What Happens When You Report Someone to Social Services?

Updated on June 6, 2015
Reporting someone to Social Services
Reporting someone to Social Services

Introduction: Reporting Someone to Social Services

Child abuse is on the rise in the United States. Every year, there are almost six million children falling victim to physical, sexual, or psychological mistreatment. Even with the increasing prevalence, less than half of child abuse cases will ever be reported. Neighbors, friends, and relatives are often too nervous or afraid to contact Social Services and stop the abuse. Some worry they will break the family apart, especially if they are wrong, while others fear retaliation from the abuser.

The reality is actually on the contrary:

  • Reporting someone to social services is nothing to fear. The individual you report will never know that you are the one who made the call, so retaliation is not an option.
  • Further, social services will not take any action against the person you report if they find no evidence of abuse or neglect. In fact, the report and the ensuing investigation will never become a part of the individual’s record.
  • Likewise, social services will never remove a child from the home if your suspicions were incorrect.

On the other hand, if you are correct about the abuse, you could help save a child’s life. So, don't fear. In this article, find learn about what happens when it comes to reporting someone to social services, which includes the:

  • report
  • investigation
  • outcome,
  • your identity, and
  • your liability.

Filing a Social Services Report

  1. Connecting with a dispatcher. When you first contact social services, you will be connected with a dispatcher, who is only trained in accepting reports. She will not be able to investigate the matter herself nor provide you with any specific information. However the dispatcher can tell you how the investigation will be conducted, what they usually do next, and what else you can do to help. However she cannot share private information about the matter with you.
  2. Gathering contact information. The dispatcher will ask you for your name, your telephone number, and your location. If you would rather make an anonymous report, you can state as such or you can provide an alias or false name. However, regardless of the name you provide, you should provide a working telephone number—this will allow social services to contact you again if they need any additional information to help them investigate your report. If you absolutely cannot give your telephone number, then offer an e-mail address instead.
  3. Information about the abuse in question. After gathering your contact information, the dispatcher will then ask you about the abuse you want to report. She will ask you for the victim’s name, age, date of birth, and physical address. If you know where the victim goes to school or works, give this information as well. The dispatcher will then ask for the abuser’s name, age, address, place of work, and a physical description. If the parents are not the abusers, the dispatcher will also ask for the parents’ information.

Provide as much information as you can, even if you think what you know is irrelevant. The more information you offer, the better chance social services has to stop the abuser. Conversely, if you do not know much about the situation, then provide what little information you have. Social services will do their best to fill in the rest.

The Social Services Investigation

  1. Assigning a caseworker. After receiving your report, a caseworker will be assigned to investigate your suspicions. Most agencies investigate reports of child abuse and neglect within 24 to 72 hours. However, this may vary depending on when you made the report, the severity of the abuse and the individual agency’s caseload.
  2. The caseworker's investigation. The caseworker will visit the victim’s home first, and if possible, speak with the victim alone. The caseworker may also conduct a walk-through of the victim’s residence to ensure the child is receiving the proper care. Afterwards, the caseworker will visit with and interview the alleged abuser, and the parents if they are not one in the same.
  3. Imminent danger will be determined. If the caseworker believes the victim is in imminent danger and the victim is living with the abuser, the caseworker may remove the victim from the residence immediately. If the victim is a minor child, the child may be temporarily placed with other relatives or put into foster care until the investigation concludes. If no imminent danger is apparent, the caseworker will not do anything at that time.

The Outcome of a Social Services Investigation

  1. A determination by the agency. After completing the initial investigation, the caseworker will discuss her findings with his or her superior, and the two will work together to decide if abuse is apparent and what should happen next. The caseworker may return for another, more thorough investigation if social services determines this is necessary.
  2. If social services believes there is no abuse. If social services determines that no abuse took place, nothing will happen to the family. The caseworker may visit once more for a quick interview, or she may not visit again at all. The family will then receive a letter clearing them from any wrongdoing, and social services will officially close the matter. The report and ensuing investigation will not become a part of the alleged abuser’s criminal record.
  3. If social services believes there is abuse. If social services believes that abuse did occur, then the agency will take steps to correct the situation.
  • In less severe cases, the caseworker may offer counseling, training, and other family support services to the abuser.
  • In more severe cases, the victim may be removed on a more longterm—but still temporary—basis until the abuser can demonstrate he or she is fit to regain custody or guardianship again.
  • In the most critical cases, the abuser may be arrested and charged for the abuse and the victim may be permanently removed from the abuser’s care. If this happens, the victim may be placed in longterm foster care, put under the guardianship of another relative or placed for adoption.

