Child abuse is a persistent problem throughout the United States and sadly, Missouri is no exception. According to the Missouri Department of Social Services' Children's Division (CD), the state's Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline Unit (CANHU) received nearly 130,000 reports in the 2017 fiscal year alone (July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017). Of those reports, more than 68,000 triggered investigations or assessments involving more than 98,000 children.
Because the CD can't be in every home ensuring the safety and well-being of each child, it relies on mandated reporters and members of the community to alert them to suspected abuse or other issues that put children at risk.
Reporting child abuse in Missouri is simple. Here's what you should know.
How the State Defines Child Abuse and Neglect
Missouri's legal code defines child abuse as “physical injury, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse inflicted on a child other than by accidental means by those responsible for the child’s care, custody, and control.” Abuse victims also include victims of sex trafficking and other forms of trafficking. Additionally, the state definition of child abuse exempts “discipline administered in a reasonable manner,” including spanking.
Neglect is defined as failure to provide “the proper or necessary support, education as required by law, nutrition or medical, surgical, or any other care necessary for the child’s well-being.”
While disclosing suspected child abuse is the moral duty of anyone who encounters it, for some people, reporting potential cases of abuse or neglect is also a legal duty. People in professions that routinely work with children are considered “mandated reporters,” which means they're legally required to report suspected or disclosed abuse. In Missouri, mandated reporters include:
- Doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists, hospital or clinic personnel, and any other healthcare provider
- Childcare workers and daycare facilities
- Police, probation, or parole officers, as well as jail or detention personnel
- Principals, teachers, and other school officials
- Community service program volunteers
- Others responsible for caring for children
For mandatory reporters, failing to report cases of abuse or neglect is a Class A misdemeanor that carries the possibility of fines and/or jail time.
When and How to Report Abuse
Mandated reporters who have reasonable cause to suspect a child may be or may become the victim of abuse or neglect are required to file an immediate report with the CD. This can be done by calling CANHU at 800-392-3738. The hotline is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year. Non-emergency reports can even be submitted online through the DSS website.
When filing a report, it's important to provide the following information:
- The child's name
- The names of parents or guardians
- The name of the alleged abuser
- The child's location
Reporters will also be asked a series of questions to learn more about their concerns, such as:
- What are you most worried will happen if nothing changes?
- What needs to happen differently for you to be confident the children are safe?
- On a scale of 0-10, where 10 means the child is completely safe right now; and 0 means if no action is taken, the child could be seriously hurt or injured in the next 24 hours, where would you rate this family?
Was Your Child a Victim of Abuse?
This news is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Despite your best efforts to keep them safe, someone hurt your child, leaving them with physical or psychological injuries. If this abuse occurred at a daycare, camp, school, or other childcare facility; or you've learned a mandated reporter turned a blind eye to the abuse your child faced, allowing it to continue; you have grounds for a negligence-related civil lawsuit.
Contact the experts at DRZ Law today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation. Our attorneys specialize in this particular area of law, and represent clients in Missouri, Kansas, and throughout the U.S. We can help your family get the justice and compensation you deserve.