Inside the Home Environment
If you have reason to believe that a child is being harmed within his or her home, contact your county Department of Social Services (DSS) office.
Outside the Home Environment
If you see suspicious activity or know the abuse occurred outside the home environment, contact your local law enforcement agency. You may contact both DSS and law enforcement. If the child is in immediate danger of substantial harm, contact law enforcement. Only law enforcement can take the child into emergency protective custody without a court order.
Your efforts can help protect a child and get help for the family with one simple phone call.
When you make a report, you will be asked to provide information
This information may include:
- The reason for reporting
- The child’s name and name of other siblings living in the household
- Present location of the child
- The suspected perpetrator’s name (if known)
- A description of what you have seen or heard including the date of occurrence, your observations and witnesses to the abuse
- Any agencies that you know that are already involved with the family
- Your name and phone number (can be anonymous)
You may report anonymously if you wish. Under South Carolina law, names of reporters are kept confidential. Families reported for abuse or neglect cannot obtain the names of reporters. Although you may make your report anonymously, only reporters who identity can be confirmed are entitled to notification of the investigation’s outcome. However, your information will not be revealed to the family or individuals involved in the report.
Tips for reporting
- Make the report as soon as possible after receiving the information that causes you to suspect abuse or neglect.
- Do not wait for proof. The law requires you to report when you have reason to believe abuse or neglect has occurred.
- Do not try to investigate yourself or excessively question the child. Ask only basis questions, such as what happened, who did it and where did it happen. Leave the investigation for professionally trained caseworkers or law enforcement officers. You can request notification of the investigations’ outcome if you wish.
- If you are a mandated reporter under S.C. law, you must personally report information you receive to DSS or law enforcement. Notifying your supervisor does not satisfy your legal requirement to report.
- Document the name of the person you reported to at DSS or law enforcement; the date and time of your report; the information you reported; any disclosures made by the child, in his own words if possible; and the child’s demeanor at the time of disclosure.
What happens after I make a report?
Assuming the incident has happened in a family home, your report will be taken by DSS hotline staff. The screening process begins and the following additional steps will be taken:
- Decisions are made by the court or a team of staff based on statutory and policy guidelines.
- The intake worker refers for investigation if the report involved a child under 18, the suspected perpetrator is a parent, guardian or person responsible for the child, and the information meets the statutory definition of abuse or neglect.
- The assessment worker will investigate within a few hours to a few days, depending on the potential severity of the situation. The assessment worker will speak with the child, the parents and other people in contact with the child (such as doctors, teachers, or child care providers). The purpose for the investigation is to determine if abuse or neglect has occurred and if it may happen again.
- If the assessment work feels the children are at risk of harm, the family will be referred to services to reduce the risk of re-occurrence. These may include mental health care, medical care, parenting skills classes, employment assistance and concrete support such as financial or housing assistance.
- In severe cases, when a child’s safety cannot be ensured, the child will be removed from the home and temporarily placed with relatives or in foster care. Home studies are conducted to determine whether the placement is in compliance with state standards and safety can be ensured. A court-ordered treatment plan is put into place the parents’ compliance monitored. If the court determines that the children may be safety maintained in the home, the children will be returned to their parents.
For more information
- South Carolina’s definition of child abuse and neglect
- South Carolina State House
- Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services