Summit County Children Services (SCCS) is the child welfare agency in Summit County, Ohio, mandated to assess reports of child abuse and neglect. A mandated reporter is one who is required by law to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect either to the local child welfare agency or to law enforcement. Regardless of the specific mandated reporter law, all adults should report suspected abuse and neglect to protect children.
To make a confidential report of child abuse and neglect, call SCCS' 24-hour child abuse and neglect hotline at (330) 434-KIDS (5437). Your call will be answered by trained social work professionals who will ask you questions about the suspected child abuse and neglect.
IMPORTANT! If you suspect a child's safety or well-being is at immediate risk or in danger, please call 911. You should never make a report of child abuse and neglect to SCCS online or through email or any social media platforms … always call the 24-hour child abuse and neglect hotline.
What You Should Know About Making a Report of Child Abuse and Neglect
Below are frequently asked questions about the reporting process.
What You Should Know About Making a Report of Child Abuse and Neglect
You must report immediately, without delay. The law states that you must report whenever you know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child under age 18, or a mentally or developmentally disabled or physically impaired child under age 21 has suffered or faces a threat of suffering any physical or mental wound, injury, disability or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the child.
Can I delegate my duty to report to another person?
No! A mandated reporter must personally report known or suspected child abuse and neglect.
To whom do you make a report?
You may make a report by calling SCCS' 24-hour child abuse and neglect hotline at (330) 434-KIDS (5437) or contacting your local law enforcement agency. For child abuse or neglect emergencies, call any time during the day, night, weekends or holidays. Individuals calling SCCS from within Summit County may call collect.
Do you have a duty to investigate before making a report to the authorities?
No! Once you know of or suspected case of child abuse or neglect, it must be reported immediately. The proper authorities will assess the matter.
What should I do if a child discloses abuse to me?
When a child reports abuse or neglect to you, it is very important that you listen without expressing anger or disbelief. Children first need to know that they are believed and that the abuse or neglect is not their fault. Listen attentively and ask only open-ended questions, like "then what happened?" If possible, determine what happened, where and when it happened, and by whom. This is sometimes called a “minimal fact” interview. However, do not ask leading questions or try to draw out information, even if you are certain you know the answers. This can re-traumatize the child and contaminate the investigation. Do not attempt further investigation on your own. Make a report immediately to law enforcement, SCCS, or both. If the child has been physically injured, a description of the injury will be requested, and you will be asked to provide as much information that is known regarding the injury. Do not make false promises to the child like keeping the disclosure confidential. Trained investigators need to gather facts and details, and this may involve talking to the child. You do not need to have proof of sexual abuse to make a good faith report, only reasonable suspicion that it has occurred.
Do I have immunity when reporting child abuse and neglect?
Yes! Mandated reporters are always immune from liability. Also, anyone reporting child abuse and neglect in good faith has immunity under the law.
What information will I need to provide when making a report?
At a minimum, you will need to provide the name, address, and age of the child, the name(s) and address(es) of the parents or guardians, and the nature of the abuse or neglect. The name of the perpetrator and the relationship to the child as well as any other details of the abuse or neglect are helpful, but if the child does not readily supply this information, do not continue to question or investigate further. If accepted as a report, law enforcement or SCCS casework staff will perform the investigation, and you can add details to a report if they later become available. You are entitled to follow up at any point on a report to child protective services, which must provide you with current investigation status.
Will my report be kept confidential?
Yes! The reports and the identities of those who make the reports are confidential by law. However, if a case proceeds to court, you could be called as a witness.
What happens when I make a report?
Your report of suspected child abuse or neglect will be reviewed by trained social workers to determine if the allegations meet the legal definition of abuse, neglect or dependency. SCCS' objective is to protect the child and provide services to the family aimed at reducing stress factors which resulted in child abuse or neglect. If necessary, SCCS will initiate Juvenile Court action to protect the child. Law enforcement will determine whether there is criminal culpability requiring prosecution and, when indicated, shall initiate criminal prosecution.
What could happen if I fail to report?
There are legal penalties for failure to report. Failure to report suspected child abuse and neglect violates the Ohio Revised Code and is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree punishable by up to thirty (30) days in jail and/or a fine up to $250. In addition, civil liability may also exist.
Should I tell the parents of my report?
It is best not to contact parents about your suspicions before making a report. Doing so could result in retribution against the child, destruction of evidence, or temporary removal of a perpetrator from the home. Under some conditions you may need to maintain open communication with the parent. When this happens, never accuse a parent of wrongdoing and explain that you are legally responsible to report.
Who is mandated to report?
The law encourages everyone to report suspected child abuse and neglect. The following professionals who work with children are required to report:
- Marriage and family therapists
- Any licensed therapists
- Nurses (Registered, Licensed Practical or Visiting)
- Other health care professionals
- All school employees (Principals, Teachers, Coaches, Janitors)
- Public and private children services personnel
- Speech pathologists
- All day care or residential care personnel (including camp personnel)
- Social workers
- Law enforcement officials
- Professional Counselors
- Agents of county humane societies
- County board of developmental disabilities employees
- Home health agency employees
- Respite care workers
- Adoption assessors
- Individuals hired by Children Services to provide services to children and families
- Professionals employed by the county Department of Job & Family Services who work with children and families
- Department of Youth Services superintendents or regional administrators
- Employees of homemaker service entities
- Court appointed special advocates (CASAs) and guardian ad litem (GALs)
Contact SCCS for questions about mandated reporter requirements.