Your Identity During a Social Services Investigation

  • Your identity remains protected. Regardless of the outcome, no one other than social services will ever know you are the one who made the report. The dispatcher and the caseworker are the only ones who will know your name, and will not release it to the abuser, the victim or anyone else.
  • Your report will also be protected. Social services also won’t divulge the contents of your report, so there is no possibility that anyone will be able to trace the report back to you. The only way anyone other than social services will know you made the report is if you tell them yourself.

Your Liability If You Make a Social Services Report

  • No liability if made in good faith. Regardless of the outcome, all 50 states exempt individuals who report abuse from any civil or criminal liability, even if your suspicions prove wrong, provided you made the report in good faith. This means that you truly believed that there was ongoing abuse, or you truly suspected that abuse might have occurred. You will never face criminal prosecution for reporting someone to social services because you were mistaken.
  • Liability possible if you had a malicious intent. However, if you knowingly make a false report to social services, particularly if you did so to harass or intimidate the accused, you could be charged with a crime. If you make numerous false reports, social services can release your name to the person you report and that person can file a civil lawsuit against you for compensation. The key point here is that you knew you were making a false report, you meant to make a false report and you did so for a malicious reason.


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    • profile image

      Anonymous 13 hours ago

      I know that a person called Debbie Doy is around children when she isnt allowed round children the couple that are letting her around there child is Dale knowles and Sarah harris, i think you should look into this

    • profile image

      vinny 8 days ago

      I currently have a guy harassing my family by making false reports to DCS and there seems to be nothing that can be done about it. The funny thing is, the guy did help me get free child care for a year!

    • profile image

      Mary 2 weeks ago

      Don't bother with CSP - they have ignored facts, physical marks, phone calls , blatant sexualized behavior and comments from a 3 year old.. now 5. Developmentally delayed , unable to " tell " the courts , crisis center stated there was no abuse. Just unknown?!

      CPS refuses to see child in ER now when brought to be checked for Mark's , concerned family labeled overzealous.

      The child repeatedly placed in harm's way lives w mom/ husband abused teens in 1 bedroom apt. Exposed to guns, drugs illegal , illicit activity And that is of NO concern to CPS or the court ...

      It will become a concern when it hits the newspaper when another child dies

    • profile image

      Clyde 5 weeks ago

      what is the recourse or outcome if the abuser or person that was turned in to cps threatens someone he suspects turned him in?

    • profile image

      Anonymous 5 weeks ago

      Can neglect/abuse towards children be considered if you are a single father of 2 boys and 1 girl but you are living in a remodeled garage that is basically like a studio apartment. It does have a closed off bathroom but everything else is open. There is no kitchen sink just a stove and microwave. The father lately has also been having his adult nephew stay with him. The nephew sleeps on the couch, the 2 boys have their bed and the daughter is sleeping in the same bed as the father. He always has dirty laundry and dishes throughout the home. Would this be enough to be considered abuse/neglect?

    • profile image

      B Rickman 5 weeks ago

      I am concerned about the welfare of my grand daughter. My daughter has been acting very bizarre for quite a while. She has even been telling people I threatened to murder her husband. Which, of course, I did not. She acts like someone that has been brainwashed and even though she was always a strong willed person I feel her husband is the cause of all of this. There is much diagnosed mental illness in his family. Paranoid schizophrenics, addictive personalities, alcohol and when he was very young, abusive treatment from his mother. He appears to have a split personality himself. Like Jekyll and Hyde. I am so afraid for my 22 month old grand daughter. My daughters behavior is so unlike her. What can I do about this?

    • profile image

      Saina 5 weeks ago

      To the previous anon, yes, you can. Under federal law that is not only potentially an exposing a child to sexual material and indecent exposure to a minor charge, but also child endangerment. It also is a drug charge and prostitution. Even just one of those is enough for you to have your children removed.

