What is Child Maltreatment?
Put simply, child maltreatment is a big word for child abuse or neglect. Abuse and neglect can be several things, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation or abandonment by the caretaker of the child (a parent, guardian, custodian, or foster parent).
Child maltreatment occurs when the caretaker harms the child or lets harm come to the child, or when the caretaker fails to meet the child’s basic needs.
Note: Sexual abuse and exploitation are child maltreatment under Arkansas law whether by a caretaker or by someone else.
Who Reports Child Maltreatment?
Anyone who suspects child maltreatment may report their concerns. If you see something that concerns you or just doesn’t look right, we encourage you to say something! Some people, such as doctors, teachers, clergy, and school counselors, must report suspected child maltreatment (it’s the law!). They are called mandated reporters.
If you need to report child maltreatment, it’s easy. Just call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964.
You’ll need to be as specific as possible about what your concerns are – the more information we have, the better we are able to respond. If possible, have the child’s name, address, alleged offender’s name and address, and details about the maltreatment. If you wish, you can remain anonymous, but it is always helpful to provide your contact information in case more information is needed later.
How do I report?
To report child abuse or neglect in Arkansas, you must call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964 (TDD: 1-800-843-6349). You can make a report to the hotline without giving your personal information. Please give as much information about the incident, the victim, and the alleged perpetrator as possible.
What Happens When There is a Report of Child Maltreatment?
The first step in the process is deciding whether there is enough information in the report. The hotline operator – a civilian member of the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division, or CACD – determines whether the report can be sent for investigation based on a number of factors, including the nature of the concerns and the amount of available information.
If the hotline operator accepts the report, it is sent to either the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or CACD to be investigated (who investigates the concerns depends on the severity of the concerns described).
What this means is that a highly-trained investigator will visit with everyone involved in the report to find out what happened and ensure the safety of any children in the family. The investigator also may begin to put services and supports in place for the family after a careful and thorough assessment of their needs.
At the completion of the investigation (usually within 45 days), the investigator will decide if the concerns made in the original report were true. The investigator also may find other concerns in addition to those already reported.
What Happens if the Report is True?
In most instances, DCFS will “open a case” and begin to work with the family to make sure that children are protected and their basic needs are met while finding ways to help strengthen and support the entire family. If the family cannot or does not protect the children, court action may be taken. Just because a case is open, does not mean a child will come into foster care. Often, DCFS serves children and families safely in their homes.
What if the Report is Not True?
If the investigator decides that the concerns reported are not true, and there are no other concerns that need attention, then the investigation will be closed and nothing else is needed. If you are the caretaker identified in the report, you can request a copy of the report. (See “Obtaining a Copy of the Report” below.)
How Can I Find out What DCFS Learned?
DCFS will tell the subject of the report in writing what the outcome of the investigation was. The subject of the report will not be told who made the report. If you have been named as an offender in a true report, and you do not agree with the finding, you have 30 days from the date you are handed the written notice, or the date it was mailed, to ask for a hearing to appeal the finding.
Obtaining a Copy of the Report
To get a copy of the report, send a written, notarized request, along with a check or money order in the amount of $10.00, to get a copy of your report. The written request must give your name and address and the names of the children involved. You should send the written request to:
Arkansas Department of Human Services
Division of Children and Family Services
Central Registry Unit
P.O. Box 1437, (Slot S566)
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-1437
Contact Person: Dennis Robins at 501-682-0405