In most States the Child Protective Services (CPS) agency, either through a local or statewide hotline, has the primary responsibility for receiving referrals, which are also called reports. The unit that receives the report about a suspected case of child maltreatment is often called the intake unit. Some State laws require that certain forms of abuse, such as sexual abuse or severe physical abuse, must also be reported to law enforcement.

The identity of the alleged perpetrator may also affect where reports are made. If, for example, the alleged perpetrator is a family member, the report usually goes to the CPS agency. Depending on the State, allegations of abuse or neglect by other caregivers, such as daycare providers or teachers, may need to be filed with law enforcement. In general, CPS agencies do not intervene in cases of harm to children caused by acquaintances or strangers. These cases are the responsibility of law enforcement.

  • Note: For a list of State-specific reporting laws and requirements, visit here

The more comprehensive the information provided by the reporter, the better the intake staff will be able to evaluate the appropriateness of the report for CPS intervention, determine the urgency of the agency’s response, and prepare for an investigation or differential response, if necessary. While the reporter may remain anonymous, agencies generally prefer that reporters provide their name and contact information so that the intake or investigation worker can ask follow-up questions or obtain clarification.

The intake worker will seek to obtain the following information from the reporter:

  • The name, age, sex, and address of the child
  • The type and nature of the maltreatment, including prior injuries or maltreatment and when observed, the length of time it has been occurring, and whether the maltreatment has increased in severity or frequency or objects/weapons were used
  • The name and address of the parent or other person(s) responsible for the child’s care
  • Any other information relevant to the investigation
  • Any actions taken by the reporter

It is also important that reporters provide as much detailed information as possible about:

  • The child, the child’s condition, and the child’s location
  • The parents and their location
  • The person alleged to have caused the child’s condition and his or her current location
  • The family, including other children in the home

If the alleged maltreatment occurred in a facility or institution, such as a daycare center, school, residential treatment center, or camp, reporters should provide information about the setting, including hours of operation; number of other children in the facility, if known; and identification of any others in the facility that may have information about the alleged maltreatment.

Once the referral is received, the intake process begins.