Reporting Child Abuse


Call 877-237-0004 or visit the Tennessee Department of Children's Services websiteto report abuse or neglect.

En español:Cómo Reportar el Abuso Infantil: Lo Que Tiene Que Saber Para Reportar el Abuso o Maltrato de Niños 

What happens when I call?
When a person notifies the Department of Children's Services regarding possible abuse or neglect of a child, the Department of Children's Services, Child Abuse Hotline case managers determine how quickly to respond with an investigation. The Child Abuse Hotline will gather sufficient information to determine if the report meets minimal criteria.

The report must meet the following criteria to be accepted for assignment:

1. The report pertains to a child under the age of 18 years.
2. The report alleges harm or imminent risk of harm to the child. 
3. The alleged perpetrator is:

· A parent or caretaker

· A relative or other person living in the home

· An educator, volunteer, employee of recreational/organizational setting who is responsible for the child

· Any individual providing treatment, care or supervision for the child

4. The report must contain information as to where to locate the alleged victim(s).

DCS accepts all referrals involving sexual abuse of children under the age of 13 years regardless of the previous relationship between the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator.

DCS does not investigate sexual abuse allegations of a child 13–18 years old by an alleged perpetrator who does not have a relationship with the child, as defined above unless the child is in the department's custody. DCS may assist law enforcement or the district attorney's office in such cases.

What information will I be asked to provide?

· Name and age of the child

· Nature of the harm or specific incident(s) that precipitated the report

· Specific allegation(s), date(s) and description(s) of the injuries or dangers

· Identities of alleged perpetrator(s) and their relationships to the victim

· Witnesses to the incident(s) and how to reach those witnesses

· Details of any physical evidence available

· Perpetrator's current access to the child

· Present condition of the child (alone, in need of medical attention, etc.)

· The location of the child and directions to get there

· Any statements from the child

· Parent's or perpetrator's explanation of the alleged child victim's condition or the incident

· Parent's current emotional, physical or mental state, especially feelings about the child and reactions to the report

· How the reporter came to know the information and the reporter's thoughts about the likelihood of further harm to the child

Reporters may remain anonymous. The reporter's identity is confidential, but if a name, is given the department can follow up with the reporter if necessary. The reporter is free from civil or criminal liability for reports of suspected child abuse or neglect made in good faith.

What happens in an investigation?
The process of investigation can include talking with the alleged child victim (or observing a young, nonverbal child), parents and/or alleged perpetrator. Child Protective Services workers will gather important medical and psychological information and will work with their counterparts in the medical, psychological, judicial and law enforcement fields. The investigations can also include interviews of neighbors or friends who have knowledge of the child's situation.

Investigators constantly evaluate the risk to the alleged child victim during the entire investigative process.

In reports involving severe child abuse, DCS will notify the local district attorney and law enforcement offices. These include reports that involve a child's death or serious injury or situations involving torture, malnutrition and child sexual abuse.

Furthermore, Tennessee law requires local Child Protective Investigation Teams to review certain cases. The CPIT in each county includes representatives from DCS, the local district attorney general’s office, juvenile court, law enforcement and the mental health profession.

Learn the warning signs of child abuse (English).

Learn the warning signs of child abuse (Spanish).