Every state has a social services department that is responsible for investigating child abuse and neglect. In Mississippi and many other states, this agency is called Child Protection Services or Child Protective Services (CPS), but other states might call it the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or something similar. Some groups of people, like teachers and nurses, are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. But anyone can report child abuse and neglect by calling CPS.
It can be hard to know when you should call CPS. Fear of interfering in someone else’s life or making a false accusation makes some people hesitant to call CPS. But think about what is at stake: a child’s physical safety, and maybe even their life. The most important advice is to follow your gut instinct. If you think something should be reported to CPS, it probably should be.
What Types of Things Should Be Reported to CPS?
There are two main reasons to call CPS. The first is for physical or sexual abuse of a child. If you witness someone abuse a child or have reason to believe that a child has been physically or sexually abused, you should call CPS. Does the child look like they have been injured? Does the child flinch or cry when you touch them? Look for bruises, cuts, burns, bald patches, scratches, or blisters. You might see these types of injuries on the child’s body, or the child might tell you that they are being physically or sexually abused at home. If you are having a conversation with a child and think that the child might be getting abused at home, ask more questions. Try to get more information about who is hurting the child, how they are hurting the child, and if that person is hurting anyone else.
The second reason you should call CPS is for child neglect. Neglect is when a parent is not providing something for their child that they should be providing, like food, water, clothing, education, shelter, and proper medical care. Does the child live in an unclean or unlivable environment? Are they left alone for long periods of time? Are they wearing the same dirty clothes every day? Are they eating regularly? If you suspect that a child is being neglected, it is important to ask more questions and gather as much information as the child will give you.
How Do You Make a Report to CPS?
Making a report to CPS is easy: simply call the child abuse hotline for your state. Mississippi’s child abuse hotline number is 1 (800) 222-8000. There is also a national child abuse hotline: 1 (800) 422-4453. Most states allow you to report anonymously, but you can provide your information if you want to. Start out by saying that you would like to report child abuse or child neglect. Then simply answer the questions that they ask you and provide as much information as you can. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for CPS to identify the child and the abuser and make a decision about what to do next. Reports can also be made online at https://reportabuse.mdcps.ms.gov/.
Some people don’t call because they are worried that what they what they are reporting might not actually be child abuse or neglect. But remember that it is not your job to determine if abuse or neglect occurred. The person on the other end of the phone will be able to take all of the information you give and decide if CPS needs to get involved. If you think there’s a legitimate reason to call CPS, go ahead and do it.
It can be scary to call CPS on a friend, family member, or even your spouse. If you are in an emergency situation and you or your children are in danger, you should call 911 before you call CPS. Your number one priority in this situation should be keeping yourself and your children safe. If you do feel like you need to call CPS on your spouse, friend, or family member, you may want to make your report anonymously. CPS may need to get your information to do a follow up, but they will keep your identity confidential and will not reveal to anyone that you called.
Consider Speaking with a Family Law Attorney
If you fear that your children are being abused by a friend, family member, or someone else, consider talking with a qualified and experienced family law attorney at Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Our firm can handle your case with a balance of compassion and confidence to guide you through one of the most difficult times a person can go through. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn about your options.
Please also see us on mississippi-lawyers.com and view our reviews on avvo.com, superlawyers.com, and martindale.com. Our email address is mississippi-lawyers.com and our office phone number is (601) 948 – 4444 option 1.