When a call is made to the child abuse hotline, the hotline operator must decide if there is enough information available to take the report. The hotline operator will gather information from the caller including whether he/she is a mandated reporter as well as if the caller wishes to identify him/herself or report anonymously.
The hotline operator will then ask for information about the alleged child maltreatment. The caller should provide as much specific and pertinent information as possible regarding the concerns, the child’s name, the alleged offender name and address, and any available contact information for the family. If there are others who may have knowledge of the alleged maltreatment, the caller should provide this to the operator as well. The more information the caller gives the better.
The hotline operator will then decide, based on the information provided, whether the call can be accepted for an investigation. If the call is accepted, the report will be sent either to the Division of Children Family Services or the Arkansas State Police (Crimes Against Children Division) to investigate depending on the severity of the concerns. An investigator will visit with the family to discuss the allegations and ensure the safety of every child in the family. If the child cannot safely remain in the home, removal may be necessary for the health and safety of the child. If the child can safely remain in the home, the investigator will assess the needs of the family and begin to put in place services and supports for the family while the investigation is ongoing.
The investigation is typically completed within 30-45 days. Based on the findings of the investigation, the family may be done with involvement from DCFS, or a case may open to offer the family continued support and services to work on safely caring for the child.
Answered by Advocate Supervisor Kayla Tave
The key to prevention is knowledge. Here are some tips taken from the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Prevention Resource Guide you may find helpful. If you don’t have children, consider sharing this with those who do.
- Take an active role in your children’s lives. Learn about their activities and people with whom they are involved. Stay alert for possible problems.
- Watch for “grooming” behaviors in adults who spend time with your child. Warning signs may include frequently finding ways to be alone with your child, ignoring your child’s need for privacy (e.g., in the bathroom), or giving gifts or money for no particular occasion.
- Ensure that organizations, groups, and teams that your children are involved with minimize one-on-one time between children and adults. Ask how staff and volunteers are screened and supervised.
- Make sure your children know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them.
- Teach children accurate names of private body parts and the difference between touches that are “okay” and “not okay.”
- Empower children to make decisions about their bodies by allowing them age-appropriate privacy and encouraging them to say “no” when they do not want to touch or be touched by others—even in nonsexual ways.
- Teach children to take care of their own bodies (e.g., bathing or using the bathroom) so they do not have to rely on adults or older children for help.
- Educate children about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe
- Monitor children’s use of technology, including cell phones, social networking sites, and messaging. Review their friends lists regularly and ask about any people you don’t recognize.
- Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving your child with someone, don’t do it. If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
- If your child tells you that he or she has been abused, stay calm, listen carefully, and never blame the child. Thank your child for telling you. Report the abuse right away.
Our partners at the Children’s Safety Center of Washington County have some excellent resources to help facilitate these conversations with your children. Find them here.
We hope you find these tips helpful and feel more empowered to prevent child abuse.
If you suspect a child has been or is being abused, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-844-SAVE-A-CHILD (1-844-728-3224).