Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting

Frequently Asked Questions

How many children are reported for suspected abuse or neglect annually?

The most recent report of data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System indicates approximately 3.6 million reports of suspected abuse or neglect were filed nationally. Of these, 20% of the reports were substantiated, meaning approximately 720,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect in 2009. Of this number, the data is broken down by the type of allegation:

78% suffered neglect
18% were physically abused
10% were sexually abused
8% were emotionally or psychologically maltreated
2% were medically neglected

What is a mandated reporter?

The State of Georgia designates certain volunteers and professionals as mandated reporters. A mandated reporter is one who is required by law to report reasonable suspicions of child abuse and/or neglect. In Georgia, mandated reporters include teachers, social workers, health care workers, child care providers, law enforcement, mental health professionals and volunteers among others.

Where can I find the DFCS Protocol?

JG-R Student Welfare Section contains all the necessary information to make a DFCS report.

I am a PTA volunteer who comes in once a week to help students with reading. Am I a mandated reporter?

Yes. In Georgia, anyone who works with children whether for pay or for free is considered a mandated reporter under the law. If you become aware of suspected abuse, you are mandated to report it.

What should I do if a student discloses abuse to me?

When a student discloses abuse and/or neglect to you, it is very important that you listen to the student without judgment or disbelief. Listen attentively and ask open ended questions, like what happened, where it happened, and by whom. Do not give the child false assurances or promise to keep the information confidential. After speaking with the student, report this information to your local school’s DFCS designee immediately. If you are not aware of your school’s DFCS designee, request this information from one of your school’s administrators.

What do I do if a student asks me to promise that I won’t tell anyone?

Students frequently ask for this kind of assurance before or immediately after disclosing abuse. The truth is that sometimes adults must tell others what a child says in order to keep the student safe. You might say something like, "I cannot promise to keep everything you tell me secret. I can assure you that I will take you seriously and do everything I can to help you."

When should I make a report?

Georgia law requires that a report should be made immediately, but no later than 24 hours, when there is reason to believe that a student is in danger of being harmed or is actively being harmed. As a mandated reporter you should make the report as soon as you have reason to believe or receive a disclosure. You do not need to have proof and knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt that abuse is occurring.

Am I liable if I make a report and it is not substantiated?

No. According to Georgia law, those persons making a report in good faith are protected from liability.

What information will I need to provide when making a report?

Remember that it is not your job to investigate the abuse. DFCS and/or law enforcement will perform the investigation. With that said, information you have about names, locations, relationships, and ages will be very important. Being able to articulate exactly what was reported to you without distortion or additions will also be important. Receiving information about alleged abuse or neglect can be hard. When making a report, it is important to put aside your own emotional reaction and report only the facts as they were told to you.

Please refer to JG-2 of the DFCS Protocol for more comprehensive information about what should be included in a report. Not having all of the information does not excuse a mandated reporter from fulfilling their duties as required by law. Report what you have.

Do I need to provide my name when making a report?

In all cases mandated reporters contact information is confidential and protected by law. While anonymous reports are allowable, it is helpful to provide your name in the event that further information is needed by DFCS. Also, as a mandated reporter, providing your name formally documents that your compliance with the mandated reporter law.

I made a mandated report, and the parent of the student is calling and emailing me saying the DFCS worker told them I made the report. Are there any recommendations for how to handle this?

It is very, very unlikely that anyone disclosed the name of a reporter. This information is protected under Georgia law. With that said, parents and caregivers are frequently able to get the student to disclose who they told and when. This may give the parent a pretty good idea of who may have made the report; however, this is not concrete proof. You may want to refer the matter to school administration for consultation. You may also want to speak with local law enforcement about it depending on the level of your concern. One way to respond to this kind of call or email is to say, "Even if I knew the identity of the reporter, I could not confirm it because that information is protected by Georgia law."

What are the penalties for not making a report?

A person who is required to report child abuse and who fails to do so has committed a crime. OCGA 19-7-5(c) (1) defines the type of crime as well as imprisonment and/or any fines imposed.

What if I think I don't have enough information to make a report?

It is always best to err on the side of the student. DFCS will help determine if there is enough information to proceed.

Should I tell the parents of my report?

It is best not to contact parents about your suspicions before making a report. Doing so could result in retribution against the student, destruction of evidence, or temporary removal of a perpetrator from the home. Under some conditions you may need to maintain open communication with the parent. When this happens, never accuse a parent of wrongdoing and explain that you are legally responsible to report.

What happens after a DFCS report is made?

After a report is filed, DFCS or a local law enforcement agency investigates the allegations. DFCS or the law enforcement agency investigation will typically result in one of two outcomes.

1. Unsubstantiated report – the report is false, or does not involve abuse—such as an accidental injury

2. Substantiated report – it is determined that child abuse has occurred

DFCS will determine if children need to be removed from the home or if services need to be offered to the parents or caregivers. Law enforcement agencies may also pursue criminal prosecution.

What happens if the student is removed from the home?

If DFCS determines that the student must be removed from the home, they may be temporarily placed with an approved relative or in a licensed foster care home or facility depending on the county. If a student is removed, the case must be presented to a judge within 72 hours to determine if the removal is necessary or appropriate pending the rest of the investigation.

Will I have to testify in court?

The majority of cases do not go to trial. When they do, the mandated reporter may be required to testify, it is important to remember that the testimony may be essential for the protection of the child.

Do I have to report if the alleged perpetrator is a school employee?

Yes. Use the same procedures as discussed in the DFCS protocol. Additionally, the principal/facility head or designee should notify CCSD Professional Standards and Ethics and CCSD Public Safety.

What should I do if I make a report to DFCS and they tell me my information does not substantiate abuse or neglect?

Make sure you have the name of the person you spoke with at DFCS, date and time of report and complete Form JG-3 with the necessary information and email to Inform your principal or building supervisor.

A student has revealed possible abuse information about another student. What should I do next?

Pass this information to the school designee. The school designee should speak to the student who has reported the information and to the possible abuse victim. Even though some information is second hand, an effort needs to be made to determine if a DFCS referral should be made. When consultation with the designee is not possible, err on the side of caution and make the report based on what was said to you.

If I have a question about a situation, who do I consult with?

There are many resources available within the district. Begin with speaking to your school designee and school administrators. The School Social Work Department at 678-581-6811 and the Professional Counseling Department at 770-514-3832 is available to assist with questions and/or concerns related to abuse and neglect reporting.

This website is for informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal advice.

School Social Work Department
Cobb County School District
514 Glover Street
Marietta, GA 30060
Phone: 678-581-6811
Fax: 770-590-4556

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