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Child Abuse

Calling the Child Abuse Hotline

It is important for every person to take child abuse and neglect seriously, to be able to recognize when it happens, and to know what to do next. Care enough to call the state's Child Abuse Hotline:

1-800-25-ABUSE OR 1-800-358-5117(TDD)

What are child abuse and neglect?
Hotline social workers this year will handle more than 130,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. Child abuse is the mistreatment if a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caretaker, someone living in the child's home or someone who works with or around children. The mistreatment must cause injury or must put the child at risk of physical injury. Child abuse can be physical (such as bums or broken bones), sexual (such as fondling or incest), or emotional.

Neglect happens when a parent or responsible caretaker fails to provide adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter or other basics for a child.

When should I call the Hotline?
You should call the Child Abuse Hotline whenever you believe that a person who is caring for a child, who lives with a child, or who works with or around children has caused injury or harm or put the child at risk of physical injury as defined in the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. Some examples include:

• If you see someone hitting a child with an object.

• If you see marks in a child's body that do not appear to have been caused by an accident.

• If a child tells you that he or she has been harmed by someone.

• If a child appears to be undernourished, is dressed inappropriately for the weather, or is young and has been left alone.

Statelaw mandates that workers in certain professions, including recreational program or facility personnel, must make reports if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect.

These are a few situations when you should call the Hotline. Use your own judgement and call the Hotline whenever you think a child has been abused or neglected.

When should I not call the Hotline?
Some situations do not require calling the Hotline. Use good judgement. Call only when you think a child has been or will be injured as described above. Some examples of when you should not call the Hotline include:

• Situations where a child is causing a problem that concerns you, but the problem is not related to abuse or neglect. In some cases you may wish to call the police or talk to the child's parents or relatives.

• Domestic situations where family stress is evident, but the child has not been abused or at risk of abuse. Community service agencies are often available to help.

• If you're seeking information about DCFS or its programs, the DCFS Office of Communications is available to answer questions at (217) 785-1700, or you may call your local DCFS office.

What should I report?
Hotline staff are social workers with special training in determining what constitutes child abuse and neglect under Illinois law. Details are important. Ideally, you should be able to tell the Hotline worker:

• The child's name, address and age.

• The nature or the suspected abuse or neglect, including when and where it occurred.

• The names of suspected perpetrators and their relationship to the child (parent, teacher, etc.).

• Any other information you think may help.

38 • Illinois Parks & Recreation • January/February 1995

What happens when I call the Hotline?
When you call, a Hotline social worker will listen to what you wish to report. The worker will then ask questions to help gather enough information to determine whether to take a formal report, the worker will tell you so and answer any questions you may have.

If a formal report is taken, a child protection investigator will begin the investigation within 24 hours—much sooner if the child is considered in immediate risk of harm.

How am I protected?
Members of the general public may make reports without giving their names. People who do give their names and report alleged child abuse or neglect in good faith cannot be held liable for damages under criminal or civil law. In addition, their names cannot be given to the person they name as the perpetrator or to anyone else unless ordered by a hearing officer of judge.

Should I call the police?
If you believe abuse or neglect has occurred, call the Hotline. However, you should also consider calling the police, especially in emergencies or when the child has been injured.

How else can I help?
The Illinois income tax check-off program enables people to donate to the Child Abuse Prevention Fund when they file their state income tax returns. The money is used to support community-based family education programs designed to help parents improve their parenting skills and learn how to cope with family life.

DCFS also offers a wide variety of volunteer programs for people wanting to serve their communities. Call your local DCFS office for details, or write to the Office of Volunteer Services, 406 East Monroe, Springfield, Illinois 62701.

Who are mandated reporters?
Members of the general public may report suspected child abuse and neglect if they choose. However, state law mandates that workers in certain professions must make reports if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect. Mandated reporters include:

• Recreational program or facility personnel.

• Medical personnel.

• School and child care personnel.

• Law enforcement personnel.

• State agencies.

• Others as designated in the abused and neglected child reporting act.

Mandated reporters making good faith reports have the same immunity from liability under the law as non-mandated reporters. However, a mandated reporter's failure to report suspected instances of child abuse or neglect to DCFS constitutes a Class A misdemeanor; simply reporting suspicions to a superior does not satisfy legal requirements.

How should mandated reporters make reports?
Call the ChildAbuse Hotline as soon as possible. Then send written confirmation to the appropriate DCFS field office within 48 hours. The Department will provide a form to use when sending this confirmation. If you suspect a child's death may have been caused be abuse or neglect, you must also call your county's coroner or medical examiner.

**Any person who knowingly transmits a false report to the Department commits the offense of disorderly conduct under subsection (a)(7) of Section 26-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961. A violation of this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment for up to one year, or by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by both such term and fine. A second or subsequent violation is a Class 4 felony.

Source: Care Enough to Call. 1994. Illinois Department of Children and Fondly Services.

Illinois Parks & Recreation • January/February 1995 • 39

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