The Duty to Report Child Abuse

In Community by Elizabeth Stephenson

Children are our most vulnerable population of people and cannot protect themselves. They rely on the eyes and ears of our entire community to protect them. That is why when a child is abused or neglected, we have a duty to speak up. The North Carolina Division of Social Services is tasked with the responsibility of receiving reports of abuse or neglect of children and investigating those reports; however, in order to protect children, Child Protective Services relies on citizens, like you, to make these reports.

How Do I Identify Abuse or Neglect?

Abuse is considered by the State as “intentional maltreatment of a child and can be physical, sexual, or emotional in nature.” Neglect is an omission, or a failure to provide proper care, supervision, or medical care for the child. It can also mean abandonment or allowing the child to live in an “injurious” environment. There are many signs of abuse or neglect to look for in a child. The obvious signs may be observable physical injuries, ones that do not appear properly care for or that there is an unlikely explanation behind the injury. There may be other signs like when a child seems un-bathed, shows signs of malnutrition, or has lice or rotten teeth. There may be behavioral signs from a child, such as big changes in behavior, signs of extreme stress and fear, aggression. In addition, a child may make concerning statements or outcries of abuse or neglect. There is no comprehensive list, but instead you must rely on your gut feelings and your own moral compass to guide you.

Who Can Report Abuse or Neglect?

Anyone can be a reporter of child abuse. This includes strangers, neighbors, church members, family members, and friends. In addition, many reports of abuse and neglect are made by professional reporters. This includes people in a position to interact with children, such as teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, and doctors. If you are worried about putting yourself into personal danger, or subjecting yourself to personal liability if it turns out a child has not been abuse, do not worry. First, if you make a report of child abuse or neglect in good faith, you are protected by the law. And significantly, when you make a report, your identity is to remain confidential, and CPS is generally prohibited from releasing your name.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect is the Law

Reporting child abuse is mandatory in North Carolina, meaning that failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is punishable by law. The North Carolina General Statutes requires that “Any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, […] or has died as the result of maltreatment, shall report the case of that juvenile to the director of the department of social services in the county where the juvenile resides or is found. The report may be made orally, by telephone, or in writing.” If a person “knowingly or wantonly fails” to make such a report of abuse or neglect is subject to a Class 1 Misdemeanor offense.

Report Abuse or Neglect to Your Local CPS Office

For your reference, we have provided the following child abuse reporting phone numbers for the counties that we serve. If you observe or suspect child abuse, please call the number listed below. In addition, many of these counties accept in-person reports of child abuse their local offices. Please visit the website for your county for more information.

North Carolina Division of Social Services

Wake County. Reporting Number: (919) 212-7990. Visit their website.

Johnston County. Reporting Number: (919) 989-5300. Visit their website.

Lee County. Reporting Number: (919) 718-4690. Visit their website.

Harnett County. Reporting Number: (910) 893-7500. Visit their website.

Cumberland County. Reporting Number: 910-677-2450. Visit their website.

Nash County. Reporting Number: (252) 459-9818. Visit their website.

Granville County. Reporting Number: (919) 693-1511. Visit their website.

Franklin County. Reporting Number: (919) 496-5721. Visit their website.

Durham County. Reporting Number: (919) 560-8424. Visit their website.

Let New Direction Family Law Guide You Through Your Divorce

New Direction Family Law has advocated for children for more than two decades. We believe that children are fully deserving of safety and stability and encourage you to call CPS if you believe a child is being abused or neglected. If you are in a child custody situation that involves abuse of your child by their other parent, call us. Our team has built a reputation as tough, yet caring professionals who fights for our clients and their children. Call our office today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us at our website.