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Questions and answers about reporting abuse and neglect

 

If someone is being hurt or is in danger right now, call 911 immediately.

 


Q. Who must report?

According to Oregon Revised Statute 419B.010, "Any public or private official having reasonable cause to believe that any child with whom the official comes in contact has suffered abuse, or that any person with whom the official comes in contact has abused a child shall immediately report or cause a report to be made . . ." Those "public or private officials" include:

  • Physician, including any intern or resident
  • Dentist
  • School employee
  • Licensed practical nurse or registered nurse
  • Employee of the Department of Human Services, Oregon Health Authority, State Commission on Children and Families, Child Care Division of the Employment Department, the Oregon Youth Authority, a county health department, a community mental health and developmental disabilities program, a county juvenile department, a licensed child-caring agency or an alcohol and drug treatment program
  • Peace officer
  • Psychologist
  • Member of the clergy
  • Licensed clinical social worker
  • Optometrist
  • Chiropractor
  • Certified provider of foster care, or an employee thereof
  • Attorney
  • Naturopathic physician
  • Licensed professional counselor
  • Licensed marriage and family therapist
  • Firefighter or emergency medical technician
  • A court appointed special advocate, as defined in ORS 419A.004
  • A childcare provider registered or certified under ORS 657A.030 and 657A.250 to 657A.450
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly
*Psychiatrist, psychologist, clergyman, or attorney shall not be required to report information communicated to him by a person if the communication is privileged under ORS 40.225 to 40.295. Reporting should be considered a request for an assessment of a suspected incident of abuse or neglect. A report is not an already established fact, but rather the request for assessment into the safety and condition of a child. It is the beginning of a helping process for children and families. All Oregon citizens are encouraged to report suspected cases to DHS or law enforcement. Over 25 percent of the substantiated cases of child abuse are reported by concerned citizens who are not required to report. Failure to report is a violation and carries a maximum penalty of $1,000.00. Mandatory reporters have also been successfully sued for damages in civil court for failing to report. 

Also see: Mandatory reporting

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Q.  Who do I contact if I suspect child abuse?
According to ORS 419B.015, "a person making a report of child abuse shall make an oral report by telephone or otherwise to a local Child Welfare office of the Department of Human Services, to the division's designee, or to a law enforcement agency within the county where the person making the report is at the time of the contact." A law enforcement agency can be defined as a local police department, county sheriff, county juvenile department, or Oregon State Police.

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Q.  How do I respond to a child who reports abuse to me?
Tell the child that you believe them and that you are going to contact people who can help. Respect the privacy of the child. The child will need to tell their story in detail later, so don't press the child for details. Remember, you need only suspect abuse to make a report. Don't display horror, shock, or disapproval of parents, child, or the situation. Don't place blame or make judgments about the parent or child. Believe the child if she/he reports sexual abuse. It is rare for a child to lie about sexual abuse.

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Q.  What information do I need to report?
If possible report the names and addresses of the child and parent; the child’s age; the type and extent of the abuse, as well as any previous evidence of abuse; the explanation given for the abuse; and any other information that will help establish the cause of abuse or identify the abuser.

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Q.  Will my report be confidential?
The reporter's identity will remain confidential to the full extent allowable by law. If court action is initiated, the reporting person may be called as a witness or the court may order that the reporter's name be disclosed. Only people with firsthand knowledge of the child's situation can provide testimony proving that abuse has occurred.

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Q.  Can I be sued if I report?
Oregon law (ORS 419B.025) provides that anyone participating in good faith in the making of a report of child abuse and who has reasonable grounds for making the report, shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed with respect to the making or content of such report. Any such participant shall have the same immunity with respect to participating in any judicial proceeding resulting from such report.

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Q.  What happens after I report?
CPS follows a process that includes six possible decision points for every child abuse report.

For each call CPS receives, the process begins with screening. If the information indicates possible abuse, a caseworker assesses the family situation by getting more in-depth information and determines whether abuse occurred and whether a child is at risk of further harm.

If a child has been abused or neglected, CPS and law enforcement staff decide, with family help if possible, whether the child can be safely left at home. Risk factors, strengths and needs of the child and family are assessed. A safety plan may be developed immediately. Later, the agency and family may develop a plan for service.

A case is closed when protective services are no longer needed to keep the child safe.


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Q.  When is a child taken into protective custody?
When a child is unsafe and in immediate danger of harm, DHS or law enforcement must work to develop a plan which will assure a child's safety. Many times a safety plan can be developed which will keep a child safe in his/her own home. When it is not possible a child may, according to statute, be taken into protective custody.

If a safe relative is available, DHS or law enforcement may place the child with them. If not, a child will be placed in shelter care. Families or special care facilities licensed by DHS usually provide shelter care. Parents are notified immediately if their child is placed in shelter care. A juvenile court hearing is held within 24 judicial hours to review the need for continued protection of the child while the assessment continues. Parents are provided the opportunity at the shelter hearing to explain why they believe their child can be returned home without danger of physical injury or emotional harm.

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Q.  When are juvenile court hearings necessary? 
Juvenile court hearings are held when children are removed from their parent's custody and when DHS supervision of abused or neglected children in their own homes is ordered. The court ensures that the parents' and the child's rights will be protected. The parents have a right to legal counsel and, if they cannot afford an attorney, parents can request that one be appointed by the court. The juvenile court holds a "shelter hearing" within 24 judicial hours of an emergency protective custody situation when a child has been removed from the care of their parent or caregiver. A subsequent hearing is held to consider the facts of the child abuse/neglect assessment. Additional hearings are held if the court determines that the child needs its protection. At each hearing, the court reviews the efforts of the parents to remedy problems and determines whether DHS has made reasonable efforts to assist the family.

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Q.  What about criminal prosecution?
Law enforcement agencies are obligated to investigate reported cases of child abuse and to submit a report to the district attorney's office. Criminal prosecution is at the sole discretion of the District Attorney. Prosecution may protect a child from further abuse and may assist the treatment process.

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Q.  What is the Central Registry?
When it is confirmed that a child is a victim of abuse, the child's name is entered into the Central Registry. The purpose of the Central Registry is to gather data on the incidence and nature of child abuse in Oregon. It is also used as a resource for identifying repeated cases of abuse. The Central Registry was established by Oregon law and is maintained by the Department of Human Services, Children Adults and Families, and the Office of Self Sufficiency and Child Safety.

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Q.  Who do I contact for more information on child abuse and neglect? 
If you need more information on child abuse and neglect, contact your local Child Welfare branch office of the Department of Human Services.

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