When You Suspect Child Abuse or Neglect:
A General Guide
We all have a responsibility to protect our children from harm. If you suspect the abuse or neglect of a child, it is your duty to report it immediately.
Anyone having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect MUST report the case immediately to a state or local law enforcement agency or the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
DFPS has a toll-free, 24-hour Family Violence Hotline: 1-800-252-5400 or make your report through www.txabusehotline.org and you will receive a response within 24 hours.
Your legal obligation
Current law requires that professionals such as teachers, doctors, nurses, or child daycare workers must make a verbal report within 48 hours. Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $4,000 (Texas Family Code, Chapter 261).
Reporting suspected child abuse to your principal, school counselor or superintendent will NOT satisfy your obligation under this law. Local school district policy cannot conflict with or supercede the state law requiring you to report child abuse to a law enforcement agency or DFPS.
Your legal Protection
Your report of child abuse or neglect is confidential and immune from civil or criminal liability as long as the report is made in “good faith” and “without malice.”
In good faith means that the person making the report took reasonable steps to learn facts that were readily available and at hand. Without malice means that the person did not intend to injure or violate the rights of another person. Provided these two conditions are met, you will also be immune from liability if you are asked to participate in any judicial proceedings that might result from your report.
If you suspect abuse:
DON’T try to investigate
DON’T confront the abuser
DO report your reasonable suspicions
It is not up you to determine whether your suspicions are true. A trained investigator will evaluate the child’s situation. Even if your report does not bring decisive action, it may help establish a pattern that will eventually be clear enough to help the child.