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Missouri Law and Reporting Abuse

In Missouri, if you have “reasonable cause to believe” a child is being abused or neglected you must report that suspicion to the state Department of Children’s Services or law enforcement—and you are required by law to do it immediately.

Specific Mandated Reporting Information

  • By law, mandated reporters are physicians, nurses, social workers, day care staff, teachers, ministers and law enforcement officials.
  • Mandated reporters also include any other person with responsibility for the care of children.
  • Mandated reporters are required by state statute to report abuse/neglect when they have reasonable cause to suspect a child has been or is being abused/neglected, or if a child is observed as being subjected to such conditions or circumstances.
  • Failure to report is a class A misdemeanor.  The guilty party may face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, either, or both.
  • The Missouri Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline Unit (CANHU) is operated 24/7/365.  It is run by 52 trained and experienced Children’s Services workers.
  • The toll-free number for the state of Missouri is: 1-800-392-3738.

Although the above mentioned individuals are required by law to report incidences of child abuse/neglect, anyone who has a reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused is encouraged to call the child abuse hotline.  The process is the same as that of a mandated reporter.

Whenever possible, the report must include:

  • Name(s) and address(es) of the child and those responsible for his/her care if known
  • Child’s age, sex, and race
  • Nature and extent of the child’s injuries, abuse, or neglect
  • Family composition
  • Source of the report
  • Name and address of person making the report, his/her occupation, and where he/she can be reached (Note: a mandated reporter, by law, may not remain anonymous!).
  • Actions taken by the reporting source including any x-rays, photos, or other useful information- the more, the better!
  • Chances are, the operator or agent will ask:
  • Is the child in a life-threatening situation now?
  • How do you know about the abuse/neglect?
  • Did you witness the abuse/neglect?
  • Were there other witnesses and how can they be contacted?
  • If you thought to yourself “Maybe I should call….”, DO!  Always err on the side of caution.  No harm will be done by making a call even if the child is not being abused.
  • If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

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Do not attempt to conduct your own investigation. Report your suspicions to the proper authorities. It is the role of the state Department of Children’s Services or law enforcement to investigate the report. However, all reports do not meet the criteria for investigation. If you suspect additional abuse after the initial report has been made, report that as well.

As a mandated reporter you are protected by the state in terms of liability and confidentiality. Reporters who “act in good faith” are immune from any civil or criminal charges which may result.

If you are unsure whether or not you have reasonable cause, go ahead and call. Borderline cases are of great concern—abuse occurs in approximately 50% of these cases if intervention does not take place. In 35% of these cases, the children will eventually be severely injured. Approximately 1.7% of these children will be killed.

If you are a teacher, know your school’s rules
Individual schools may have their own reporting rules. Some may require the head teacher or principal be informed, who then will make the official report. Please note that should the higher administrator of your school fail to report, you are not released from your obligation to do so.

Reporting is a request for investigation. Do not attempt to conduct your own investigation. Report your suspicions to the proper authorities. It is the role of the state Department of Children’s Services or law enforcement to investigate the report. However, all reports do not meet the criteria for investigation. If you suspect additional abuse after the initial report has been made, report that as well.

As a mandated reporter you are protected by the state in terms of liability and confidentiality. Reporters who “act in good faith” are immune from any civil or criminal charges which may result.

Follow your feelings
If you are unsure whether or not you have reasonable cause, go ahead and call. Borderline cases are of great concern—abuse occurs in approximately 50% of these cases if intervention does not take place. In 35% of these cases, the children will eventually be severely injured. Approximately 1.7% of these children will be killed.

Some guidelines suggested by many teachers are:

  • Resolve doubt in favor of the child.
  • Discuss your observations and concerns privately with other staff who know the child. Make sure no children can hear you.
  • Let the children in your care know they can talk to you.
  • If you sense a child is trying to tell you something, let the child know you will believe and help her/him with any problem.
  • Be direct. Go to a private place and ask gently if the child is having a problem with which he or she needs help.
  • Respect the child’s privacy by not discussing the situation with others.
  • Believe the child who discloses. Children do not lie about sexual abuse.

Rainbow House offers free workshops on the signs/symptoms of child abuse as well as an overview of mandated reporting.  These workshops can be done on-site at your organization or agency.  Please call Kelsey Louder at 573.474.6600 x3203 for more information.