What happens after abuse is reported?

  • A Department of Human Services (DHS) supervisor screens the report of child abuse to determine whether the allegation meets the statutory definition of abuse and neglect and whether the report falls within DHS’ responsibility. DHS is mandated to investigate allegations of abuse perpetrated by a caregiver. If the alleged abuse is someone other than a caregiver, DHS is required to forward the report to law enforcement.
  • Next, DHS assigns a child welfare worker who will begin the investigation as soon as possible. If the case involves possible criminal acts, the DHS investigator will contact the appropriate law enforcement agency. DHS and law enforcement will make every attempt to conduct a joint investigation.
  • The investigators who are assigned to the case may choose to utilize CAN’s services at the Children’s Advocacy Center. CAN brings together medical, mental health, investigative, and legal professionals from multiple agencies to determine whether child abuse has occurred. CAN’s centralized approach is designed to provide more efficient, accurate, and less traumatic investigation of child abuse.
  • After the child leaves the Children’s Advocacy Center, the investigators will continue their investigations.
  • When the investigation is completed, the investigators submit their findings and recommendations to the District Attorney’s Office. The DHS child welfare caseworker will submit his/her report to the Juvenile Division of the District Attorney’s Office and the detective will submit his/her report to the Criminal Division of the District Attorney’s Office.

Frequently Asked Questions

This list of frequently asked questions is intended to answer many of your questions, ranging from: how to help your child while coping with your own feelings to whether your child has to go to court.

Contact CAN to discuss any questions you may have.

How can I help my child?

After a disclosure of abuse, children often express themselves with a range of feelings, words, and behavior. If you notice changes in your child’s behavior, be patient and listen. Respect your child’s feelings. Remember that whatever your child is feeling is okay.

Be sure to tell your child that the abuse was not his/her fault. Continue to reassure your child that you love him/her and are glad that he/she was able to tell someone. Resist any urge you may have to question your child further. Instead, let your child know if he/she wants to talk, you will be there to listen.

It may be difficult for your child to talk to you about things that are personal, painful or embarrassing. It is okay if your child needs to talk to someone else – such as a counselor or therapist. Help your child identify safe people to talk to. The Child Abuse Network can help you address your concerns in more detail and provide referral information on services in your community.

What about my own feelings?

At a time when children need adult support the most, adults are often struggling with their own emotions and reactions. You may find it is difficult to express your own feelings without confusing or frightening your child. It may help to talk about your feelings with a counselor or therapist. CAN is available to discuss counseling options for you and your family.

Will my child have to go to court?

It is possible that your child may have to go to court.

Other questions

If you have questions regarding your case, please call either your child welfare caseworker or detective.

If you don’t know who to talk to, the Child Abuse Network can help. If you have questions while you are at the Center or even after you return home, CAN staff will help you find the right person to talk to. Just call (918) 624-0200.