What Happens When You Report Someone to Social Services?

Reporting someone to Social Services
Reporting someone to Social Services

Introduction: Reporting Someone to Social Services

Child abuse is on the rise in the United States. Every year, there are almost six million children falling victim to physical, sexual, or psychological mistreatment. Even with the increasing prevalence, less than half of child abuse cases will ever be reported. Neighbors, friends, and relatives are often too nervous or afraid to contact Social Services and stop the abuse. Some worry they will break the family apart, especially if they are wrong, while others fear retaliation from the abuser.

The reality is actually on the contrary:

  • Reporting someone to social services is nothing to fear. The individual you report will never know that you are the one who made the call, so retaliation is not an option.
  • Further, social services will not take any action against the person you report if they find no evidence of abuse or neglect. In fact, the report and the ensuing investigation will never become a part of the individual’s record.
  • Likewise, social services will never remove a child from the home if your suspicions were incorrect.

On the other hand, if you are correct about the abuse, you could help save a child’s life. So, don't fear. In this article, find learn about what happens when it comes to reporting someone to social services, which includes the:

  • report
  • investigation
  • outcome,
  • your identity, and
  • your liability.

Filing a Social Services Report

  1. Connecting with a dispatcher. When you first contact social services, you will be connected with a dispatcher, who is only trained in accepting reports. She will not be able to investigate the matter herself nor provide you with any specific information. However the dispatcher can tell you how the investigation will be conducted, what they usually do next, and what else you can do to help. However she cannot share private information about the matter with you.
  2. Gathering contact information. The dispatcher will ask you for your name, your telephone number, and your location. If you would rather make an anonymous report, you can state as such or you can provide an alias or false name. However, regardless of the name you provide, you should provide a working telephone number—this will allow social services to contact you again if they need any additional information to help them investigate your report. If you absolutely cannot give your telephone number, then offer an e-mail address instead.
  3. Information about the abuse in question. After gathering your contact information, the dispatcher will then ask you about the abuse you want to report. She will ask you for the victim’s name, age, date of birth, and physical address. If you know where the victim goes to school or works, give this information as well. The dispatcher will then ask for the abuser’s name, age, address, place of work, and a physical description. If the parents are not the abusers, the dispatcher will also ask for the parents’ information.

Provide as much information as you can, even if you think what you know is irrelevant. The more information you offer, the better chance social services has to stop the abuser. Conversely, if you do not know much about the situation, then provide what little information you have. Social services will do their best to fill in the rest.

The Social Services Investigation

  1. Assigning a caseworker. After receiving your report, a caseworker will be assigned to investigate your suspicions. Most agencies investigate reports of child abuse and neglect within 24 to 72 hours. However, this may vary depending on when you made the report, the severity of the abuse and the individual agency’s caseload.
  2. The caseworker's investigation. The caseworker will visit the victim’s home first, and if possible, speak with the victim alone. The caseworker may also conduct a walk-through of the victim’s residence to ensure the child is receiving the proper care. Afterwards, the caseworker will visit with and interview the alleged abuser, and the parents if they are not one in the same.
  3. Imminent danger will be determined. If the caseworker believes the victim is in imminent danger and the victim is living with the abuser, the caseworker may remove the victim from the residence immediately. If the victim is a minor child, the child may be temporarily placed with other relatives or put into foster care until the investigation concludes. If no imminent danger is apparent, the caseworker will not do anything at that time.

The Outcome of a Social Services Investigation

  1. A determination by the agency. After completing the initial investigation, the caseworker will discuss her findings with his or her superior, and the two will work together to decide if abuse is apparent and what should happen next. The caseworker may return for another, more thorough investigation if social services determines this is necessary.
  2. If social services believes there is no abuse. If social services determines that no abuse took place, nothing will happen to the family. The caseworker may visit once more for a quick interview, or she may not visit again at all. The family will then receive a letter clearing them from any wrongdoing, and social services will officially close the matter. The report and ensuing investigation will not become a part of the alleged abuser’s criminal record.
  3. If social services believes there is abuse. If social services believes that abuse did occur, then the agency will take steps to correct the situation.
  • In less severe cases, the caseworker may offer counseling, training, and other family support services to the abuser.
  • In more severe cases, the victim may be removed on a more longterm—but still temporary—basis until the abuser can demonstrate he or she is fit to regain custody or guardianship again.
  • In the most critical cases, the abuser may be arrested and charged for the abuse and the victim may be permanently removed from the abuser’s care. If this happens, the victim may be placed in longterm foster care, put under the guardianship of another relative or placed for adoption.

Your Identity During a Social Services Investigation

  • Your identity remains protected. Regardless of the outcome, no one other than social services will ever know you are the one who made the report. The dispatcher and the caseworker are the only ones who will know your name, and will not release it to the abuser, the victim or anyone else.
  • Your report will also be protected. Social services also won’t divulge the contents of your report, so there is no possibility that anyone will be able to trace the report back to you. The only way anyone other than social services will know you made the report is if you tell them yourself.

Your Liability If You Make a Social Services Report

  • No liability if made in good faith. Regardless of the outcome, all 50 states exempt individuals who report abuse from any civil or criminal liability, even if your suspicions prove wrong, provided you made the report in good faith. This means that you truly believed that there was ongoing abuse, or you truly suspected that abuse might have occurred. You will never face criminal prosecution for reporting someone to social services because you were mistaken.
  • Liability possible if you had a malicious intent. However, if you knowingly make a false report to social services, particularly if you did so to harass or intimidate the accused, you could be charged with a crime. If you make numerous false reports, social services can release your name to the person you report and that person can file a civil lawsuit against you for compensation. The key point here is that you knew you were making a false report, you meant to make a false report and you did so for a malicious reason.

