How to deal with child abuse
Reporting child abuse
If you suspect that a child is being abused in any way, you should report your suspicions immediately. While the law does not impose any obligation on a person to report child abuse, it specifically provides that someone who believes that a child or young person has been or is likely to be harmed (whether physically, emotionally, or sexually), ill-treated, abused, neglected, or deprived may report the matter to the Police or to a Social Worker from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services (DCYFS).
How will my report be dealt with?
The Social Worker or Police officer to whom you report the matter is required to investigate it as soon as is practicable. If it is decided that the child or young person needs care and protection the Social Worker or Police officer must notify a Care and Protection Co-ordinator, and the Co-ordinator must arrange a family group conference (see How to: Family group conferences called for the care and protection of a child).
In some cases where the child has committed offences the case must be referred instead to a Youth Justice Co-ordinator, who must arrange a family group conference if he or she believes that it is necessary to obtain a care and protection order from the Family Court (see How to: Family group conferences dealing with young offenders).
The authorities to whom you report the abuse should keep you informed of the steps they are taking. Criminal proceedings can be brought against the perpetrator of the abuse.
Powers of removal
The DCYFS or the Police can obtain a warrant from the court or from a Justice of the Peace for the removal of a child suffering abuse. However, the Police also have the power to remove a child without a warrant if they believe that doing so is critically necessary to protect the child from injury or death. Social workers do not have this power.
Protection from liability for those who report abuse
If you make a report of alleged abuse of a child in good faith, you are protected from any civil, criminal or disciplinary proceedings. Further, you will not be revealed as the source of the information.
Protection for children under the Domestic Violence Act
Protection orders can be obtained for children under the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT 1995 (see How to obtain a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act). The children of a person who applies for a protection order are automatically protected by the order in the same way as the applicant is protected. A person who breaches a protection order is subject to imprisonment or heavy fines, or both.
The person against whom the order is made can't have contact with the children unless the court specifically allows this, in which case access will generally be supervised.
- If a person alleges child abuse in bad faith, the protection against criminal, civil and disciplinary proceedings does not apply.