    • profile image

      Anon 6 weeks ago

      Can you report someone who's got three children under the age of 11 living with them while they're smoking weed and using their home bro have sex with ramdon men for money on a daily basis? Surly this can't be allowed when you've got children living in the same hime your inviting strange men into your home? Poor children have watched their mother get with bloke after bloke and most of them are violent towards the mother.

    • profile image

      Will a drug test be performed is the parent is on drugs 6 weeks ago

      She’s on drugs taking care of a one year old. Will she be tested if reported

    • profile image

      Anonymous 6 weeks ago

      If someone called CPS on someone who they thought the parents were doing wrong and the CPS worker didn't find anything and the mother who is very upset knows someone who is in charge of the system. Are they legally aloud to have their friend/family investigate the matter and release the persons phone number to the mother even though the caller remained Anonymous. Didn't give a name or phone number. What could happen?

    • profile image

      Anonymous 7 weeks ago

      I have a mother who grabbed a garden hose and hit me with it she also grabbed a bottle of shampoo which was full and hit me with it until I sobbed she then pushed the hose into my face. She grabbed my hair and hit my head black. With one swift motion she slapped me in the back of the neck. I’m terrified to call child services help.

    • profile image

      Annie 7 weeks ago

      How Can I report a social worker who has a drug dealer living in her home and she goes to s el drugs with him

    • profile image

      Cliff Mcgeough 7 weeks ago

      How could u help my girlfriend stop bulling and swearing and useing my kids like dogs

    • profile image

      Bryony allen 2 months ago

      Hi I’m bryony I’m only 21 and I keep on getting hurt and they think that social services won’t do anything to protect me

    • profile image

      Daniel 2 months ago

      My mom keeps yelling and yelling she hit me ones and tells to go die and that I was a mistake

    • profile image

      Miss class 2 months ago

      I knowas stuff bout a mother selling taking heroin selling taking heroin... they literally fight! She thinknows she's a good mum! I've witnessed different! She swears at her mum tell her to shut up in find it appalling! What do I do??

    • profile image

      Mrs stone 3 months ago

      Hey I am a bit worried about a man that keeps having a young boy stopping at his bedsit with him I find it a little odd they my be nothing to it but it need checking out this is happening at 7 chapel close birdwell barnsley s70 5ul

    • profile image

      anairhoadskotatis 3 months ago

      worked like a charm when i called, just tell CPS that you witnessed the father raping the children and you will see them drag the family out of their homes by the hair in front of police doing their rambo acts.

      now thats how i get rid of neighbours who complain that i never pay them money back i owe lol!

    • profile image

      Terry Walters 3 months ago

      Hi if I knownof someone who is using illegal drugs and has three children can I report them. I love in Florida and honestly do not know much if any personal information about the women herself or anything about her children. I only know she is abusing drugs, is there anything I can do to at least report her and maybe have someone look into it!? Thanks

    • profile image

      John 3 months ago

      What about parents/legal guardians using/being under the influence of drugs in front of small children? Can this be reported? How can someone that is high be responsible for children?

    • profile image

      Louise 3 months ago

      How do u report someone for having there child around a violent, drug taker , and abuser

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 months ago

      Is it ok for the kids between 5-10 years old play by themselves on the street without parents supervision?I think it is to dangerous and illegal .Am I right?

    • profile image

      Anonymous 4 months ago

      I'm concerned for my nephew as he is always scared as my sister has loads of men in and out her life and he's scared of them she takes coke at least once a week she drinks during school time and is always in the pub the drinks and smokes cannabis in the house while he's awake and asleep I need to get the number to contact the social services x

    • profile image

      Kiera 4 months ago

      Can i report abuse or will i have someone come after me

    • profile image

      Stymie 5 months ago

      What happens if CPS tells the person under investigation who reported them?

    • profile image

      a.s 5 months ago

      I am worried about my neighbors kids. There is illicit, drug abuse, dealing, sales, manufacturing of marajauna, meth, crack, pills. drug sales to make money. the house is dirty and has a foul odor.