Comments 19 comments

GOT MY REPORT 4 years ago

"Social Services also won’t divulge the contents of your report, so there is no possibility that anyone will be able to trace the report back to you."

FALSE. I have the contents of our UNFOUNDED report, and yes, it was VERY EASY to ID the "confidential" reporters, as in more than one. All they do is redact the names and relationships/titles of the reporters, and the rest is fair game to read. C'mon, y'all, call social services again. I dare you. Ha ha!

kelly 4 years ago

how long after you give birth will social services turn up at the hospital

magnus stanley 4 years ago

when u say somebody is socal what does it mean

theress 2 years ago

Will social services ever divulge the name of the person who reported the incident at all, is this true

NewYork2013 2 years ago

I am thinking about reporting somebody too, but I worry that if they disclose the content to the parents, they can figure out who I am and retaliate. It seems like "confidential" is not really confidential which is a major flaw to the system.

Cynthia 2 years ago

I also was reported on years ago. It was faulse and unfounded and the social worker named the people who reported by first and last name and relationship in the file as well as what they said to the exact word.

I did not receive the information while I was investigated but once the file closed I was able to look at all of it!

It's on file for 99 years and sadly this file will follow my children and grandchildren. My mother was a reporter all because she was mad and I'm sure my kids will be so proud when they grow up and god forbid ever have to deal with them..... Sad

Worried 2 years ago

My friend has gotten her kids back, but it seems that she still doesn't care for them at all. They still don't take showers, she makes the oldest one take care of all her younger children. Her drug addict husband still comes around even though he's not allowed to see her kids she still bring him around. I dont know who to call.

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john doe 22 months ago

In the UK if i have asked to remain anonymous and have since making the report about a friend of mine I had real concerns for regarding their mental health and welbeing I have phoned back and had my name and details removed from the complaint forms but can my friend still find out it was me in anyway because I don't want to lose a friendship I'm just concerned about her and don't know how else to help her. But after seeing these posts in now regretting making the complaint as I think its going to cause a lot of backlash between us...any advice please people?

Jane doe 21 months ago

My dads girlfriend is mentally abusive to my sister and I she won't let us eat anything in the house we go weeks without eatting except on the weekends because we go to my grandmothers or aunties house during the week we eat once a week. She turns off the water in the house so we can't use it. My mom passed away and she's always saying we could go die along with her. I have letters she had wrote us threatening to do different things. shes bipolar and takes medication she did go to anger management before and almost lost her son. I have voice recordings of her also calling us names and other foul things. we put up with this for over 5 years and i feel as of now i can speak up about it. I'm 17 almost 18 but my sisters 16 and I'm not going to let her stay here and suffer. This woman is also a drunk and constantly drinks. Can I report her to social services? If so will they help us get out of this house?

iluvmychild 19 months ago

Have you tried telling someone at the school? There is a social worker at the school. I hope all works out. Very concerned

Anon 18 months ago

I'm only 16 and I'm not sure if I make a report it would go through. I love my niece and nephew so much and only wish them the best but the mom is the worst. She's always screaming at them cause to her it's the only way they'll listen. This screaming soon turned into cussing and hitting and my brother, well where to start. He's such a drunk and I know these kids are in danger so bad cause if the alcoholic dad they have and the mom they have too. I don't know what to do and im scared they'll find out I reported it. I don't know what to do, I don't wanna tear my family a part but I also don't want my niece and nephew living in such fear

Kelly 17 months ago

I know this woman who doesn't want to take care of none of her kids. They found weed in her system while she was pregnant and she still hasn't stopped. When I see the kids, they don't have clothes, the baby has no pampers and no wipes, nor socks. What should I do?

maria wlks 16 months ago

I know of 2 twins who sre filthydirty and are always covered in bruises and they keep making funny comets wat to do?

Jaimie Nolguen 15 months ago

My boyfriends parents are here illegally I don't want to get them in trouble I just want what's best for the two little kids living in that home... The house is filled with roaches like infested severely! The kids are always sick and in bad health they never have decent clothing on. the dad is drinking everyday along with drug addiction to cocaine. There are always random people in and out of the house. My boyfriend and I just moved out cause we were about to have a baby of our own what can I do to help these kids?

Escobar 15 months ago

What is there to report of a mother leaving her daughter with her father in another country and still receive benefits from welfare for her here I. The U.S.?

debra 9 months ago

Please dont be afraid to Report any kind of Abuse these Children neeed us to Save Them. They Count on us Adults. Be Strong for the Children. U Would want the Same for Your Loved One.

Daniel 4 months ago

My ex-wife and FOUR children went to Ireland in 2002 as Asylum seekers and are now full Irish Citizens with Irish passports. They all now live in the United Kingdom.The ages of my children are: 20, 18, 17, 12. The senior one is in the university and the only boy is autistic. I presently live and work here in Nigeria. I want to know if I can LIVE and WORK in the UK on the strength of my FOUR children. I want to see my children often and be in their lives. Kindly advise further on this please

Ike petty 2 weeks ago

My family needs help

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