Q: Can I report anonymously?
A: Yes. Anyone can report anonymously; however, if you report anonymously, there will be no proof you fulfilled your legal mandate to report suspected abuse and/or neglect. In addition, you will not be able to receive feedback as allowed by South Dakota Law regarding the agency’s response to the report.
Q: What if I don’t know or have all the information suggested to report?
A: If you don’t know all the information, that’s ok. Gather as much as you can and report. If you suspect abuse or neglect, you must immediately report. Share what information you can. Do not delay reporting in an attempt to collect more information. Child Protection Services or law enforcement will determine what further steps might be needed, based on the information you provide and any other information they might have or be able to obtain.
Q: Can Child Protection Services and/or law enforcement interview the child(ren) without the consent of the parents?
A: Yes. The Department of Social Services and/or law enforcement can investigate without notifying the parents prior to the interview. South Dakota Codified Law 26-8A-9 states “The Department of Social Services or law enforcement officers shall investigate. Investigating personnel may personally interview a child out of the presence of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian without advance notice or consent.”
Q: What if I am wrong?
A: As long as you are reporting abuse or neglect in good faith, it is better to err on the side of caution and make the report. South Dakota Codified Law 26-8A-14 states “Any person or party participating in good faith in the making of a report or the submitting of copies of medical examination, treatment or hospitalization records pursuant to 26-8A-3 to 26-8A-8 or pursuant to any other provisions of this chapter, is immune from any liability, civil or criminal that might otherwise be incurred or imposed, and has the same immunity for participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from the report.”
Q: How can you tell the difference between physical abuse and an accidental injury?
A: Physical abuse and accidental injuries can look very similar; however, there are important differences. Cuts and bruises caused from accidents normally occur in “bony” areas of the body, such as knees and elbows. Physical abuse injuries often appear in soft tissue areas, such as the stomach, buttocks, or cheeks. In addition, be aware of multiple injuries in different stages of healing or injuries that appear to be a pattern or resemble an object, such as a ruler, wooden spoon, or electrical cord. Remember, when in doubt, report the situation.
Q: If I believe other professionals involved with a family may have already reported, do I still need to make a report if I suspect abuse or neglect?
A: It is never ok to assume someone else has made a report. Consider the possible tragic consequences for a child if all potential reporters assume someone else made a report. Even if someone has, you could have information the other person did not know and did not report, information important to decision-making in the case. A mandated reporter has an individual responsibility to report if he/she suspects maltreatment.
Q: What if I suspect a child has been abused or neglected but I have a good relationship with the family and believe I can give them the help they need without reporting? Can I try to help them first and then report only if they don’t respond to my help?
A: If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you must immediately report regardless of your relationship with the family. The assistance you might provide could certainly be helpful to the family, but it would likely only be a portion of what the family needs to assure the children are kept safe and are not maltreated. That is the purpose of Child Protection Services – to assess service needs related to child safety and assure the family receives the services targeted to meet those needs.
Q: Why does Child Protection Services ask if the child has Native American heritage?
A: Native American children must be identified as quickly as possible when child abuse or neglect is suspected. Indian tribes are sovereign nations and have the right to intervene if an Indian child of the tribe might be removed from his/her home, even when the child does not reside on tribal lands.
Q: Why does Child Protection Services screen out some reports? Why doesn't Child Protection Services investigate every report it receives?
A: Families have a right to privacy under the Constitution including the right to raise their children as they see fit, as long as the basic needs of the children are being met. Child Protection Services and law enforcement have the authority to intervene when there is reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect has occurred or will occur. Child Protection Services must make the determination based on the reporter’s information and any other information Child Protection Services might have. That results in some reports being screened out. However, you should not fail to report suspected child maltreatment, because you anticipate Child Protection Services will screen out the report. If you suspect maltreatment, you must report. Even when reports are screened out, Child Protection Services maintains a record of reports for a period of time in accordance with South Dakota’s law regarding retention of child abuse and neglect reports.
Q: Do Child Protection Services and law enforcement always remove children from the home?
A: The first priority of Child Protection Services and law enforcement agencies is the safety of the child, but this does not necessarily mean the child will be removed from the home. Child Protection Services and/or law enforcement first complete an assessment to determine whether the children are safe. If the safety assessment results in a determination the children are not safe, Child Protection Services and/or law enforcement will strategize various interventions to keep the children safe in the home, if at all possible. The children are only removed if a determination is made the children cannot be kept safe within the home, even with available supports and services. If a child must be removed for his/her own safety, a judge may order removal of the child from the situation or a law enforcement officer may take protective custody. Child Protection Services does not have the authority to remove children, only the Court and law enforcement are able to do so.
Q: I am not included in the list of mandatory reporters. Am I able to call in my concern of child abuse or neglect?
A: Yes, any person with a concern of child abuse or neglect may call to report and is encouraged to do so.