    • profile image

      Lies they will know it was you thst reported. 5 months ago

      Your identity remains protected. Regardless of the outcome, no one other than social services will ever know you are the one who made the report. The dispatcher and the caseworker are the only ones who will know your name, and will not release it to the abuser, the victim or anyone else.

      Your report will also be protected. Social services also won’t divulge the contents of your report, so there is no possibility that anyone will be able to trace the report back to you. The only way anyone other than social services will know you made the report is if you tell them yourself.

      Bul shut if you tell the person will know it s you make sure

    • profile image

      concerned 6 months ago

      I attempted to report a child I knew was being neglected and at risk. I discussed reporting the case a number of times with various professionals who work with children before going ahead and reporting the matter like I was encouraged to. I was shocked with the outcome. The duty care worker was very aggressive, argumentative and had an awful attitude. I was really shocked that someone who is supposed to want to protect children would be so rude to someone that is concerned about a child's welfare. She made me feel as if I was in the wrong for reporting the incident and didn't want to know about my concerns.

    • profile image

      6 months ago

      i made a report a couple of weeks ago about a customer i had concerns about thinking it was in confidence, anyway they told the person exactly word for word what i said making it obvious who reported him, hes currently making my life a misery attempting to ruin my business. he had the cheek to ring me just to let me know he was starting a personal vendetta! id do it again given the same circumstance as it was regarding the wellfare of a child but im totally disgusted with the way social services handled it

    • profile image

      Lisa 7 months ago

      Can you find out who did report if they remain anonymous. As some one made a malicious report against me made me physically ill.

    • profile image

      martin 8 months ago

      I have reported somebody on the basis of abuse. I saw a mother brutally kicking her child in the back upon taking her to school. I had observed for many days the mother uncontrollably shouting at her daughter and decided enough was enough. I reported to the school first, but i felt so sorry for the child

    • profile image

      Sam 9 months ago

      Can social services send the anonymous call to the person who you call about

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      david turner 10 months ago

      some inner city boroughs were investigated in london last year as organisations claiming to specialise in mainstream adult care were getting very high amounts of financial contributions from social services and doing the bare minimum. some had to shut down and some continued on less money!

    • profile image

      12 months ago

      Why do they take the mothers side right away? What if its the mother is hurting the kids? What if the father is trying to stop it but cant cause Social Services is not taking him seriously. not even after the child comes home with a black eye cuts on her face scared to go back to her mother. No child deserves that but Social Services is taking her side what the hell is wrong with that? 10 year old little girl does not need her mother beating her for not taking care of her brother right and or not cleaning her room, she's ten years old. she complains to a teacher, teacher call social services, doing her job as a teacher. Social Services goes on holiday noone to help... good thing you're looking out for the children. 8 days latter child come back with a black eye cuts on her face. Not impressed at all. Someone needs a new job. I am so upset about all of this and it's not even my child. Top it all off the mother has mental issues,it's documented talk to the doctors. talk to her sisters. her sisters work for children services what the hell is she doing? nothing. Maybe she should get a new job!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Daniel 19 months ago

      My ex-wife and FOUR children went to Ireland in 2002 as Asylum seekers and are now full Irish Citizens with Irish passports. They all now live in the United Kingdom.The ages of my children are: 20, 18, 17, 12. The senior one is in the university and the only boy is autistic. I presently live and work here in Nigeria. I want to know if I can LIVE and WORK in the UK on the strength of my FOUR children. I want to see my children often and be in their lives. Kindly advise further on this please

    • profile image

      debra 2 years ago

      Please dont be afraid to Report any kind of Abuse these Children neeed us to Save Them. They Count on us Adults. Be Strong for the Children. U Would want the Same for Your Loved One.

    • profile image

      Escobar 2 years ago

      What is there to report of a mother leaving her daughter with her father in another country and still receive benefits from welfare for her here I. The U.S.?

    • profile image

      Jaimie Nolguen 2 years ago

      My boyfriends parents are here illegally I don't want to get them in trouble I just want what's best for the two little kids living in that home... The house is filled with roaches like infested severely! The kids are always sick and in bad health they never have decent clothing on. the dad is drinking everyday along with drug addiction to cocaine. There are always random people in and out of the house. My boyfriend and I just moved out cause we were about to have a baby of our own what can I do to help these kids?

