Identify and Report Abuse:
The Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, of known or suspected child abuse, neglect or abandonment.
*If you ever suspect a minor is in immediate danger, contact 911*
There are four ways to make a report:
- Telephone: 1-800-96-Abuse (1-800-962-2873)
- Web reporting: https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/
- Fax: 1-800-914-0004
- TDD: 1-800-453-5145
What is mandated reporting?
Effective October 2012, Section 39.201, Florida Statutes, requires any person who knows or reasonably suspects that a child has been abused, abandoned or neglected to report such knowledge or suspicion to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). This obligation now applies whether the alleged perpetrator is a parent, guardian, person responsible for the child’s welfare, or other adult.
Who qualifies as a mandated reporter?
Everyone is mandated to report suspicions of abuse, abandonment or neglect upon a minor.
Reporters are generally not required to provide their name unless they are in certain occupations set forth in Section 39.201, Florida Statutes, which includes;
However, the names of the reporters cannot be released to parties outside of DCF’s child protection team, hotline, law enforcement or the state attorney’s office without the reporter’s written consent.
- Social Workers
- Mental Health professionals
What offenses or activities trigger the mandatory reporting obligation?
As a mandated reporter, you are required to report all allegations of child abuse, abandonment or neglect, not just allegations of sexual abuse.
- Child abuse: Any act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual abuse, injury, or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. It does not necessarily include corporal punishment.
- Abandonment: The parent or legal custodian or caregiver of a child, while able, has made no significant contribution to the child’s care and maintenance or has failed to establish or maintain a substantial and positive relationship with the child, or both.
- Neglect: When a child is deprived of necessities for daily living, such as food, clothing, shelter or medical treatment, or is permitted to live in an environment that causes the child’s physical, mental or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired. If the perceived neglect is a result of limited financial means, the circumstances will not be considered neglect unless the parent or guardian rejected relief services.
- Juvenile sexual behavior: Sexual behavior that occurs by one juvenile upon another without consent, equality, or with coercion; this includes non-contact sexual behavior, such as making obscene phone calls and varying degrees of direct sexual contact.
What information do I need to report?
In making a report to DCF, it is important to have the following information:
- Name, ages, race and gender of all parties (alleged victim and alleged perpetrator) involved
- Addresses of all parties, including current location
- Relationship between alleged victim and alleged perpetrator
- Any other information that may assist DCF in making their investigation, such as injuries reported or observed, directions to location of parties and potential safety concerns for investigators.
**We are all responsible to be advocates for children in need**
Commonly Asked Questions About Post-Reporting:
What happens after I make the call?
If the report is accepted, the Hotline counselor sends a typed report of the allegations to the local investigation county office where the victim is located. After the report is sent to the local office, the report is assigned to a Child Protective Investigator (CPI) who is then responsible for conducting an investigation on the allegations called in.
How soon does DCF respond to the home?
If accepted, all child abuse reports are submitted to the Department of Children and Families within one hour after you make the call. The Child Protection Investigator (CPI) has up to 24 hours to initiate an investigation.
What are the penalties for failure to report?
Knowingly and willfully failing to report instances of child abuse and neglect is punishable as a third-degree felony eligible for a prison term of up to five years and a fine of $5,000.
What about reports of child sexual abuse that occurred out of state?
By statute, DCF will not accept reports of sexual abuse or neglect that occurred out of state, or in which the victim and/or perpetrator reside out of state. However, by statute, DCF is obligated to transfer such a report to the appropriate state.
Next Mandatory Reporter Training:
April 2021 | Stetson University College of Law’s Tampa Law Center
Mary Lee’s House partners with the Department of Children and Families to host our annual training on the issue of mandated child abuse reporting every year. Please email us at email@example.com if you’re interested in receiving updates for the April 2021 training.