Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
What is to be reported to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services?
Any known or suspected child abuse, neglect or sexual abuse, Human Trafficking of minors, infants affected by substance abuse, and child fatalities. (See Legal Definitions for more information.)
Who is legally required to report child abuse and neglect?
In accordance with Section 43-21-353 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, “Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, family protection worker, family protection specialist, child caregiver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Child Protection Services ….”
Who is considered to be a child?
A person who has not reached their 18th birthday, or a youth 18 years or older if currently in MDCPS Custody.
Reports of abuse and neglect of persons 18 years of age or over who are not in MDCPS custody, even if still enrolled in school, are not to be reported to MDCPS but are to be referred to the MS Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services, and law enforcement, if applicable.
Vulnerable Adult Abuse Hotline 844-437-6282 or visit their website here.
Who do I call to make a report?
A report may be made to the hotline, 1-800-222-8000, a statewide, toll-free 24-hour line answered seven days a week. You may also make a report online through the MDCPS website. Reports of Human Trafficking can also be made to the National Hotline 1-800-373-7888.
If you need to make a report in another state, you can find contact information at Child Welfare Information Gateway by clicking here.
What will I be asked when I call in a report?
The Intake Specialist answering your call will ask questions to collect pertinent information related to the child’s identity and household members, a full address for the family, and details related to the alleged maltreatment of the child. You may be asked questions pertaining to the following.
- In situations where a parent’s behavior is described or a situation of risk exists in the child’s home, you may be asked to further describe the harm to the child.
- Your contact information so that the assigned staff responding to the situation will be able to reach you.
- Whether the person responsible for causing the child’s maltreatment is a parent/caregiver or how the person is responsible for the child being maltreated.
- If a child has an injury, you will be asked the details and extent of the injury and what details are known about how, when, and where the injury occurred.
- Any information regarding previous maltreatment.
- Any other persons who might be able to provide information related to the child’s maltreatment.
- The primary language spoken by the family and whether the family is of Native American heritage.
- If there are any known dangers for the child protection staff visiting the home.
- The general functioning of family members and whether the children in the home have any specific special needs.
- The child’s current location and whether the child is currently being cared for safely by caregivers or whether the child is in imminent threat of harm.
- Information on relatives or others close to the family who can assist in the child’s safe care or help reduce the threat of future harm to the child.
What if I am not sure if this is neglect or if a family needs community services?
Please help us understand what you know about the family’s situation and your concerns during the reporting process. Let us know what leads you to believe the parent or caregiver may be neglectful and whether you are searching for resources to help the parents meet the needs of their children.
What happens when I make a report electronically through the agency’s website?
On the online reporting document, you will be asked questions about the victims, caregivers, household members, others who know about the abuse/neglect, and your contact information. There will be a place for you to describe the maltreatment. Please use the information shown above that you would have been asked in a phone call to give the necessary information for the agency to make a thorough assessment. The ability of the agency to assess and respond to the report will depend on whether there is sufficient information included and whether we can reach you for more information if needed to proceed.
If you use the online reporting on the MDCPS website, you will receive a confirmation number once you have reviewed and submitted your report. Keep this confirmation number if you ever need it to document your reporting.
Does a reporter have any immunity from liability?
Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social Worker, family protection Worker, family protection specialist, child caregiver, minister, law enforcement officer, school attendance officer, public school district employee, nonpublic school employee, licensed professional counselor or any other person participating in the making of a required report pursuant to MISS. CODE ANN. § 43-21-355, participating in the judicial proceeding resulting there from, shall be presumed to be acting in good faith. Any person or institution reporting in good faith shall be immune from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed.
Do people reporting suspected child abuse or neglect have to identify themselves?
MDCPS does not require a reporter to identify themselves as a condition for reporting suspected child abuse, neglect, or exploitation. A reporter will be encouraged to leave contact information to allow the assigned staff to contact the reporter for any information which would help assess the report and work with the family. Insufficient information and the inability to contact the reporter could affect the agency’s ability to intervene for the safety of the child.
MISS. CODE ANN. § 43-21-259 requires all records involving children and the contents thereof, including the identity of the reporter, to be kept confidential except as provided in § 43-21-261.
What will happen if you know of the abuse and don’t report it?
Upon being found guilty, the individual shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $5,000, imprisonment in jail not to exceed one year, or both (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated Section 43-21-353(7)).
What happens after I make a report?
The information given will be assessed. Allegations of child abuse or neglect will be forwarded to the corresponding MDCPS staff for a response. A referral for child abuse prevention services may be utilized when preventive services could reduce the likelihood of future maltreatment.