Duty to report child abuse or neglect

National Child Abuse Prevention Month is not until April, but in light of the recent child deaths at the hand of a parent or caregiver, I felt compelled to get a jump start with this blog on the duty to report child abuse or neglect.

(1)  Who is required to report?       

            Both professionals and nonprofessionals are required to report child abuse and neglect—which basically means that everyone must report.  A person who believes that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect must immediately make a report.

            This is contrasted by the duty of a professional.  A professional who believes that a child has been or will be abused or neglected or that a child is a victim of an offense of indecency must make a report within 48 hours that the professional first suspects this. 

            Who is a professional?  A professional means an individual who

            (1)  is licensed or certified by the state, or

            (2)  is an employee of a facility licensed, certified, or operated by the state, and who, in    the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is       required, has direct contact with children. 

            This term includes, but isn’t limited to, teachers, nurses, doctors, daycare employees, employees of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services, juvenile probation officers, and juvenile detention or correctional officers. 

(2)  What is abuse or neglect?  

            There are many warning signs of abuse or neglect.  A person should suspect physical abuse when they see:

  • Frequent injuries such as bruises, cuts, black eyes, or burns without adequate explanations
  • Frequent complaints of pain without obvious injury
  • Burns or bruises in unusual patterns that may indicate the use of an instrument or human bite; cigarette burns on any part of the body
  • Lack of reaction to pain
  • Aggressive, disruptive, and destructive behavior
  • Passive, withdrawn, and emotionless behavior
  • Fear of going home or seeing parents
  • Injuries that appear after a child has not been seen for several days

Suspect Neglect When You See:

  • Obvious malnourishment
  • Lack of personal cleanliness
  • Torn or dirty clothing
  • Stealing or begging for food
  • Child unattended for long periods of time
  • Need for glasses, dental care, or other medical attention
  • Frequent tardiness or absence from school

A person should suspect sexual abuse when they see:

  • Physical signs of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Evidence of injury to the genital area
  • Pregnancy in a young girl
  • Difficulty in sitting or walking
  • Extreme fear of being alone with adults of a certain sex
  • Sexual comments, behaviors or play
  • Knowledge of sexual relations beyond what is expected for a child’s age
  • Sexual victimization of other children

A person should suspect emotional abuse when they see:

  • Over compliance
  • Low self-esteem
  • Severe depression, anxiety, or aggression
  • Difficulty making friends or doing things with other children
  • Lagging in physical, emotional, and intellectual development
  • Caregiver who belittles the child, withholds love, and seems unconcerned about the child’s problems

(3)  What is the penalty for not reporting? 

            A person who knowingly fails to report child abuse or neglect commits a Class A misdemeanor.  But a failure to report can be a state jail felony in certain instances. 

 (4)  Who should a person make a report to in Texas?

            A report can be made to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services at 1-800-252-5400 or by calling your local law enforcement.          

            For more information on recognizing abuse or neglect click on the following link:  https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/child_protection/About_Child_Protective_Services/recognize_abuse.asp

            Chante Prox is a family law attorney and mediator practicing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area @ www.barnesproxlaw.com or (817) 649-2700.  Attorney Chante represents both children and parents in CPS cases.  

            Disclaimer:  This information should not be considered as legal advice.  Decisions should be based on consultation with a licensed attorney.  This blog is for informative purposes only.

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