    • profile image

      maria wlks 2 years ago

      I know of 2 twins who sre filthydirty and are always covered in bruises and they keep making funny comets wat to do?

    • profile image

      Kelly 2 years ago

      I know this woman who doesn't want to take care of none of her kids. They found weed in her system while she was pregnant and she still hasn't stopped. When I see the kids, they don't have clothes, the baby has no pampers and no wipes, nor socks. What should I do?

    • profile image

      Anon 2 years ago

      I'm only 16 and I'm not sure if I make a report it would go through. I love my niece and nephew so much and only wish them the best but the mom is the worst. She's always screaming at them cause to her it's the only way they'll listen. This screaming soon turned into cussing and hitting and my brother, well where to start. He's such a drunk and I know these kids are in danger so bad cause if the alcoholic dad they have and the mom they have too. I don't know what to do and im scared they'll find out I reported it. I don't know what to do, I don't wanna tear my family a part but I also don't want my niece and nephew living in such fear

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      iluvmychild 2 years ago

      Have you tried telling someone at the school? There is a social worker at the school. I hope all works out. Very concerned

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      Jane doe 3 years ago

      My dads girlfriend is mentally abusive to my sister and I she won't let us eat anything in the house we go weeks without eatting except on the weekends because we go to my grandmothers or aunties house during the week we eat once a week. She turns off the water in the house so we can't use it. My mom passed away and she's always saying we could go die along with her. I have letters she had wrote us threatening to do different things. shes bipolar and takes medication she did go to anger management before and almost lost her son. I have voice recordings of her also calling us names and other foul things. we put up with this for over 5 years and i feel as of now i can speak up about it. I'm 17 almost 18 but my sisters 16 and I'm not going to let her stay here and suffer. This woman is also a drunk and constantly drinks. Can I report her to social services? If so will they help us get out of this house?

    • profile image

      john doe 3 years ago

      In the UK if i have asked to remain anonymous and have since making the report about a friend of mine I had real concerns for regarding their mental health and welbeing I have phoned back and had my name and details removed from the complaint forms but can my friend still find out it was me in anyway because I don't want to lose a friendship I'm just concerned about her and don't know how else to help her. But after seeing these posts in now regretting making the complaint as I think its going to cause a lot of backlash between us...any advice please people?

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      Johnd304 3 years ago

      you may have an important weblog here! would you prefer to make some invite posts on my blog? gcegdefgfdae

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      Worried 3 years ago

      My friend has gotten her kids back, but it seems that she still doesn't care for them at all. They still don't take showers, she makes the oldest one take care of all her younger children. Her drug addict husband still comes around even though he's not allowed to see her kids she still bring him around. I dont know who to call.

    • profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago

      I also was reported on years ago. It was faulse and unfounded and the social worker named the people who reported by first and last name and relationship in the file as well as what they said to the exact word.

      I did not receive the information while I was investigated but once the file closed I was able to look at all of it!

      It's on file for 99 years and sadly this file will follow my children and grandchildren. My mother was a reporter all because she was mad and I'm sure my kids will be so proud when they grow up and god forbid ever have to deal with them..... Sad

    • profile image

      NewYork2013 4 years ago

      I am thinking about reporting somebody too, but I worry that if they disclose the content to the parents, they can figure out who I am and retaliate. It seems like "confidential" is not really confidential which is a major flaw to the system.

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      theress 4 years ago

      Will social services ever divulge the name of the person who reported the incident at all, is this true

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      magnus stanley 5 years ago

      when u say somebody is socal what does it mean

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      kelly 5 years ago

      how long after you give birth will social services turn up at the hospital

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      GOT MY REPORT 5 years ago

      "Social Services also won’t divulge the contents of your report, so there is no possibility that anyone will be able to trace the report back to you."

      FALSE. I have the contents of our UNFOUNDED report, and yes, it was VERY EASY to ID the "confidential" reporters, as in more than one. All they do is redact the names and relationships/titles of the reporters, and the rest is fair game to read. C'mon, y'all, call social services again. I dare you. Ha ha!