandonment, or denial of medical care.
- Emotional Abuse is an attitude or behavior which interferes with a child's mental health or social development.
Who must report?
Any person who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of physical injury, abuse, child abuse, a reportable offense or neglect that appears to have been inflicted on the minor by other than accidental means or that is not explained by the available medical history as being accidental in nature, or who reasonably believes that there has been a denial or deprivation of necessary medical treatment or surgical care or nourishment with the intent to cause or allow the death of an infant who is protected under A.R.S. § 36-2281, shall immediately report or cause reports to be made of this information to a peace office or to the Department of Child Safety, except if the report concerns a person who does not have care, custody or control of the minor, the report shall be made to a peace office only.
The following persons are required by law to report:
- Any physician, physician's assistant, optometrist, dentist, osteopath, chiropractor, podiatrist, behavioral health professional, nurse, psychologist, counselor or social worker who develops the reasonable belief in the course of treating a patient.
- Any peace officer, a member of the clergy, priest or Christian Science practitioner.
- The parent, stepparent or guardian of the minor.
- School personnel or domestic violence victim advocates who develop the reasonable belief in the course of their employment.
- Any other person who has responsibility for the care or treatment of the minor.
A person making a report or providing information about a child is immune from civil or criminal liability unless such person has been charged with, or is suspected of, the abuse or neglect in question. A person acting with malice who either knowingly and or intentionally makes a false report of child abuse and neglect or who coerces another person to make a false report is guilty of a crime. A person who knowingly and intentionally falsely accuses another of maliciously making a false report of child abuse and neglect is also guilty of a crime.
When to report?
A report should be made when any person, who reasonably believes that a child under 18 has been abused, neglected, exploited or abandoned. A report of suspected abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment is only a request for an investigation. The person making the report does not need to prove the abuse. Investigation and validation of child abuse reports are the responsibilities of child protective service workers. If additional incidents of abuse occur after the initial report has been made, make another report.
How is abuse reported?
A report can be made to the DCS Statewide Toll-Free Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-767-2445, (1-888-SOS-CHILD) or law enforcement office. When reporting, the following information if known will be requested:
- name, age, and gender of the child and other family members
- address, phone numbers, and/or directions to child's home
- parents' place of employment
- description of suspected abuse or neglect
- the current condition of the child
What happens when abuse/neglect is reported?
While you are reporting abuse or neglect, you will be speaking directly with a skilled social work professional. You will be asked for information about the child, the nature of your concerns, the present location of the child, and about the family with whom the child lives. If a report is warranted it is then assigned to a DCS Field Specialist who then will investigate the report through interviews with all children in the home, parents, friends, relatives, and any other person who may have information about the child and family. After an investigation, if DCS has reason to believe that a parent guardian or custodian abused or neglected a child and intends to confirm this, a letter will be sent to the person accused explaining how an appeal of this decision may be requested and how to get a copy of the DCS report.
If you suspect a child under the age of 18 is being abused or neglected or is at risk for abuse or neglect, you should make a report to your local county department of social services.
- Contact Law Enforcement (911)
- Contact Department of Child Safety: In Maricopa County, call the Department of Child Safety Hotline: 1.800.422.4453
- Provide support for the victim
- Do NOT question the child
- Do NOT show emotion or make comments (positive or negative)
- Do NOT contact the offender
- Do NOT conduct an "independent investigation"
- Do NOT force the victim to confront the offender
- Do NOT allow the accused to confront the victim